This is the third time I see Big Bang in concert. It was a very different experience from the last time I saw them, back in 2012. Back then, I saw them in a smaller venue in London. I saw them on two consecutive nights, had the privilege of being sung to by Daesung, getting a huge smile, having G-Dragon try to make me laugh by making faces at me, and having a dance contest with Taeyang and making him laugh with my non existent dance skills (yep, it was an epic concert).
This was epic too, but in a different way and on a different scale.
The venue was huge, and another important point is that both Big Bang and their fans have grown up. The last huge difference is that this was a concert in South Korea, and concerts in South Korea are quite (read: very) different from in Europe.
My classmate and I arrived at the concert a few hours before the concert started. We got our tickets out and went to get some food to eat. On a side note: the usual foreigner stuff happened to me here, but in a nice way.
It was a family run store, and I went to order. The young boy was standing at the counter. You could see the panic rush over him as this foreigner approached and he thought that he would be unable to understand or communicate. I ask him for a cheese toast, in Korean. Then comes the amazement, and the comments from his parents that I speak good korean. I keep answering in Korean, and as ever, I get more and more praise. I sit and talk with my friend as we eat. We're sitting pretty close to the counter, and I can see the entire family staring at us and getting more and more amazed. The father then approaches us and asks questions about how long I've studied Korean and where, and is getting more and more amazed and then I say: "You know my friend also isn't Korean", and now they really lost their jaws to the floor. They complimented us a lot on having very natural sounding Korean skills. So it was a good beginning to the experience.
There were a lot of people at the venue. Really a lot of people, and today the pollution was really bad again. My eye isn't crying yet but I do feel the pollution. We wore masks out, but it was still pretty bad.
My friend had gone this concert venue when BTS had their concert here a few weeks back. She hadn't been able to get tickets (that's an impossible deal, dream on), but she stepped by to get free stuff that fans often hand out during concerts. We expected there to be lots here too, but we didn't find a single fan handing out banners. It was most shocking for us, because there is usually so much free merchandise to get from fellow fans. Not today though.
The crowd was interesting too. Most fans were in their mid twenties, but there were lots of older people too and families and small kids. Groups of guys and groups of girls, mums with their kids, and I wasn't always sure if it was the ten year old kid or the mum who was the bigger fan.
Although there were no fans giving out free banner and the like, there were a huge amount of fan donations displayed in front of the venue. Fan donations are usual for concerts, but there truly were a lot here. It's typical in South Korea for fans to donate food in the name of their artist. There were SO many donations here. Hundreds of thousands of boxes. It was really nice to see that the focus was on donations, and it also shows that Big Bang fans are a different kind.
This was also visible by how they acted. When we came into the huge arena, it was quiet. Even with so many people gathered, it was quiet. It didn't feel like a concert was about to start. Fans were quietly chatting, and the noise level was really really low.
From Europe I'm used to fans being loud before the concert starts and maybe singing along to songs or the like. There was a minimum of that, but not a lot. It was quiet.
I noticed that there were two "Dispensaries", two medical posts. And already before the concert started, it was full. I saw girls being carried out in the arms of security guards and being brought to this tent. It was full for the entire concert, with a rotating shift of fainting girls. But I had not expected it to fill up before the concert even started...
Then the clock struck 6pm, when the concert was supposed to start, and fans slowly began warm up and sing along to the songs being played at low volume. About twenty minutes later people were still finding their places, but one of Big Bang's biggest hits, Fantastic Baby, came on, and fans saw this as a sign that the concert was nearly happening.
They began to sing along. And then it happened. The big lights turned on and then the hall became dark. Except, it wasn't dark.
The venue was lit with the yellow lights that belong to Big Bang fans, called VIPs. The cheering arrived like the roar of a tiger; loud and precise.
The cheers were loud, excited, as Big Bang arrived on stage and kicked off the concert.
I had forgotten the joy that I gain from watching Big Bang perform. They were fooling around from the very beginning, joking with each other and just having a good time. Seungri and Daesung are especially hilarious do the commentary sections between songs. Within minutes they made me feel like I had come not to watch a concert but to watch a comedy show and it was nice to see them like that.
I was also pleased that I understood every single word they said. Nothing passed over my head. I think this is a first for me. It's true that I also understood everything at the Reseffect concert a few weeks ago, but this was different. Big Bang are very talkative, especially Seungri. He is like a talking machine.
