As a K-pop fan in the United States, I’m always excited to see my beloved K-pop live. The EXO show in Los Angeles on February 14, 2016 was no exception. Having seen EXO “grow up” from those 23 teaser trailers to Sing for You, I was looking forward to the show very much! Let us never forget the epic backstory behind EXO’s concept, beginning when “the twelve forces reunite into one perfect root” to the current unknown EXO planet!
I was in Loge 10, which was almost directly in front of the stage. The venue, the Los Angeles Sports Arena, had a huge floor section for General Admission: there were no seats on the floor. I guess promoters were intent on no one getting too close to the group! Because of the giant screens, though, I think everyone could see the members.
One thing that I like about K-pop concerts is the variety. First, there is the interaction with the audience. Of course, everyone always looks forward to the group introducing themselves (We are One!) and each of the members giving their own greeting. As always, we want to hear more from members, especially the likes of Chen! Even thought Lay was not present, I hope EXO will tell him that the crowed screamed for him nonetheless! All members of EXO are well-loved, as evidence by the high decibel-level screams for each member. Even though Suho thinks no one listens to him, I have inducted him into my Leader-Nim Hall of Fame (Shinhwa‘s Eric and SHINee‘s Onew are also members). Like a boss, Suho talked to the crowd in English, and the fans sang to EXO in Korean. This is so central to the relationship between global K-pop fans and K-pop artists: both fans and artists exert energy to communicate. K-pop is interactive, so you gotta work!
EXO had a lot of material to choose from, having several full-length releases. I was glad to see them perform their major songs, including “Mama,” “Call Me Baby,” “Overdose” and “Love Me Right.” At the same time, I was not mad that they did not do “Wolf,” which is my least favorite EXO song. The audience was treated to a mixture of high-energy performances and more subdued numbers, including Kai and Sehun‘s dance interlude. I think sometimes we forget that Kai is a master dancer, so I was glad that he got to show that off a bit outside of EXO group choreography. And I’m always excited to see Sehun get some attention. Then there “My Answer,” which is one of my favorite songs. Already pretty near perfect with the harmony and vocal interplay among Baekhyun (my bae!), Suho and D.O.‘s voices, it was even better live. What I did not expect was Baekhyun playing piano with no other instrumentation, even though it’s been reported that he was having throat issues. You would never know it. I never noticed the song only involved piano and the voices of Baekhyun, Suho and D.O. Not only did they perform the song nicely, Baekhyun even treated us to an extended piano solo at the end.
It’s no fun going to a concert and knowing everything that’s going to happen, so while I reviewed my EXO song repertoire, I intentionally avoided watching any live video. This paid off with the Chanyeol and Xiumin‘s segment. First, they lead the crowd in a sing-a-long. Then, we are treated to something we rarely see: Xiumin’s rap skills (say what?!). But then when they roll out platform and EXO launches in to “We Are EXO” a high-energy rock-infused crowd-pleaser with Chanyeol as DJ, I am completely through.
Just before the last song, EXO shows a heartfelt video with behind-the-scenes footage, and subtitles that explain their journey. They acknowledge that they were awkward at first, being unable to even say their group slogan and showing obvious nervousness when having to speak. If you go back and watch early EXO promotion, you can see! But they thanked the fans for being there, even through the obviously difficult time of losing three members. Yet, they reaffirm their commitment to the fans and to the music.
Speaking of the fans, the audience was very diverse, mostly female with a variety of ethnicities and age groups (yes, age groups!). K-pop concerts rarely disappoint, and this was no exception. Looking forward to EXO gracing our shores again in the future!