This year’s KCON might have been the best one to date for American K-pop fans as they learned that not only would the annual event in Los Angeles be expanding into a three day experience and moving into the legendary Staples Center, but that it would also become bi-coastal. For the first time in its four year history, East Coast K-pop fans could finally rejoice over the fact that they would not have to fly out over to California just to see their favorite acts since the con would be bringing their M! Countdown concerts to the just-as-legendary Prudential Center in NY’s metropolitan area. This didn’t change the fact that some die-hard fans still attended both events, though.
Being the forerunner to anything carries a lot of weight and responsibility to set the standard for the following years, which is why KCON NY saw less acts than its LA counterpart on August 8th. It took four years for KCON LA to grow to where it is, so the hope is that the East Coast con will also continually grow. Planning for KCON NY could have been better as attendees saw repeats in acts from the previous years as well, though none of that really mattered once the crowd of 17,000 KCON-goers started trickling in through the metaphorical gates. With this particular event, KCON proved that groups like Teen Top still got it, while confirming the popularity of relatively newer groups such as VIXX. And like the fanboy turnout at KCON LA, KCON NY too observed a very noticeable testosterone-heavy presence for the alluring and sexy Girls’ Generation and AOA.
Also on Kultscene: Inside KCON NY 2015
But before we get to the main attraction, we have to give a warm mention to the other performers of the night. Prior to the concert’s official commencement, attendees were treated to a performance from the winners of the K-Pop World Festival in New York, The Class. Based in NY’s own Washington Heights, the group danced to VIXX’s “Hyde,” giving the original pioneers a run for their money later that evening. Popular Youtuber Jun Sung Ahn, who is better known by his social media handle JuNCurryAhn and who also attended KCON LA the week before, followed up with a morose cover of BIGBANG’s “Loser” on his trademark violin. It’s not really a song to dance to, yet that did not stop some from getting up from their seats to groove along to the tune.
After much teasing and prolonging on the host’s part, Girls’ Generation’s Tiffany finally made her grand entrance via stage lift to introduce KCON. Considering how she was the only native English speaker out of the four groups due to perform, it was really no surprise the organizers would select her to act as MC. Regardless, her appearance and the positive reception it elicited from the crowd indicated that the show was finally on the road.
VIXX – The Kickoff or the Grand Finale?
Going in order of seniority and following a boy-girl-boy-girl pattern, VIXX was the obvious choice as the opening act. Based on the way they put on a performance, however, they might as well have been the closer. The night started off with the boys lined up in a row, standing chicly until the spotlight shone on each individual member. With all eyes on them, they took turns to break out in powerful dance as the screens overheard flashed their names. This transitioned fabulously into their song, “Error,” which requires the same sobriety that was seen in their introduction. “Error” really got the crowd riled up, and this enthusiasm was equally seen throughout their next two performances for “On and On” and “Eternity.”
With their darker songs out of the way, this left room for some of their more lighthearted songs, so what else but the loveable “G.R.8.U” and their latest release “Love Equation?” Member Leo lived up to his title as main vocalist in the former song time and time again as he belted those high notes, filling up the whole of the indoor venue, and the group took no breaks as they delved right into the latter song. Though the single was released earlier this year and went by largely unnoticed, the group was able to change that with their aegyo (cute display of affection) that made all the fangirls in the building swoon. The high-spirited nature of the song allowed the members to wing their performance, which inevitably meant running around on stage (like the goofballs that they are) and getting closer to the audiences. At the climax of the song, the center was nothing but a rainstorm of streamers and screams, which just goes to show that this is one song that is better live. Whoever decided on ending their set list with “Love Equation” definitely deserves a golden medal.
AOA as The Chaser
Immediately after VIXX had exited the stage, the members of AOA strutted confidently to own the stage for the next half hour. The anthem of the summer, “Heart Attack,” heralded in the group’s first performance in the States (okay, so technically the first performance was at KCON 2015 LA but close enough…), where the girls delivered harmless girly fun. And just like their stage at KCON LA, they also revealed their provocative side in hits like “Like a Cat” and “Confused.” As expected, the fan boys chose these moments to declare their undying love for the members and were very on point with the fan chants.
They continued their sensual concepts with other favorites, such as the booty-shaking “Short Hair” and the sultry “Miniskirt.” While AOA debuted the same year as VIXX, the girls stood out more as the supporting act due to a lack of variety in their songs. No fancy celebratory streamers here. Nevertheless, the girls earns props for making sensual look so natural, especially with their closing song “Miniskirt,” in which sub-vocalist Hyejeong got down low – and I mean real low – on the stage floor. With the flawless execution of each song that left audiences in an uproar that night, AOA is certainly the next hot girl group to watch out for. Girls’ Generation, y’all better watch yo backs.
