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KCON 2017 NY’s ‘M! Countdown’ Day 2 Concert Recap

twice kcon new york 2017 ny nyc 17 concert tt pics pictures pic picture

Curtesy of CJ E&M

The annual pilgrimage to the Prudential Center in New York’s metropolitan area continued for East Coast K-pop fans last weekend when KCON 2017 NY presented by Toyota came back for another two nights of unforgettable M! Countdown concerts. For those who missed out on the polished choreographies, dazzling visuals, and the A1 fan service from the night prior, Day 2 (June 24th) definitely was slated to make up for it. The turnout to catch a few glimpses of UP10TION, NCT 127, Twice, and CNBLUE visibly exceeded the numbers from the first evening, despite being short an act. Before the show even hit the road, it seemed like concertgoers were due for something exceptional.

The pre-show officially launched with the entrance of the man who needed no introduction, violinist and YouTuber Jun Curry Ahn. Ahn, who has been a mainstay to the east coast leg of KCON USA since its inauguration back in 2015, delivered a heartrending stringed performance of Crush’s “Beautiful” of Korean tvN drama Goblin fame, before moving onto the equally poignant “Spring Day” by BTS. The balladry did not last for long, however, as Seoul-based dance crew 1Million Dance took to center stage immediately after, popping, locking, and getting intimate to Jay Park, BoA, and many more of Korea’s chart-toppers. The chemistry and coordination between the team members – who were also tastefully dressed in matching reds, whites, and blacks – had already commenced the night on such a high note.


Also on Kultscene: KCON 2017 NY’s ‘M! Countdown’ Day 1 Concert Recap

Ahead of their appearance as CNBLUE, lead vocalist Jung Yonghwa and bassist Lee Jungshin came out to introduce the main event, the first set of which was a sudden special homage from Twice to their company figurehead/producer Park Jinyoung (better known as JYP). Twice is just the latest out of a chain of popular girl groups created by Park, and the lone ladies of the night paid tribute to senior group miss A’s “Bad Girl, Good Girl” and clapped along to the point choreography of the legendary “Nobody” from Wonder Girls to a standing audience. It is inevitable that someday they too will be indicted in JYP’s femme fatale hall of fame. Rounding out the medley, they even threw it all the way back to JY Park’s 1988 funk hit “Honey” for the millennial crowd. I would like to think that somewhere out there Papa Park was breaking out into the signature eye-vanishing grin of his at the sight of his girls doing his song justice.

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Curtesy of CJ E&M

Up next were the nine boys of UP10TION (member Wooshin is currently on hiatus due to mental health concerns), who seized the moment and delighted the public with the yet-to-be-released trop house “Runner” for the first time. As much as it was an honor to be privy to such an exclusive opportunity, it must have been an even greater one for the group to perform for the first time in America. After the usual rounds of introductions, they defaulted on their debut single “So Dangerous” and took advantage of the extended stage during “Attention” in order to finally meet their American fans. And although it would not be the last that concertgoers would be seeing them, the members seemed disappointed that their selective set list was coming to a close with their most recent single “White Night.” All the while, they were unable to hide their enthusiasm at being able to perform at the A-list event in front of thousands, waving to the audience whenever available.

Turning the typical, seniority-based KCON structure on its head were the guys of NCT 127, who followed UP10TION’s set in spite of the additional year of experience that the latter had on the former. A crazed Taeyong set the stage in a dramatic dance routine to a chant-like soundtrack while the other members filed in from the sides of the stage shortly before joining their leader. Their lofty entrance transitioned smoothly into the sounds of sirens accompanied by the three words that every individual love to hear, a “Get It Lifted” in baritone. “Firetruck” was about as atonal live as it is in its studio version, and the fans absolutely loved it. Amidst all the whoops and distortions, it is the kind of sonorous mishmash that can grow on a listener after much desensitization, which is certainly the case in today’s experimental soundscape.

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Courtesy of CJ E&M

Members Johnny and Doyoung, who had scurried off backstage at the start of the trap influenced hip-hop number, reunited once more to greet fans for the first time since taking the spotlight and to help out with the rest of the setlist, which included the B-sides “Good Thing” and “0 Mile,” which are typically are rare at KCON. They also managed to work in “Limitless,” a single that is august on its own but is shadowed by their more music-forward tracks, before a love song mission and before Johnny took the mic to initiate a warm call-and-response, “When I say cherry, you say bomb,” as segue into said music-forward track.

