BTS is the only artist I have seen live more than once. Quite frankly, they’re probably the only artist I’d bother even going to live shows for anymore, because once you’ve seen a BTS concert, nearly everything else pales in comparison.
I had the fortune of attending a total of four stops this time around (because BTS is also the only group I’d go to multiple stops for), and even though I watched from a different vantage point each day, the show never got old. If I were limited to describing BTS’s performances in one word, it’d be consistency. There are of course loads of other fitting words–mesmerizing, joyous, emotional, heart-warming, theatrical, amazing–you get the idea. It’s an immersive roller coaster ride of emotions, especially for the more dedicated fans.
But above everything else, BTS’s performances are consistent, and consistently really, really good. Their live vocals and raps are always on point; sometimes it’s just like listening to the CD version, except you can definitely tell it’s live due to the ad libs, breaths, and slight change in pitch. Their dances are super in-sync, their stage presence is no joke, and they’re always really great about moving around the stage so that every part of the audience gets a chance to see each member up close. The short breaks they take to talk are always fun, but they were especially moving this time around, as each member’s English has improved and Namjoon was able to convey complex feelings effortlessly as per usual. They play around on stage, with the audience, and never miss a chance to express their sincere, deep gratitude towards the fans. I particularly remember Taehyung always drawing hearts towards the crowd, and leaving the stage with one hand over his heart, expressing all we need to know without any words. It doesn’t matter that the concerts are in Korean and the talk sessions are short (and have to be memorized by some members so that they can convey what they want)–language truly isn’t a barrier. This time around we were also lucky enough to have a translator in house each time, just in case anyone wanted to speak in Korean at the end!
This time, more than any other, the concert moved through a storyline. As the albums followed the traditional storytelling method of 기승전결 (where 기 is the beginning, 승 is the progression, 전 is the turn or climax, and 결 is the conclusion), so too did the songs on the setlist. There were a few thrown in here and there where they made sense, but for the most part, the setlist stuck to this order, granting fans a complete, wholesome storyline and augmenting the concert experience that much further. The only difference in the setlist from city to city was the medley, which sometimes swapped a few songs here and there.
Each concert opened with newest title track “IDOL,” which definitely got everyone excited. BTS entered the stage each time after some pyrotechnics, and the large BTS logo on stage was also movable so that, when needed, it could open to reveal someone. A mashup of “Save Me” and “I’m Fine,” two songs that are the inverse of each other, followed the opening talk session, continuing the hype vibe. Then, BTS hit the crowd with emotions early on by performing “Magic Shop,” a fan song that Jungkook took part in creating. I never got tired of hearing the entire arena answer “I’ll show you” to BTS’s call of “So show me.”
The first VCR featured shots of the members playing around cutely, cut with solo shots of Jungkook and Hoseok, signaling the start of the solo songs. Following the VCR, Hoseok appeared on the main stage to perform “Trivia 起: Just Dance.” The song is upbeat and has lots of intricate choreography, featuring the best of Hoseok’s skills. He performed on the stage sans backup dancers for most of the song, including when he was lifted into the air on the movable stage lift, making it easier for the crowd at the back to see. Golden streamers shot all over the crowd towards the end, and there’s a quick transition to Jungkook’s “Euphoria.” With a set of backup dancers, Jungkook delivered his inspiring solo with the crowd singing along during the English lines. With clean choreography and pure, stable vocals (especially on that high note), Jungkook’s solo marked the end of the storyline’s intro (or 起/기). The intro here is the opening of a love story, and both “Just Dance” and “Euphoria” carry that theme easily with their lyrics and upbeat nature.
We break from the storyline temporarily to hearken back to one of BTS’s most defining moments, the HYYH era. The members all came out to sing “I Need U,” the song that really started it all. It was really satisfying to watch them sing this song, three years later after seeing it at The Red Bullet Tour, realizing just how far they’ve come and how much has changed since then. They also sang “Run,” foregoing the choreography for both songs to move up and down the stages, allowing more fans to get a closer look.
Then, it was back to our storyline, now with a VCR for Namjoon and Jimin (both being adorable), meaning our “progression,” the continuation of this love story (承/승), is here. The theme of falling in love fully was carried on as Jimin came on stage to perform “Serendipity,” complete with graceful, acrobatic choreography (all while not missing a note). “Trivia 承: Love” brought Namjoon to the stage, rapping his entire song alone, moving from the main stage down to the extended. There was no choreography, no backup dancers, and no other distractions, just Namjoon’s charismatic rap and the music. As his solo song drew to a close, he brought the rest of BTS back up to the stage for “DNA,” the final song in our “progression” part of the storyline. As a song about fated love, it fit right in.
