In the early morning of Friday, March 24, a long line of shivering fans stood wrapped around the block of the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Even at around 6 a.m., I had to walk past hundreds of fans who had camped out the night before in order to obtain a spot on the line. All of this was for BTS, the seven-member K-pop boy group that has been surging in popularity across the globe. The group kicked off the U.S. leg of their “Live Trilogy Episode III: The Wings Tour” with two sold-out shows at the Prudential Center, before continuing on to Chicago and later Los Angeles.
For many fans, the BTS concert was an all-day affair that required waiting outside in line for hours. Since fans were able to enter the venue well before the show’s 8 p.m. starting time, they had to anxiously wait inside as well. An hour before the show started, the screens inside the Prudential Center started playing BTS’ music videos. Fans loyally sang along to every lyric, both the Korean and English parts, and some would even dance along to the complicated choreography. BTS’ dedicated international fan base clearly plays a large role in their continued worldwide success.
The show itself was musically and visually stunning. BTS proved yet again that they earned their recognition by pouring all their effort into the nearly thirty songs they performed in the two hour show, which included passionate dance numbers and solo performances. Each member got to perform a song individually, since they all have solo songs on their “Wings” album. The members — Rap Monster, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook — took breaks throughout the show to talk amongst themselves and engage the fans in conversation, in mostly English with the occasional Korean phrase. The concert was dynamic and entertaining, especially since the mood of the concert constantly shifted from heartfelt to energetic and fun. For example, Rap Monster’s somber solo song “Reflection” contains a mournful repetition of the lyrics “I wish I could love myself,” and during his performance of this song, fans chanted back to him “we love you” each time Rap Monster sang those words. Moments like these throughout the concert showcased the emotional connection fans have to the songs, and their undying devotion to the members.
As well as performing some of their most famous more recent hits, including “Fire,” “Blood Sweat & Tears” and “Dope,” the group also performed medley renditions of their much older songs, such as “Boy in Luv,” “N.O.” and “Danger.” They even performed their debut single, “No More Dream,” sending the fans through a nostalgic journey of the group’s past endeavors. The fact that the audience was still able to shout along to every lyric of all these older songs further attests to the fans’ complete dedication to the boy group.
The sheer volume and diversity among the fans who showed up to the support the K-pop group was amazing. There were people of all ages and racial backgrounds. At one point before the concert, I could hear two people behind me chatting. I learned that one of the women was in her fifties, the other was twenty-five, and they were complete strangers bonding over the fact that they had the same favorite member in the group, Jungkook. Other people around me discussed how far they had traveled to attend the concert. A group of girls drove up from Florida. I actually ran into a few fellow Wellesley students who were also attending the concert.
Throughout the day, fans handed out BTS-related photos and stickers to fellow fans. While waiting on line outside in the cold, the girl standing behind me even gave me some of her hand-warmers. The sense of community was evident all around me, as social media handles were exchanged and new friendships were forged. At the very end of the concert, during the encore, fans put colored plastic bags around their phones and lightsticks to create a sea of differently colored lights coordinated by section. Before the concert, a group of fans organized this event, and, unbeknownst to BTS, they handed out the colorful bags to fellow fans. Needless to say, witnessing the incredible support of BTS’ fanbase, also known as “ARMY,” was truly one of the highlights of the day, and made for a memorable experience.