Yes, fresh off the press was “Cherry Bomb,” a rather drawn out title that tries to be multiple songs at once in the most harmless way possible. Albeit “Cherry Bomb” has less of an obvious format than its close cousin, “Firetruck,” it edges the latter out by successfully doing the unconventional with its addictive, staccato hook, backed with bold claims (“I’m the biggest hit on this stage”). The leg-splitting choreography would be the highlight, but the members’ smoldering gazes which never once broke character simply cannot be overlooked, either, especially Yuta’s intense glower. Where are the boys next door who were just serenading a fan with B.o.B’s “Nothin’ on You” five minutes ago now?

In accords with the musical themed special stages from Day 1, the second day had its share of witty K-pop meets Broadway encounters as well. UP10TION returned to perform their rendition of the Mamma Mia version of ABBA’s “Honey Honey ” which has to be a pun on their fandom name, Honey10. Their routine was something out of a theater show, completed with feet clicking, straw hats, and line dances, while their vocals were pristine as always. Unlike their usual no-nonsense choreographies, this was certainly a more refreshing departure, and the bounce in their step seemed to agree.

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Courtesy of CJ E&M

But back to the regularly scheduled program. With only the headliners and Twice left, fans already started to abandon their seats for standing in anticipation of the nation’s little daughters. A screen displaying images of star clusters and other heavenly bodies gave way to the nine women adorned in white, and foreshadowed the forthcoming song, their latest single featuring an alien-inspired concept, “Signal.” They then did ”Cheer Up” and “TT” back to back. Twice’s legacy lies in their iconic, simple-to-follow point choreographies, and whether it is their adorable “Sha Sha Sha” of the former song or the pouty “I’m like TT” from the latter, pretty much everyone that evening were following along. The only gripe with their set was that it would have been more memorable had they saved their most lauded songs for the finale. Instead, the girl group opted for “Knock Knock,” a blithe masterpiece that deserves better than falling flat next to the record-breaking “TT” and “Cheer Up.” Overall, the performances from the adored girl group adhered closely to the books, notwithstanding the tremendous outpour of love they were receiving from supporters in the stands and pit.

If I’m honest, when KCON first unveiled CNBLUE as headliner, it felt like they were really scraping the bottom of the barrel. The band is not as popular as they once were, so the worry that they would not have a strong presence was always there. With something to prove, however, these seasoned artists absolutely blew these misconceptions out the window; the guys did not come to play.


Also on Kultscene: Inside KCON 2017 NY [photos]

Usually when groups perform their schtick to the T without sounding breathy, there’s a likely chance that they are not singing live, and admittedly this applies to some of the acts from both KCON nights. Not for CNBLUE, though. Frontman Yonghwa practiced proper vocal techniques as his voice reverberated and resonated throughout the whole of the arena during “Between Us.” Years of experience not only taught him how to have fun with a performance, but also imparted onto him a charismatic, sexy confidence (and body) that had audiences wrapped around his finger. Most of this could also do with the fact that the band does not observe traditional choreographies, allowing for the main vocalist much freedom to do the most on stage. Indeed, though they were only into their second song – “Cinderella” – on their setlist, Yonghwa decided to ditch the band on the main stage in order to host his solo concert on the extended stage, replete with mic tricks, piping notes in line with their rock band image, and fan service out for blood. Even when introducing subsequent songs, he failed to do it without assuming full playboy mode, for example, pointing out individuals and calling them “fine” as a pivot into “You’re So Fine.”

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Curtesy of CJ E&M

As the conclusion drew near, the ever multi-talented Yonghwa then retreated to the main stage to boast his sharp piano skills during “Can’t Stop,” where he continued to deliver impressive notes, neck veins and all. I must really commend him for being able to carry most of the vocals for the team, an undertaking customarily divvied up among the members of a K-pop group, and still be able to beam as wide as he did. Before bringing it down some notches with the mellow “Love Light” and signing out, he promised to come back soon. And if the merry atmosphere that still lingered in the air post-CNBLUE or the ovations given to the occasional shots of the drummer-by-day-pretty-boy-by-always Minhyuk were any indications of their high demand, hopefully he is right.

nct127 nct 127 kcon new york 2017 ny nyc 17 concert pics pictures pic picture twice

Courtesy of CJ E&M

Before convention attendees and concertgoers knew it, it was time to bid farewell to yet another installment of KCON NY. This year’s M!Countdown stages provided numerous underrated acts with a chance to shine, while always exceeding expectations and managing to outdo the ones from previous years. The mothership of all things Hallyu will continue in August when KCON returns to LA on the West Coast for their homecoming, and we already cannot wait.

