To say the concert portion of KCON 2016 LA Presented by Toyota was bigger than ever is an understatement. Because not only was M! Countdown held in the Staples Center for the second year, but the July 30 show was sold out and featured some of the hottest names in Hallyu right now. For day one, the line up was a diverse mix of pop and R&B with I.O.I, Dean, GFriend, f(x)’s Amber, Block B, Turbo, and headliners SHINee.
Kicking off the pre-show, Korean hip-hop duo Eluphant got things going by performing a three song set including “B There” from their latest album “Man on the Moon.” Despite rappers Minos and Kebee being largely unknown by the crowd, their performances set the pace for an upbeat evening. Thereafter, the legendary Quincy Jones granted a scholarship to a Berklee College of Music student and even gave past alumni, such as 2NE1’s Park Bom and PSY, a shoutout.
But the Staples Center didn’t actually erupt in screams and squeals until none other than the king of Hallyu himself Lee Minho came onstage to officially commence the main event. While he wanted to remain collected throughout his speech –which was aired live through KCON.TV, by the way — he couldn’t help to crack in smiles and laughter after the audience began chanting his name. It may have been brief, but his appearance was a definite highlight of the night for many in attendance across age groups and gender.
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The first act of the night was none other than the girl group I.O.I. They got the Staples Center thumping with their earworm “Pick Me” and a couple more songs as they danced in signature K-pop unison. Through their English-speaking members Somi and Chungha, I.O.I expressed their excitement to be there and promoted their upcoming work as a sub-unit. Next up was this year’s breakout star; the R&B singer/songwriter Dean. KCON marked the “Bonnie and Clyde” singer’s third LA show this year — a huge growth in five short months since the first that warranted his spot on the lineup. And for a few minutes, what seemed like the whole arena sang along to “I’m Not Sorry” before Dean’s set was up and the next girl group emerged, proving the singer’s fans had shown up to support him.
Another group that has shot into stardom in the short few months since their debut last year is GFriend. The lovely ladies decked in athletic wear didn’t disappoint with the knife-like choreography they’re known for as they performed “Me Gustas Tu,” “Rough,” and their latest “Navillera.” For the first time in KCON’s five years of existence, GFriend and I.O.I managed to bring out the boys to the concerts, for their presence was even more visible and audible than last year.
After GFriend, fans were surprised by a special stage with Block B’s Zico performing his solo “Boys and Girls” with the help of fellow member U-Kwon. The chemistry between the fellow members was undeniable and treat for everyone, as they danced to the choreography together and bounced verses off each other. Immediately after, from the other smaller stage, Dean ascended crooning “Pour Up,” which Zico joined in with his stellar rap verse. Both songs were unexpected yet greatly appreciated once in a lifetime performances for US fans who never expected to see the collabs live.
Next up was LA native Amber, who came out on a skateboard accompanied by more skaters and did a fun performance of “Shake That Brass,” with the help of I.O.I’s Chungha for Taeyeon’s part. But it all turned too real for the singer when she expressed her gratitude of performing in her hometown as a soloist and being received so warmly. It was the perfect preface for her performance of “Borders,” which the audience witnessed the first ever performance of the song.
For newer K-pop fans, Turbo’s set was not a high point in the night. For older fans, however, it was one of the rare moments where they stood up and cheered along like the teenagers and 20-somethings around them. Fronted by Running Man’s Kim Jong Kook, Turbo dusted off their hits “Lovable” and “Reminiscence,” their 2015 single “Again,” and even brought Astro and GFriend as their backup dancers for “Twist King.” By the end of their set, they had made everyone in the crowd dance along with them, even if they didn’t know the songs for their performance was just that contagious.
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After Turbo bowed out, Block B turned brought the pace down with “Toy” and “A Few Years Later,” then turned it back way up with “Her” and “Very Good.” Fans squealed through P.O.’s verse on “A Few Years Later” and rocked out to “Very Good,” making it apparent that despite the ordeal they went through a couple of years back, fans are still here for Block B and they’re not extinguishing any time soon. Unfortunately, Kyung missed out on the performance, but the rest of Block B — with all their dabs and Zico’s use of AAVE — more than made up for it and delivered a great stage for the second year in a row at KCON.
But the peak for KCON’s first concert night was indisputably headliner SHINee and the potential for a mini SHINee World (their signature concert) like fans got last year with Super Junior and SHINHWA. It seemed attendees were in for the same deal when the group opened their set with “Into the SHINee World,” which features a few verses from “Replay,” sending fans into a frenzy. The madness continued as the quintet dived into “View” and the fan favorites “An Encore” and “Beautiful.” Unfortunately, with such a large lineup, fans didn’t get more songs or medleys from them like last year’s headliners. And yet, to wrap up, SHINee still delivered an amazing performance of “Everybody” to close out the concert. The crowd might not have witnessed more of their hits, but their performances were still stellar and worthy of the headlining spot.
And with that, KCON’s first night of concerts ended. This concert showed how Hallyu encompasses not only traditional K-pop groups, but is already opening up to R&B and hip-hop and following the trends of ‘90s nostalgia. Also, the night showed that there is a place for male fans and they can be just as passionate as women. The second night further reinforced these notions, plus so much more — but more on that later.
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