So if you haven’t heard about the Korean boy-band, BIG BANG, trust me, you will soon. Riding the K-Pop invasion into the United States, led by Psy and Gangnam Style,ig Bang is on their first U.S. tour. For two nights in a row, they sold out the Honda Center. It’s only a matter of time before everyone knows the names of these five rappers/singers — G-Dragon, T.O.P., Taeyang, Seungri, and Daesung.
Now, let me be real with you. Before I went to this show, I knew very little about Big Bang. I headed to the show without any expectations. And if you’re the type of concert-goer who isn’t very open to something different or disinterested in hearing a bunch of musicians with only one goal in mind — to make you get out of your seat and dance — then this show wouldn’t be for you.
On Saturday, walking into the Honda Center was more like heading to a Lakers/Celtics playoff game than a concert. The tension was almost palpable, as if I could just reach up and cut it with a knife and spread it over my hot dog. Hundreds of young girls were wearing their Big Bang swag and screaming every time the lights flickered. When I was heading to my seat, the lights cut off, and the image of Big Bang appeared on a giant television screen above the stage, which stretched far out into the floor. The stage was shaped like a cross. Then a countdown began, the lights began to pulse, and out of the blackness emerged thousands of yellow lamps — which looked more like electrified lotus flowers — in the hands of the audience.
Suddenly, the screen on the stage dropped, and the crowd went b-a-n-a-n-a-s (thanks Gwen Stefani), and the girls were losing their freaking minds. It was pandemonium. From underneath the stage, tubes emerged that looked like something out of Star Trek. Behind the tubes, a band was playing on the second level, and they were creating so much tension with their crescendo, I thought the arena was going to split at the seams. Behind the band were several screens playing images of a Seoul — I’m assuming — from the future: neon lights, steel dragons, and writing in Korean.
Then it happened.
Big Bang, all five of them, busted out of the tubes, and the crowd screamed so loud my ear drums must have popped. They were dressed in these Michael Jackson-meets-Sgt. Pepper all-white suits. G-Dragon’s hair looked like something out Flock of Seagulls, and Taeyang had braids. They were both busting moves with as much style as Usher. They owned the stage, pointing to the crowd, and causing young girls and their mothers to cling to each other.
In Korea, each one of the members of Big Bang have successful solo careers, so together they’re a super group — almost the Korean version of a Traveling Wilburys — just very, very different. G-Dragon might be the most famous, and his song, “CraYon,” which features a line from The Dark Knight (“Why so serious?”) is a smash. Collectively, they’re so over-the-top it’s awesome. And everything about Big Bang is over the top, superficial, and highly produced. But honestly, who cares?
Before the show, I heard a lot people compare Big Bang to American boy-bands. In the end, it’s really unfair to compare Big Bang to someone like the Backstreet Boys or 98 Degrees, because they can actually rap. They have flow. They’re more like something Bad Boy records would have signed back in the day.
What I loved most about the show — besides the constant set changes, the colors, and the acrobatic dance-moves that made the performance feel more like Cirque Du Soleil — was that I could hear all the artists Big Bang was borrowing from. They sounded like hip hop and R&B from the 90s mixed with contemporary electronic beats. I could hear Pras and Ja Rule in T.O.P’s voice when he rapped, but when he sang all I could think about was the guy from Boyz II Men who sang bass. Then there was Taeyang — a sort of amalgamation of Sisqo, Lil’ Wayne, and Usher. Each one of the band members came out and had the stage by themselves for some time. And even at one point, one of the members (Daesung) flew around the stage wearing angel wings, looking like Icarus.
But you know, I’ve got to say, the band accompanying Big Bang was off the hook. They were rocking as if they were Parliament Funkadelic. Man, could they jam. To “top” the night off, girls were holding signs showing birthday love for one of the members. It was T.O.P’s birthday. To celebrate, they brought out a cake and the whole audience got to sing “happy birthday” to their beloved K-Pop star.
After the show, I was blown away with how a bunch of guys from Korea reinterpreted a genre of music that started on the streets of NYC. It’s not brilliant, and they’re probably manufactured by a corporation, but it was fun. Big Bang’s weirdness, when it comes to style, rivals Missy Elliot and Lady Gaga. Dancers were popping out of sewers; flames were bursting out of the stage; and B-Boys were break dancing like they were on Yo MTV Raps. I kept thinking about Dru Hill for some reason. It was nostalgic, a throwback to old-school hip-hop but with a commercial twist and a foreign reinterpretation. Honestly, it was freaking fun. Just be ready and open, because these boys, well, they’ll be back, and they know they’re going to be superstars. They told us so.
Critic’s Bias: I did expect to see something lame — something like a New Kids on the Block Concert.
Overheard in the Crowd: Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was way too freaking loud.
The Crowd: Girls, girls, girls. But also a small percentage of really dedicated fanboys, too.