Did you attend KCON 17 NY? What’s your favorite KCON artist? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

KCON 2017 NY’s ‘M! Countdown’ Day 1 Concert Recap

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KCON17NY

Almost exactly one year since it last hit the Prudential Center in New Yorks’s metropolitan area, KCON 2017 NY presented by Toyota returned once again this past weekend (June 23 and 24) for another two nights of star-studded M! Countdown performances. The Day 1 concert had rookie groups KNK and SF9 dancing on the same stage as the veteran “super rookie” group Highlight. Meanwhile hip-hop and R&B soloist Zion T. and girl group GFriend added diversity to the forever testosterone and pop-heavy lineup.

For some of the artists, it was their first time performing stateside altogether. But for all, their participation marked their debut onto the annual cross-cultural East Coast music festival scene that continues to bring the most devoted Hallyu fans out in droves. Not soon after concert goers filed in to occupy the arena seating and pit to catch the preshow – a fan dance battle moderated by special guest and former U-Kiss member Kevin Woo – had it been already time for the main event of the night. At promptly 7:30 PM, the show kicked off with its trademark “Let’s KCON” motto.


Also on Kultscene: KCON 2017 Mexico’s M! Countdown Day 1 Concert Recap

Ascending in front of a very fitting backdrop of nebulae and celestial bodies, the vertically superior KNK opened with their most recent single “Sun, Moon, Star,” a song which they later explained was about broken up lovers. The quintet delivered the anguish that such a song demands, and decked out in resplendent white suits, they looked and sounded like they were not only a year into their careers. This only became apparent once they moved on from their debut song “Knock” straight into their already final track “Day N Night,” reminding audiences that their discography still has room to grow. The latter is a personal favorite, and since it was never promoted as a single, was a pleasant surprise to their terse setlist. I think lead rapper Heejun was doing all of us a public good when he put up his own mic to lead vocalist Youjin when he hit that high note during the bridge.

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Courtesy of CJ E&M

It really would not be a KCON without its collaborative stages, and this year seemed to have been Broadway musical-themed (a tip of the hat to good ol’ New York City) as Yuju of GFriend and Dongwoon of Highlight united in a rendition of Beauty and the Beast’s “Tale As Old As Time.” It was definitely an oicwydt moment seeing the gorgeous GFriend member work in perfect harmony with the former “Beast” member. The no-frills duet relied solely on their immaculate vocals, all the while keeping the number subdued without sounding boring.

Up next was SF9, a boy group who I admittedly made the mistake of overlooking going into the concert. From the moment they set the venue aflame with their latest song “Easy Love,” the amount of proud fans clothed in unofficial merchandise and holding up support banners for the group who have not even seen their one year anniversary yet just made sense. The first real “dance” group coming out of FNC Entertainment, an agency typically known for their favoritism towards bands in the truest sense of the word, they did not disappoint. How they are able to execute their razor-sharp choreography without sound breathy is still beyond me, and after seeing the nine-piece group perform in the flesh, I can affirm that the aphorism about how one does not learn to appreciate a song until it is done live was about SF9.

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Courtesy of CJ E&M

Not only that, the SF9 boys also proved that they are kings of fanservice when three members serenaded and competed for a girl indiscriminately chosen from the general audience. Poor girl seemed torn between her suitors, so the proposal ended in a draw. Despite this, the group managed to reel back into full performance mode, completing their set with their debut single “Fanfare,” followed by “Roar.”

The girl group representatives of the night, GFriend (sans Yerin who had individual schedules overseas), made their entrance with a powerful dance break in their signature uniformed-inspired look, compensating for KCON’s serious dearth of female acts. They continued the trend of opening with the most recent single and plunged right into disco and synth blend hit “Fingertip.” An exciting song to match the equally high-spirited mood.

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Courtesy of CJ E&M

Unfortunately, as the proceeding “Navillera” transitioned into “Me Gustas Tu” into “Rough,” the rest of their set felt a little like one mega ditty playing up the naiveté of youth rather than three separate and unique songs. Not hating the high school concept trilogy, it’s just that a better setlist that showcased greater variety or another song inter-spliced between the ones could have avoided this misfortune. That aside, audiences still received kindly to the more than stable vocals, synchronized dances, and charms of these girl crushes.

