After Time Away, B.A.P Still “Best, Absolute, Perfect” in Chicago
In 2014, B.A.P came to Star Plaza in Merrillville, Indiana for their Chicago leg of their Attack! world tour. Back then, they put on a great show that was lively and energetic. While it was expected they would come back in 2015, a lawsuit between them and their company– TS Entertainment– over poor treatment, pay, and contract issues put a halt to those hopes for a year while the two parties worked out their issues. During this time, some fans left the fandom while the faithful held their breath. This past November, B.A.P stepped back into the industry with Matrix before following up with Carnival and their Japanese release, Best Absolute Perfect, in February and March of this year.
Fast forward to April 23, 2016: B.A.P were back in Chicago at Rosemont Theatre for the fifth stop of their Live on Earth (LOE) 2016 Awake world tour. Armed with a live drummer, their music mixer, and several confetti cannons, B.A.P managed to top their Attack! tour in amazing fashion.
Walking into the theatre, fans were greeted by a graphic asking “Where are you now?” The simple saying appears to reference their last song prior to the lawsuit “Where Are You? What Are You Doing?” alluding to how Awake is a symbol of their rebirth.
As the show opened, the rebirth theme became clear as the text graphic gave way to a child and a child’s voice asking “who are we?” and “why are we here?” before introducing Awake and welcoming fans to the fun party atmosphere they were about to experience.
After the intro, B.A.P opened the show with their debut single, “Warrior.” As they appeared out of the rainbow of strobe lights, the crowd exploded with cheers and dance, so much so that the floor in the pit area shook; so much so that many needed to grab the chairs in front in order to remain steady. Even pit security had to take a seat due to the small quake fans caused.
Then came fan-favorites “What the Hell” and the rock-heavy head-banger “BangX2.” Both songs helped amp the crowd. While “What the Hell” helped introduce more of B.A.P’s rock and hip-hop fusion, “BangX2” served as the shot of adrenaline fans needed to boost the boys up higher as they thrived on the cheers. There were a few times when Daehyun’s voice sounded strained, but he quickly recovered, while Himchan’s grittiness came alive. It’s apparent how much B.A.P enjoy performing “BangX2” as plenty of passion shown through before heading into “No Mercy.”
The arrangement for “No Mercy” was an interesting one. The remix felt slightly off and didn’t match the tempo of the lyrics as well as it could have due to excessive guitar riffs. The chorus portion was on-point before the remixed arrangement came back to almost drown out B.A.P’s singing in the remaining verses. However, incorporating some of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” added a unique flavor toward the end.
Next, it was time for a solo; it should be noted that each tour stop had a different solo set. For the Chicago show, Himchan performed his solo, S.N.S.” Dressed in a suit, Himchan sang well while showing his classy side. Yongguk backed him up beautifully, but this was Himchan’s time to shine. Even with slippery confetti, he held his own and won over the Chicago crowd.
The other soloists, Daehyun and Jongup, showed off their signature smoothness. Daehyun performed a soulful version of “Shady Lady,” while Jongup performed “Now.” Daehyun did well getting fans to calm down, sit, and listen, while Jongup had an opportunity to let his sweet voice be heard while impressing with his slick dance moves. Both provided lovely moments for fans.
From Himchan’s solo, fans were greeted by an introduction featuring the boys as spies before leading to “Spy.” “Spy” always gets fans pumped, and this time wasn’t any different. Like with Attack, Awake’s “Spy” featured the dance battle that made everyone excited. Seeing it up close this time made it even better.
One of the highlight songs was definitely the cheery, goofy anthem hit “Be Happy.” Once again, fans managed to make the floor shake to the point where one of the security personnel looked queasy. He remained seated for the majority of the show following this point.
“Be Happy” was greeted with plenty of loud singing from the fans, which the boys fed off of as the performance moved forward. The colorful images on the screen were enhanced by the goofy dance that still looks like drunk dads at wedding but with slightly more finesse. It’s hard not to feel happy with the song’s effervescent quirkiness radiating throughout the theatre. Given the fan response, there was no surprise when it was the encore song later in the evening.
Continuing with the joyous theme, “Feel So Good” and “Carnival” kept the fun alive. Like with “Be Happy,” “Feel So Good” was greeted with plenty of joyous singing, while B.A.P used “Carnival” to garner more fan involvement by getting the crowd to sing the first few lines to open the song. The ground never stopped moving.
