What happens when four K-pop idol groups converge on a single tour stage? You get a house full of exploding fan hearts!
Hot off the heels of KCON Los Angeles (August 19th-21st), the KCON 2022 U.S. Tour brought CRAVITY (Starship Entertainment), LIGHTSUM (Cube Entertainment), STAYC (High Up Entertainment), and TO1 (Wake One Entertainment) to Minneapolis and took over the State Theatre on August 25th.
If you’ve ever been to the KCON in Los Angeles, you know it is a BIG to-do: a multi-day event celebrating contemporary South Korean popular culture and entertainment, and a place for K-pop and K-Drama fandoms to gather and celebrate their appreciation for Hallyu (Korean Wave). The con is capped off with a massive two-night, multi-artist stadium concert.
And this year, part of the concert line-up has been sent on the road to bring some of the glamor and fun of the stadium show to other parts of the U.S. Our own Minneapolis was the second tour stop! (Regional K-pop fans who resisted the siren call of the Seventeen concert in Chicago were probably very happy they stayed in town on the 25th!)
This might be the first multi-group idol tour to make it to Minnesota? (We should maybe fact-check this later…) But beyond that, the 2022 KCON Tour is also notable for one significant format adjustment: all-English MC-ing led by the idols themselves, supported by teleprompters. (Typically we see a mix of some members speaking in English with an off-stage translator assisting the rest of a group. Very occasionally there might be an on-stage translator/MC facilitating the whole event.) The slight programmatic shift demonstrates an intentional commitment – K-pop is HERE for the U.S. market. (Actually, it has already been, for over a decade, but the American mainstream is only finally starting to notice…)
Ok, ok, ok, BUT HOW WAS THE SHOW???
Super fun. SUPER SUPER FUN. Great energy and verve from all four groups. Absolute adoration from the crowd. A perfectly reciprocal ecosystem of idol-fan entertainment and engagement. And the video display visuals, lighting cues, and ample smoke machine effects were well-utilized and provided dynamic backdrops for each of groups, setting tone and mood for each song.
The 8 girls of LIGHTSUM led with a cold open of ‘Vanilla’ and ‘VIVACE’ in black and gray goth-ish school girl-ish attire.Then the 9 boys of CRAVITY, clad in all black and sporting distressed jackets in a variety of styles, took over and launched into ‘Adrenaline’ and ‘My Turn.’ Then both groups took the stage together to make member introductions, greet fans, and hype the crowd for the rest of the show. CRAVITY’s Allen (who is from Los Angeles) served as a primary MC for the segment. Then the 6 girls of STAYC appeared, all in summery blues and white, and delighted fans with ‘Run to You’ and ‘So Bad.’ Finally, the 9 boys of TO1 took over -in a wardrobe that can only be scribed as a pastiche of late 80s/early 90s punk/grunge aesthetics (a mix of styles that predate the birth of most of the group’s members). They kicked off their first set with a short dance break before launching into ‘No More X’ and ‘BOOM POW.’ All out of breath and grasping at water bottles, TO1’s “sparkling leader” Jaeyun welcomed STAYC members back onstage to greet the audience together. In the second half, the order of appearance reversed slightly with CRAVITY first, then LIGHTSUM, and then TO1 followed by STAYC in the final quarter. Between second-half sets, each group coached the audience on key bits of choreography and snippets of song lyrics, which added to the a warm, inclusive vibe of the whole show.
And all throughout the show, members from all groups expressed how happy they were to be able to meet fans in-person and perform ‘offline’ again.
STAYC GIRLS, IT’S GOING DOWN!
It would be impossible to say whether any single group stole the show. They were all in top-form and delivered solid performances and each had some stand-out moments: LIGHTSUM’s cover of (G)I-dle’s ‘TOMBOY’ and their own recent single ‘Alive,’ CRAVITY’s explosive ‘JUMPER’ stage and new perfectly bubble-gum English track ‘Boogie Woogie’, STAYC’s signature ‘ASAP,’ and TO1’s raucous ‘Drummin’ float high in memory.
And each fan-heart in attendance will give you a different answer to who had the best stage? as each has their own personal and treasured bias. But STAYC seemed to have numerous devotees in the crowd, if scream-volume and rapt, breathless audience attention are any indication.
The girls may have shaken some biases, too, as they bestowed a special fandom name on Minnesota fans, Sweetie Minnie. And one young gentleman in the balcony had his evening MADE when he screamed I LOVE YOU!! to the girls during a talking segment, and Sieun paused and said I love you, too! in answer.
Gasps and murmurs of awe and appreciation rippled through the crowd, and the fellow was seen to have collapsed into a puddle of melted goo for a few minutes afterwards, clearly shaken to his fanboy core.
No doubt the 2022 KCON TOUR will be just as fun and fan-heart-exploding on all the rest of its stops.
KCON 2022 U.S. Tour
8/23 – San Francisco, CA – Orpheum Theatre
8/25 – Minneapolis, MN – State Theatre
8/27 – Houston, TX – The Hobby Center-Sarofim Hall
8/28 – Dallas, TX – Texas Trust CU Theatre
8/30 – Atlanta, GA – The Eastern
9/1 – New York, NY – Terminal 5