It’s always interesting to see how a solo artist can manage to keep the momentum of crowds going, and with no group dynamic to fall back on, the pressure is certainly on. But Zion.T, draped in what looks like could be his dad’s baggy suit and traipsing his way towards a grand piano, exuded pure professionalism and cool, calm collectedness not witnessed in other acts seen thus far. There, he introduced “Complex,” before moving onto “The Song” off of the same OO album. He already impresses with his distinct voice and frictionless croons, but when he brings out his inner rapper as well, he’s just being unfair.

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Courtesy of CJ E&M

The man also displayed a subtle sense of humor when he inquired if audiences knew his penultimate song for the night, “Eat” (“you know, like yum, yum, yum eat?”). Unsurprisingly, he closed with the iconic “Yanghwa Bridge,” a sluggish track that is perfect for not only evening commutes home, but also for bringing together a group of disparate peoples in chorus. Not a single person in attendance was not singing either “haengbokhaja” (“Let’s be happy”) or “apeuji malgo” (“Don’t be sick”) of the lyrics’ sweet words to his family. Zion.T’s strength lies in the fact that his slow-tempo songs always have those couple of phrases that are easy to follow along, guaranteeing audience participation. He knows this too as he played conductor, and took advantage of the whole extended stage. Only Zion.T could ever do what Zion.T does best.

The show could have concluded right then, and everyone would have been okay with it, however it did not. SF9 reappeared onto the stage for an unexpected special performance of EXO’s “Call Me Baby” and BTS’s “Boy in Luv,” which was probably KCON’s way of saying “Hey, I know we could not give you guys the two hottest K-pop groups at the moment, but here’s a cover.” In any event, audiences welcomed the familiar tunes and dances in vociferous cheers.


Also on Kultscene: KCON 2016 NY’s M! Countdown Day 1 Concert Recap

Rounding off the first night was finally Highlight, who hit the ground running with “Plz Don’t Be Sad.” Outfitted in white long coats with personalized names on the back (Dongwoo’s appropriately had “Guapo” monogrammed), they had as much fun with the performance as audiences did dancing along to the ridiculously fun hook. It was not even their last song, but streamers already rained down as if it was. Though “Calling You,” the group’s most recent release, was another obvious pick, it felt lowkey and paled in comparison to the former song. I would rather they have traded it out for “Can You Feel It?,” the eponymous track off of their first album post-rebranding, which would have offered tighter cohesion considering the other dance songs of the headliner’s setlist. That, and I just would have really like to see “Can You Feel It?” live once, you know?

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Courtesy of CJ E&M

After exhausting their narrow discography as Highlight, the second generational group moved older fans with “Yey,” one of their more underrated bops that had the crowd on their feet even if they did not agree in the fine workmanship that went into producing the EDM track. They dug back further in their bag of tricks to also unveil the 2014 hit “Good Luck” and 2012 summer anthem “Beautiful Night,” which best describes what the evening was after their stellar performances. They had nothing but their fans in mind as they switched between their parts and tossing out plushies and taking selfies with the phones of some lucky individuals. A personal aside, but it brings me immense joy to know that a group that was once upon a time my first bias group still got it. Beast or Highlight, this is a band that simply knows what it takes to put on a show.

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Courtesy of CJ E&M

And like that, the night had finished without a hitch. Though Day One of the two-part event was now officially over, there was still a Day Two to go to. While fans were entertained by the mirthful pop songs, intricate choreography, and earnest attempts at communication of the artists, they were already looking forward to what was in store for the upcoming day. After all, what better way to fill the void left behind by post-concert depression than with another concert?

Did you attend KCON 17 NY? What’s your favorite KCON artist? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Sungha Jung brought Singaporean Fans to ‘Cloud Nine’ with ‘L’Atelier’

Taken from @theofficialsunghajung via Instagram

Taken from @theofficialsunghajung via Instagram

Popular Korean guitarist and YouTuber Sungha Jung returned to Singapore once again on the 28th of May for his sixth concert held in the country in six years. The sold out show was held at Kallang Theatre and was filled with good music, adorable banter and lots of fan interaction.

After a short introduction by a local emcee, guitarist Lee Guo Liang (newly crowned winner of the Sungha Jung Guitar Competition 2016) took the stage and opened the show with his rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely.” Sungha then appeared and performed “On Cloud Nine,” the first track from his latest album, “L’atelier.” Just like its title, the song was light-hearted and cheerful, which livened up the atmosphere in the theatre. While tuning his guitar Sungha introduced himself and his new album, before playing its title song. “L’atelier,” which means “the studio” in French, was a very bittersweet yet soothing piece. The guitarist certainly delivered on these emotions with his perfect expression of the song’s distinct melody.