Following Daehyun’s “Shady Lady,” the party atmosphere became alive once more with the remixed versions of “Hurricane,” “Badman,” “Dancing in the Rain,” and “Crash.” The way the songs were remixed enhanced the flow and kept energy high. However, when “Dancing in the Rain” comes on, it’s clear the halfway point of the show arrived and saying “goodbye” comes sooner rather than later.
After Jongup’s solo, B.A.P, being the socially conscientious souls they are, provided the audience with some sobering information regarding war, and it’s scary to think how volatile and violent the world truly is. Prior to heading into “One Shot,” a plea to end war was greeted with cheers. “One Shot” provided a spirited performance by both B.A.P and the crowd. Looking at Yongguk, it was clear he was pleased by the reaction.
Another highlight of the night was the Korean version of their latest single “Kingdom.” While it was a bummer the narration was provided by the backtrack, the actual performance was solid and hard-hitting. Seeing the dance for “Kingdom” live was spectacular, and Daehyun was feeling it! The stage didn’t need lights due to his mega-watt smile, and it was hard to not feel the song. Even the two blasé gentleman alongside me managed to crack a smile or two, breaking the stoicism they maintained all night.
Then, Jongup emerged and peered into the crowd before striking his iconic pose to begin “1004.” Once again, the crowd erupted, the floor moved, and the fans’ singing—a cross between yelling, shouting, and actual singing—lifted the boys, especially Himchan who allowed the crowd to sing a few of his lines before taking over. For fans, “1004” has special significance since it was the boys’ first win on a music program.
Following “1004,” there was a brief talk session where Daehyun assured fans they didn’t have to worry any longer and that they [B.A.P] and the fans should be happy before he led everyone in a heartfelt, moving rendition of “With You.” There were plenty of teary-eyed fans with some commenting that even Daehyun cried. Out of the whole night, this was the most beautiful, memorable moment.
Finally, after a brief break, it was time for the finale. “Young, Wild, & Free” was performed with full energy. The following ment brought many laughs with Daehyun running across the stage with a slice of pizza before leading into the bombastic, in-your-face “Excuse Me” and wrapping up with the encore of “Be Happy.” As the boys said goodbye, “BABY” piped through the theatre as a perfect evening came to an end.
- As expected, B.A.P were on fire! Listening to accounts from other shows, it was clear that a great show was coming Chicago’s way. During prior shows, there were concerns that Himchan didn’t seem quite right, but that could have been due to jet lag. For the Chicago show, he was bright and cheerful, as were the other members. Yongguk, especially, had his signature gummy smile on display except for the talk sessions where he wore his serious leader hat well. In terms of health and energy, B.A.P were strong and better than ever.
- The remixed songs, for the most part, were spectacular.
- A shout out has to go to the graphics department that designed the screen images for the show. The text aspects were clear and easy to read, and the colors were in vivid HD, making the screen POP! This element helped to enhance the show. Engrish moments were non-existent this time.
- A.P’s backup dancers and the stage crew were also incredible. The dancers provided a lot of energy and fun and didn’t detract from the show. They had personality without being over-the-top, so it’s clear B.A.P have an awesome support system behind them during the shows.
Similarly, the stage crew did well keeping the stage free of debris (i.e., tons of confetti), picking up speakers (Yongguk knocked over a few), and keeping the show flowing. All of these people are really the unsung heroes of any concert regardless of who is performing, but they really make a difference. Given how much confetti fell; one wrong move could have been disastrous.
- Fan-service! B.A.P are excellent at giving fans a great show and memorable interactions. Throughout the concert, whether it was taking pictures using fans’ phones, dancing, or getting up close and personal for pictures and hand-holding, B.A.P did it all. For those in front, they truly had a night to remember.
- A.P had a great mix of new songs and old favorites. This helped keep everyone engaged.
- The overall performance aspect improved since Attack! The high energy, non-stop action made the show even more incredible. The more mature image and personalities helped with stronger professionalism and performance.
- While the talking portions are nice and enjoyable, the fact that there were fewer talk sessions for Awake made for an even more enjoyable experience. For over two hours, it was nonstop music making the concert well worth the price of admission.