Teen Top is the Dark Horse of Live K-Pop
When you are getting goose bumps all over your body during a concert, you know it’s good. And when it’s during a slow song, you know that’s even better. The “M! Countdown” concert in NY has been an exciting and hot-blooded one thus far, but Teen Top was able to extinguish those flames with the mellow performance for “5 Seasons,” straight off of their most recent album. With such as easy-going song, the members kicked it back on the stage’s steps and swayed their bodies in time to the guitar strums of the instrumentals. It would only make sense that the subsequent performance would be for another track fresh off of their latest album, which is exactly what they did with “Ah-ah.”
After their member introduction, where lead rapper L.Joe showed off his limited English from his five years living in the States, the group threw it back to their Brave Brothers collaboration days with “To You” and “Miss Right.” Other than the upbeat melodies, the beauty behind Teen Top’s songs that always make for a captivating live performance lies in their intricate choreography. Despite the fancy footwork that the group is known for, the moves for the upper half of the body are rather straightforward, which is why many fans in the audience were able to follow along easily in their seats. Indeed, “Miss Right” had the fans shaking their hands in the air, engaging hundreds of attendees with the idols in this one simple gesture.
The group concluded with “Rocking,” which could not have been a wiser choice, seeing as how this was the song that started their dance image and is the closest thing they have to a club banger. The free step may look impressive done behind the computer screen, but done live? That’s next level. The mix of hard synths, adrenaline, and their go for broke attitude had everyone singing along to the addictive “jangnan anieyo” (”it’s not a joke”) hook and hollering for more. It also helped that L.Joe is an insane mood-maker, what with his repeated ad-libs. Teen Top may not belong to any big name entertainment company or have the largest fanbase, but they sure know what it means to have a good time. Maybe it’s time to book them again for KCON 2016 for the fourth consecutive year.
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When in New York, Sing a Song About It
While Girls’ Generation were preparing for their performances, and in order to hype up the girls who were headlining the concert, the special stages that have always been critical to the “M! Countdown” concerts were scheduled right after Teen Top. Unfortunately, SONEs (Girls’ Generation’s official fandom) would have to wait just a little bit longer before they get to see their eight angels. Because the annual event was also held in New York this year (to be precise, it took place in New Jersey but how many songs about the Garden State can you list off of the top of your head?), AOA’s Yuna, Hyejeong, and ChoA did the East Coast proud by bringing a strong yet abbreviated rendition of Beyonce’s and Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind” to the table.
Teen Top’s Niel and Chunji collaborated on a duet as well, but since English is not exactly their forte, they opted for the safe, slow-tempo “When I First Kissed You” by Extreme. The emotional song left audiences in as much of a hush it was ever going to be that evening.
Girls’ Generation Shuts Down the Show
They’re the poster child of girl groups, at least in our generation. And in a sea of pink that illuminated the arena here and there, it’s clear who many were here for. With eight years of experience under their belt, it’s really no wonder that Girls’ Generation was saved for last. When the group finally emerged in their (American) patriotic sequined colors, the crowd went wild, and when they opened with “Catch Me If You Can,” the song that marked their comeback as eight members, the crowd went berserk. In a similar vein of recent songs, they followed up with “Check,” the smooth RnB number that demonstrated a more mature side of the girls. They’ve come a long way since their flight attendants and jegi-kicking (shuttlecock-kicking) days, but if their next song, “Genie,” is any indication of anything, it’s that they also have not forgotten their roots. And of course, what is Girls’ Generation without “Gee,” the hit that practically created them? It’s a requisite in every Girls’ Generation set list and if it were not for the fact that the girls had recently comeback with a new single, it would’ve been the cincher like it was in the previous year to an amazing KCON.
But they did comeback with “Party” last month, so naturally it was the closer of the night. They were all smiles as they had the honor of concluding the first ever KCON NY on a lively note. Concert-goers expected the burst of yellow streamers that permeated through the air, yet we were still caught off guard when it happened after leader Taeyeon hit the intense notes during bridge. And we all still cheered like mad.Just like that, KCON 15 NY came to an end. As the first installment on the East Coast, there were some things this “M! Countdown” concert did right that should continue in the ones to come, such as the proportionate distribution of set times in spite of seniority and the high security. But then there are other things the concert could have improved upon, including more opportunities for a solo/sub-unit stage and more line-ups. With room to grow, fans can only anticipate for an even bigger and better KCON 16 NY.
Check out more pictures from the night:
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