A departure from the quieter nature of his first two songs, Sungha followed up with the jazzy “In The Midnight” and the rhythmic “Seventh #9,” both from his newest albums. These two songs were results of his experimentation and exploration into different styles of music, and they certainly paid off. “In The Midnight,” for example, was “the first of its kind to be composed,” but Sungha managed to show off his finger-style guitar playing prowess while managing to convey the intricateness of the jazz elements in the song. He returned to his roots with “Nocturne,” which was a “sad but peaceful” piece that Sungha particularly enjoyed. Its introduction sounded like the beginning of a beautiful K-drama soundtrack, or OST, and this feeling lingered throughout the whole melody. The quiet pensiveness at the end of the piece was palatable and made the whole performance that much more memorable.


Also on Kultscene: 5 Tracks To Get You Ready For Sungha Jung’s L’atelier Concert 

Next on display was “The Milky Way,” which was also the lead single of Sungha’s previous album “Monologue.” This piece was a lot more cheerful in nature and conveyed a certain wide-eyed innocence that was comforting and enjoyable to listen to. To end off the first half of the concert, Sungha performed a piece which was specially arranged for his Singaporean fans. It was none other than JJ Lin’s (a famous Singaporean singer-songwriter) “Remember,” which was also previously covered Sungha Jung’s Youtube channel. With his masterful arrangement and skills, Sungha was able to convey the richness of JJ Lin’s voice through his playing while also keeping the piece rhythmic.

Featured local guitarist Neil Chan kick-started the second half of the concert with his solo performance of the self-composed song “Merci.” His unique way of playing the guitar by lap-tapping was fascinating and helped him to play the melody fluently, as if he were playing a keyboard.

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Official picture via Sprout Entertainment

The first music student of Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (YSTCM) also had the honour of collaborating with Sungha, who made his reappearance with “Stars.” The piece was originally composed by Sungha as a tribute to the victims of the Sewol Ferry Tragedy but was rearranged into a duet. The simple yet heartfelt piece was definitely enhanced by the natural chemistry that was evident between the guitarists despite their different playing styles and nationalities.


Also on Kultscene: ‘Another Oh Hae Young’ Asks Why Women Feel Insecure 

After Neil left the stage, Sungha performed a cover of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself,” which he had recently covered on Youtube with Eric Nam. The performance was a massive hit with the audience who cheered incessantly even before he began playing. This was followed by the obvious crowd favourite of the night, which was also the only K-pop cover in the concert. Sungha’s version of BTS’s “Butterfly” is different from the original with its more relaxing and soothing tone but he played around with the dynamics of the song to show different levels of intensity.

The last song performed by Sungha from his latest album was “Catching The Beat,” a piece that was highly rhythmic in nature but had a somewhat disjointed melody. This piece was the hardest to appreciate in the whole concert but it showed off the guitarist’s fantastic sense of rhythm and technical ability. As another special gift to his Singaporean fans, Sungha performed yet another of JJ Lin’s songs, this time a classic called “江南” (or South of Yangtze River). His dynamics were very pronounced here in an effort to imitate the singer’s emotive voice but there were also times when Sungha’s chord accompaniment ended up covering the melody of the song.

Official picture via Sprout Entertainment

Official picture via Sprout Entertainment

In his slightly awkward but charming way, Sungha playfully introduced the last song of the concert, his cover of Ryuichi Sakamato’s “Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence.” After stating that this cover was one of his favourite arrangements of all time, he discreetly hinted about his hope of receiving an encore call, causing a lot of laughter among the audience. Of course, the guitarist’s enthusiastic supporters did not disappoint him and Sungha made his return onto the stage with his “real last song,” John Mayer’s “St Patrick’s Day.” He surprised and delighted the crowd as he started to sing as he played, and his sweet and stable voice surely melted the hearts of all who were present.

All in all, “Sungha Jung Live In Singapore 2016” was a great success and Sungha Jung definitely left audiences wanting for more. Even as he bid goodbye with a cheery wave and humble bow he promised his fans that he would be “back again soon.” Next year perhaps?

Did you attend Sungha Jung’s concert in Singapore? What do you think of his music? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.