What followed “DNA” and a short talk session was the mid-concert medley, which acted as more of their own intermission from this storyline, a quick sampling of some of Bangtan’s history and hype songs. The actual songs included in the medley varied from concert to concert, but songs such as “Fire,” “Go Go,” “Attack on Bangtan,” “Baepsae,” “흥탄소년단 (Boyz with Fun),” “Blood, Sweat, and Tears,” and “Dope” were included. Though they performed some of the choreography for these songs, for the most part they moved around the stage, played around, and interacted with the crowd. The medley was also where they went extra hard–they may be dancing on their own instead of in sync, but it was an extremely powerful performance that definitely served to excite the crowd, getting everyone to jump.
The medley ended on the main stage, switching to another fun song, “Airplane pt. 2.” After this, we were back to the storyline with 轉/전, the climax or turn. And there’s definitely a “turn,” because the tone shifts significantly from happy, pre-destined love to a darker, moodier vibe. The start of this transition is Taehyung’s VCR, shot in a more serious tone as he eventually ends up in a frozen glass case, seemingly symbolic of where the next two songs will take the theme. Taehyung enters with “Singularity,” complete with the coat racks, backup dancers, and moving masks. It’s sultry and charismatic and everything it should be, delivering the message that maybe that pre-destined love wasn’t what it appeared to be. This message was solidified as the rest of the BTS members came out to perform “Fake Love,” dressed in all black and nailing the detailed choreography.
Yoongi and Seokjin’s VCR was next, with Yoongi’s solo “Trivia 轉: Seesaw” bringing some clarity to the questions raised by “Singularity” and “Fake Love.” The song debates where the love fell apart, as Yoongi sang, rapped, and danced with a cohort of backup dancers and movable stage props. It’s really one of the first times we get to hear Yoongi sing, and it’s surprising that his solo stage would come with choreography; however, it’s well-executed and interesting to watch. Yoongi’s song fits in more with Taehyung’s solo, bringing an end to the “turn” stage.
And with that, we moved into the conclusion (結/결) of this storyline. Seokjin took the stage with “Epiphany,” playing the piano at the start of the song before belting out the song’s most powerful notes as the entire crowd sang “I’m the one I should love.” We had finally arrived at the end of the story, with the message that loving oneself has to come before any other love lest it fail, ringing loud and clear.
Though the storyline was pretty much wrapped up by that point, there were still two unit stages and the finale to come. In a smooth transition from Seokjin’s emotional ballad, the rest of the vocalists joined him on stage for a particularly heart-wrenching performance of “전하지 못한 진심 (The Truth Untold).” Each vocalist’s unique contribution to the song is so painfully obvious when watching it live–not only is the song amazing live, but the emotions Taehyung, Jimin, Jungkook, and Seokjin are all able to convey with both their expressions and their voices really makes for an experience that you must go through yourself to truly understand. I’ve never cried at a concert before, but the last show in Newark on 9/29 had tears streaming down my face, even into the next song.
The rappers came out to perform “Outro: Tear,” which stood in stark contrast to the emotional songs from just before. Despite this, they managed to hype the crowd up again with their hard-hitting raps, prepping everyone for the final song of the setlist, “Mic Drop.” The rest of the members came back to the extended stage and gave it their all in a powerful performance of the slightly cocky track. It was the extended version of the song, so the choreo was extended complete with a stage full of backup dancers, ending the concert with Yoongi’s literal mic drop.
The members left the stage while the audience chanted for the encore. A few minutes later, the lights dimmed again, and the members entered on the main stage with another upbeat track: “So What.” The song doesn’t have fixed choreo, so the members spent the entire time playing around on stage, and Jungkook somehow managed to convince a different member each night to do the shoot dance with him down the catwalk to the extended stage. (Also, Seokjin usually goes ham during this song. I have no clue why it’s this song, but it’s hilarious every time.)
Following “So What” was “Anpanman,” usually complete with Taehyung and Jungkook doing something a little different for the intro each night. It’s cute and fun, the perfect song for an encore.
The final talk session followed, allowing each member the chance to convey his sincere thoughts, in either English or Korean. BTS’s genuine love for their fans is so easily felt during these sessions, and it’s a nice way to wrap up the concert.
Finally, the members performed “Answer: Love Myself,” once again driving home the conclusion and message of this series: finding ways to love yourself really is the answer, and you can’t hope to love anyone else until you’re ready to accept and love yourself. I am beyond satisfied that their Love Yourself series has wrapped up like this (I was a bit worried when “DNA” first came out…). Self-love is such an important concept that we don’t get nearly enough of in media, and I am so, so proud of them for putting positive, important messages out into the world, even after they’ve reached the meteoric heights that they have.
The members spent some time after the final song saying goodbye to everyone, walking around to all parts of the stage to wave and make hearts. Some members lingered longer than others, taking their time to take in the experience and convey their hearts to the fans. At the main stage, they took one final bow with their backup dancers before waving a final goodbye (and in the case of Newark 9/29, Jungkook pouring a water bottle over his own head), leaving fans to watch a behind-the-scenes ending VCR and await the next tour.