April 13, 2015
I went to watch this concert only as a companion to my daughter who likes Korean telenovelas and pop songs. I, on the other hand, do not know anything about K-Pop except those two big hits by Psy and the Wonder Girls (both of which I am sure you also know very well). Of the four acts, I only know Super Junior because of the fervid publicity of their past concerts in Manila. But honestly I could not name any one of the members nor recognize any of their songs. This concert is my first actual introduction to Super Junior as well as KPop itself as a musical genre.
Adding another point of interest to this concert is that it will be held at the new Philippine Arena (of the Iglesia ni Cristo) in Bocaue, Bulacan. Because I was apprehensive about the traffic situation, I decided for us to try taking the shuttle buses the organizers have provided to get to and from the venue. The shuttle bus was only P50 for a round trip, and came from various points like Trinoma in QC, Makati and Alabang. In Trinoma, the shuttle left from the bus terminal outside the supermarket area at 3:30 pm. We reached Philippine Arena by 4 pm. The bus parking area was quite a distance away, so people had to line up to ride another shuttle bus provided by the INC to get to the arena proper. They need to organize this service as some people would still cut in the queue.
There was a fiesta atmosphere outside the venue as there were already so many people there. We first took time taking pictures with the grand Arena. Organizers have set up a stage where local KPop cover acts performed. The fans were already very excitedly screaming their hearts out. They knew all the lyrics. They were also taking pictures with the emcees, who were also dressed in KPop style. My daughter was giving me various information and trivia on the side as we were watching the sideshow as I was completely clueless. We ate an early dinner at the area provided, then we realized we should already be lining up to enter.
The queues were already very long, almost up the complex entrance. There were two main lines, one for those who bought from Ticketworld and another for those who bought from SM Tickets. It was an arduous wait, much longer than our queue for the OneD concert. As the sky turned dark on us while lining up, we saw the multicolored Philippine Arena lights turned on. It was a relief when we finally saw the audience gates after maybe an hour or more in line. Again, they should improve this system of letting people in as it got a bit confusing near the gates. You really need to protect your position in line as some people can take advantage of the merging lines and cut in. The line took time because they were quite strict in checking those people with bags. Those without bags got in much less time.
Once we got inside, we can really feel the excitement of the fans as they were running up the stairs. I am not sure if there are escalators or elevators to the higher floors as we went along with those in the stairwell. When we reached the doors of our designated level, there was suddenly a big shout heard, and we saw fans were rushing out of the auditorium and started running down the stairs! Apparently, organizers have allowed fans to transfer to the next lower level. So Gen Ad people were running down to Upper Box, and Upper Box people were running down to Lower Box. We just went with the flow of the fans and settled into our new, and better seats. We can see why the venue did not get filled up even with the huge turnout of fans. The audience area was so enormous indeed with seats in the INC colors -- red, white and green. It may not have been a full house last night, but the energy level of the audience was really pulsating.
When the house lights turned dimmed down and the introductory video played on the big screens, multicolored lightsticks up the darkness as fans were screaming like crazy.
The first act to take the stage was the five-girl group called RED VELVET who opened the show with their new hit song, "Ice Cream Cake". They were dancing in front of a massive video wall that exploded into different colors and cool designs. This would be the presentation style for the subsequent performers as well. After a couple of songs, they spoke with their fans -- well, at least they tried to with their limited English. Fortunately, someone provided the English translation from offstage (probably by emcee Sam Oh). The RV girls were very cute in their swag hiphop tops, short denim shorts and blond hair. They only sang four songs, including the sweet ballad "Candy" (VIDEO), and their finale "Happiness" (VIDEO) which made their fans very happy indeed.
Next up was BTOB, short for their full name "Born to Beat". This is a seven-man boy group also with a big following all over the world. Their set opened with a bang as they emerged rising up from beneath the stage, and they went on to sing their hit song "Thriller" (VIDEO). The boys were all dressed in black hiphop-style oversized shirts. Their next numbers would also be in signature energetic style, with fans screaming wildly for their personal favorite members as their porcelain faces were flashed on the screen as they were performing. Again, the spiels were a bit repetitive and awkward because of the limited English, but the fans certainly did not mind. The boys sang seven songs, including "Second Confession" (VIDEO) and their finale "Wow" (VIDEO).
The next act was superstar girl group GIRLS' GENERATION. For their grand entrance, they seemed to pop out of a brightly-lit screen. They were dressed in delightful matching pink tutu-like mini-dresses that moved so well with their dancing. Their opening song number was the very eclectic "Mr. Taxi" (VIDEO), then followed by "Genie" (VIDEO). Their video backdrops were more elaborate and colorful, very feminine in slower songs. The eight girls had more distinct faces, each with a unique beauty about them. Too bad they did not get to change costumes at all, which would have been so nice. Their English spiels were limited like the others, but they were all so pretty to look at, so it was cute. Each of them also had their own group of fans screaming for them as their faces were given a close-up on the big screens. Of their seven songs, I liked their old hit "Gee" (VIDEO) and their finale number "Mr. Mr." (VIDEO).
The biggest and most famous act in the lineup was also the finale act -- SUPER JUNIOR. Out of the 13 members, there were only eight guys on the stage as their silhouettes first showed up on the stage in their spectacular opening number "Shirt" (VIDEO), immediately followed by "This is Love" (VIDEO). My daughter said some of them had to fulfil their mandatory military service for their country. The boys (men really, since these were the same guys ten years ago when they first exploded on the pop scene) were in smart black and white tailored suits with different patterns. Each of them had their own hordes of adoring fans who were really going wild with their blue lightsticks. Their slick high-energy style and showmanship were so evident in every number. It was clear why they have lasted this long in this business. Kyunhyun was given a solo spot for his soulful ballad "At Gwanghwamun". SJ saved their best songs for last -- "Mr. Simple" (VIDEO) and "Mamacita" (VIDEO). The concert ended suddenly though after the latter song, just when the crowd was getting more excited. I think they sang only seven songs -- a very short set for what was supposed to be the top act. People thought there would be more, but realized it was really the end when the house lights came back on.
As everyone was filing out of the Arena, our concern was how to get back to the parking area of the buses. There was already a very long line at the Sports Arena where the shuttles were supposed to pick passengers up. My daughter and I decided to just join the horde already making their way back to the buses on foot. Luckily, we encountered shuttles along the way whose drivers stopped to pick up walking patrons. We got on and reached the parking area in no time. We got on on the first bus bound for Trinoma which left in a few minutes after the bus was filled up. I think this post-concert aspect can still be improved for future concerts.
I had fun bonding time with my daughter in this concert. I can see why they connect with various audiences the world over despite the language barrier. These K-Pop songs were all so relentlessly fun to groove to with very catchy and infectious beats. Watching the whole K-Pop phenomenon unfold in front of me (complete with the rabid and loyal fan love all around) made this one a memorable concert experience in its own right even if I did not know ANY of the songs performed at all.