This isn’t Eric Nam’s first rodeo in Minnesota. His first MN show, a stop on his 2018 ‘Honestly’ North American Tour, was originally booked for the Cedar Cultural Center, but it sold out and got moved to First Ave instead. Minnesota likes Eric Nam, and the feeling seems to be mutual.
Back in town on February 29th/Leap Day, 2020, Eric brought a world tour celebrating his new (English-language) album, Before We Begin (2019). The K-Pop singer and Atlanta, Georgia-native got a warm welcome at the Palace Theatre in St. Paul. The usual, diverse mix of K-Pop fans were in attendance, with a heavy dose of couples on dates and double dates.
The show opened at 7pm with duo FRENSHIP on electric bass and acoustic guitar. “It only takes two to make a band!” -and they were right! Their rich, mellow sound and soaring vocals filled the Palace and the crowd loved it. The singers were touched by the warm response:
“You guys are far too f***ing kind! And loud!”
“You make a couple of grown-a** men feel very welcome here – so thank you!”
FRENSHIP’s set included “GOODMORNING, Goodbye,” and their 2016 single “Capsize,” as well as a new song they wrote together with Eric Nam called “Anywhere But Here.” The duo talked about meeting Eric after one of their shows in Los Angeles and becoming mutual fans of each other’s music, and how it led to the musical collaboration and tour. James and Brett did a great job prepping the crowd for the headliner.At 8:02 pm Eric Nam took the stage in jeans, a two-toned vintage-cut track jacket with a satin finish, and a handheld mic. He launched into a double-song cold-open: “Come Through” off the new album, followed by his 2019 Korean single “Runaway.” Four male backup dancers, poles of vertical strip-lights, and high-hung rows of motion lights served as set-dressing for an otherwise bare stage. Both dancers and lights would be used to excellent effect throughout the bi-lingual pop concert, punctuating Eric’s music and performance in all the right places.
After the opening, Eric greeted the crowd and asked how many had seen him live before, and how many were first-timers. Based on audience cheers, it sounded like an even mix. Eric then took a moment to greet a couple of other demographics likely to be present, people who were possibly there against their will: “Moms & Dads” and “Upset Significant Others.” To these folks, he introduced himself specifically and gave them each a message. He assured the “Moms & Dads” that his concert would be an educational experience of “cultural exchange” and thanked them for supporting it. To the second group, he cheekily suggested that they keep this concert in their relationship back-pocket to whip out in a time of need.
Two more English songs came next: 2018 single,“I Don’t Miss You” and “Wonder” an introspective love ballad from the new album. Then it was time for a little bit of stand-up comedy and story-telling at his mother’s expense. Eric explained that his mother’s definition of an “all ages show” differs from his own, and that she finds some of his songs too “scandalous” – specifically the choreography.
Mom vs. Body Rolls
Eric quoted his mother, “There is too much sexy in your concert – too much body roll… Eric, God is watching you.”
To which he alleges he replied, “Sorry Jesus, it’s in the job description. Singer-Songwriter: Body Roll. K-Pop Star: Body Roll, Body Roll, Body Roll…”
The crowd cheered. Then he launched into a couple of numbers from 2016 with his dancers, all delivering the sexy moves Momma Nam would surely not appreciate: Korean single, “Good For You” and his sultry (English) Timbaland collaboration, “Body” (with extra body rolls and a little booty shaking for good measure).
Sorry Eric Nam Eomeoni, Minnesotans are on your son’s side. The body rolls stay in the show.
Eric then took a moment to ask if anyone was having a Leap Day birthday -one lady on the GA Floor was. He wished her a happy “Fourth birthday” and led the house in a croony rendition of the traditional song. Eric’s charming, sweet, and sometimes silly persona is so gosh darn likable, it looked like the “Upset Significant Others” weren’t all that upset to be there. Men and women alike seemed happy to be spending an evening in his presence.
“Potion” (Korean), “Don’t Call Me” (English), “Idea of You” (English), “Like You” (English) came next, the last two being tracks he features on for producers Arty and AObeats, respectively. Friendly chatting and more humorous anecdotes of Momma Nam’s decade-long skepticism over her son’s career choice followed. Then “How I’m Doing,” “Love Die Young” off the new album, and a solo rendition of his 2017 Gallant collab, “Cave Me In” led up to the show-closers: two (hella fun) Korean singles “Honestly” and “Can’t Help Myself.” Then the stage went dark and fans held their breath, waiting patiently for some post-show action.
Fortunately, they didn’t have to wait very long. Eric and dancers returned for an energetic two-song encore with tracks from the new album: “You’re Sexy, I’m Sexy” (with a heavy side of body rolls) and finally, the lead single/breakup anthem of Before We Begin, “Congratulations.”
The Take Away
Eric Nam and his production team delivered an absolutely delightful show. And a show with a message. Slipped in three-quarters of the way through, after tales of his mother questioning why anyone would listen to his music, Eric dropped some important comments regarding representation in music and how hard it is for Asian Americans to break into the American music industry.
He noted that he, an Asian kid from the American South, had to leave his home country and pursue music in South Korea for nearly 10 years before he was able to return home and do music here. Eric thanked the crowd directly: “You being here is making a statement for a cultural movement of acceptance, diversity, and representation, and inclusion in music. …Thank you for being here tonight.”
Eric Nam should know folks are glad that he’s coming home and he is welcome back in Minnesota anytime.