- Also recognized are the fans in attendance. The fandom was well represented, and there were plenty of people who went out of their way to be warm and welcoming. From random conversations, to people bringing extra light sticks and goods for people who couldn’t afford any or just didn’t bring anything along, to the #ForeverBAPsBABYz group collecting food donations for a local food bank, the fandom had many good people show up.
- Most people were respectful of distance of personal space.
- The age-range for fans was incredible. While the majority of fans were in their 20s to 30s, there were some teens and middle-aged people in attendance. A familiar face from LOE 2014—the little senior lady with her B.A.P hat, vest, pins, and t-shirt who said “Bang Yongguk is a fine gentleman and a nice role model”— was also spotted, making for a neat memory.
- Rosemont Theatre’s acoustics were terrible in the pit. At times, it was difficult to hear the music and the boys. Looking at fan cams, the further back people were in the theatre, the better the sound quality.
- There were a few “fans” that shouted at Himchan to lose weight. This was unnecessary and rude. With this, there were a few fans calling the boys “daddy,” which was just creepy and weird given some of its slang meanings.
- Powerhouse wasn’t the easiest of promoters to deal with. There was a lot of disorganization and issues ranging from how ticketing was handled, issues with orders, perks, and communication. On the communication front, it was common for emails to go unanswered (or answered weeks later) and calls to be disconnected. Miscommunication was also an issue regarding photo privileges, perks, and ground rules. In comparison, their handling of the Attack! tour was slightly better. However, this is not a slam on the reps in attendance during the Chicago show because they were nice, courteous, and helpful.
- Rosemont staff earns mixed reviews too. There were a handful of ushers and security who were spectacular at handling the show and the people. There were others who were a bit curmudgeony when it came to answering questions and handling the crowd. Misinformation was also an issue here, especially with Hi-Touch when it was announced before the show that Hi-Touch holders should go to the lobby without mentioning that this was for after the show. There were some people who left before ushers in the back clarified the information.
- Picking up pre-orders was a mess, especially if you were in the back of the line all the way by the shopping mall. The reps collected people with pre-orders and told them to get their pre-orders in the theatre, which resulted in a very long walk. Then, Rosemont staff shouted at those with pre-orders to go to the back of the line again after making the initial journey. At least there was a free workout involved.
- Hi-Touch felt rushed. Of course, the line needs to keep moving, but it’s a special moment with fans and the group. This is a system that needs work.
Speaking of Hi-Touch…
Hi-Touch is a magical experience. If you go to a K-Pop concert and you’re lucky to get a Hi-Touch pass, you realize how special it really is. Standing in line waiting to meet the group brings on some anxious feelings.
“Are they who I imagined?”
“Are they nice?”
“How do I look?”
These are questions that do come up when the magical moment arrives. Then, as you turn a corner, there they are! It’s almost overwhelming.
B.A.P are as nice as they appear to be. They come across as truly grateful for their fans. Youngjae was the first in line, and he is definitely handsome. He comes across as shy and reserved, but he’s welcoming.
Daehyun was second in line. He never stopped smiling! He thanked fans for coming and didn’t mind some hand-holding. Daehyun, like Youngjae, is quite handsome with flawless skin, but his kindness and warmth were the most noticeable aspects about him.
Yongguk was third. He was more reserved and stoic as he thanked fans in Korean. When I came up to him, I lingered and held his hand a little, causing him to grin his gummy smile. He is really sweet. While he comes across as a tough guy on stage for some of the numbers, he is a loveable softy.
The moment I waited for arrived when I met Himchan. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t awe-struck because I was. I literally froze before holding his hand and telling him he was my favorite. I would be lying if I said I didn’t turn beet red when he smiled at me and thanked me—my hand still in his—before I had to move to Jongup. Those few seconds with my ultimate bias will live within me forever. I was so giddy I almost missed my hi-five with Jongup—he being quiet and polite—and Zelo, who complimented my Himchan shirt before smiling and gently shaking my hand.
Even Hi-Touch exceeded expectations, but it ended too soon.
LOE 2016 Chicago Awake was a night to remember. While there were a few low points, B.A.P’s energy and the magic of the night made everything worthwhile. Awake is definitely a tour to remember.