What was also funny was that especially to begin with and especially Seungri spoke as he would have if he was speaking Japanese and not Korean. They have done a lot of concerts in Japan lately, and G-Dragon struggled with Korean and had to admit that having just toured Europe and America, he hasn't spoken Korean in a long time. Still, even with Japanese phrasing, some Korean fails and mishaps, I understood everything. Even G-Dragon's three minute monologue, and Seungri's energetic Japanese style hosting commentary.
The fans made the experience so much better. They sang along at the right parts. Sometimes everyone agreed not to sing and just enjoy their voices. Sometimes everyone agreed to get up and jump. It was a place where one could enjoy the music and performances and there was still space for screaming fans during non singing and non talking moments. Before the encore, Big Bang didn't come out again for a long time. For about five minutes fans were singing the same verse over and over.
My heart for you is blue I want to hug you like the sky When the dark windy rain blows don’t worry. Oh oh oh! You’re always in my heart I want to give you all of me When you’re sad or tired I will hold you tight. Ah ah ah ah!
For five minutes they sung. For five minutes we sung those words over and over. The fans were calm. They didn't scream senselessly over they voices. They stopped screaming and clapping and what not when the members were singing or speaking. They wowed over the cool parts of the songs and the light sticks were lit from beginning to end. Well done VIPs. You made this concert so much better.
The screen work was absolutely stunning too. The way that the images from the concert were show on screen was really innovative and beautiful. It added to the wow effect of the concert. Whoever produced this concert, did a great job with the lights and the screen images. It looked absolutely epic and stunning.
Now there is something I must mention. Big Bang is a five member group. But in South Korea military service is mandatory. I have a blog written about that right here. The eldest member, TOP, is currently serving in the military (amongst controversy and drama). Due to him being in service and due to the controversy surrounded parts of his early service, his presence was to be disregarded during the concert, but naturally this isn't possible.
Out by the donations, there were only donations for the four members in attendance, but there was one strange donation that carried no photo or name or explanation. After coming home, I discovered that it was a donation made for the missing member, TOP, with due respect by neither using his photo nor name.
This concert is also special as it's the last one before the rest of the Big Bang members head off to serve their two years of mandatory service in the Army. It marks the end of a long era for them.
For the first song, Daesung (vocalist not rapper), decided to rap TOPs part to the great amusement and amazement of fans. For other songs, they cut out TOPs part, especially for the newer songs. For some they left it empty and fans sung the part, and for a few where it couldn't be helped the members took over, like Daesung did with the first song.
But for the last song, called Last Dance, they left an empty spot on stage. Not only that, when the time came for TOPs rap part, he appeared on screen, rapping over the image of fans cheering and the sound of them "aww"-ing in sadness. It was a beautiful but bittersweet moment.
I am glad that I got to go. When I last went to a Big Bang concert, I didn't realise that it could be my last. But I did this time.
The members were talking about it during their commentary. Daesung (my favourite member) especially talked about it. He launched a few jokes about how artists always say that it's "their last concert" as a marketing trick to get fans to come, but that for them this is the truth now. It's their last concert. He went on: "Before this concert hall was built, I attended high school just around the corner. We filmed our documentary here before debut. It feels like one of those times... It feels like now that it's the end we're coming back to where we started."
The entire concert was bittersweet, for fans and singers alike. As I watched them perform, especially the older songs, I could see how far they had come. I remembered how they looked when they first came out and performed this or that song, over ten years ago. They've changed and the fans have changed, but the fans have stood with them through thick and thin, and even now, after everything, they are still there for a bittersweet goodbye.
After the concert, it was raining and it was filled with people. People were standing still in the streets, waiting for the next subway train to arrive so they could get advance and get a little closer to the subway station. It was insane. My friend and I very quickly realised that we wouldn't be able to get home for a good hour or two standing in a queue like this so we opted for food before anything else.
We found a restaurant and managed to get a seat without waiting. I turned around to order, and again I get the foreigner stare. Not just from the store owner this time, but from twenty eating Koreans... These sort of stares usually make me wonder if I have said something wrong, until I realise that they're just staring because I'm a foreigner ordering food in their language. I tend to forget that I look obviously different from everyone else. It's an easy thing to forget. At least for me, but not for others.
After dinner we still had to stand in a queue to get onto the platform, but it was a lot better than earlier and we made it on the second subway train and straight home.
Now I shall head off to work, and then I have an appointment for a replay of a Big Bang concert in my dreams. Goodnight to you all.