Day two of We Bridge turned out to be the most emotional of the three-day expo. The muralists have nearly completed their creations; the food vendors unsurprisingly run out of their wares early. (If there’s one thing people are going to do it’s gravitate toward free food.) The fan engagements were also wrought with emotion. The world’s bestselling K-pop group, ENHYPEN, has a fanbase that could choke the oxygen out of a room with the level of their screams. ENGENE is a force to be reckoned with. Their screams when their heroes come on stage are deafening. The members can’t even hear themselves…and they’re sitting right next to each other! Things certainly ramp up during the concert.
ONEUS opens the night. And…Holy Mother of Everything Righteous and Good! If it’s possible, the group has even more energy than day one. Every song has an added kick, as if someone whispered in their ear that the previous night belonged to the ladies. They came out with something to prove. Their repeat performance of “LUNA” was anything but an average experience. The song and their performance of it is elegant, a beautiful display of their immaculate lines and incredible synchronicity extended with the use of hand fans. “LUNA” bleeds into “LIT,” and the use of traditional imagery and even aspects of martial arts in the choreography has an edge. Their movements are sharper, more powerful. With this pair of songs, ONEUS fully commits to integrating traditional elements with a renewed level of aggressiveness. Not since VIXX has a group embraced the fan as an artistic extension quite the way ONEUS has. They take it a step further by fully leaning into the grandeur and theatricality of infusing traditional sounds and performance into their stages.
That penchant for the high octane doesn’t diminish their vocal discipline. When Seoho’s mic pack fails during their vigorous dance performances, he simply takes the moments before “No Diggity” to retrieve a microphone. Without missing a beat, he brings the mic to his lips and sings full-voiced and with even more power, and the crowd loses its ever-loving mind. He pulls a full flex on concertgoers and officially establishes ONEUS as the undisputed heroes of We Bridge. The young man clutches that mic and sings as if he wants to make a point: “Yes, our mics are on!” It’s obvious even before Seoho slaps everyone in attendance in the face. One can hear the aspirations behind hard consonants and the sighs when members breathe into their vowels. When Seoho’s famous belted high note before the dance break rings out, the entire audience falls into hysterics. Without a doubt, ONEUS makes their first time in Vegas count!
The night takes a more somber turn with the introduction of VIVIZ. If you’re not familiar with the circumstances surrounding the all-woman trio’s appearance at the expo, I implore you to dig a little bit. With a backdrop of devastation, these women take the stage. After the first song, they ask for grace, a moment to collect themselves. Those in attendance, of course, understand. They take a few minutes, then come back to the stage and run through their set. After the performance, they thank everyone in the audience for being graceful and understanding. No group or artist the entire weekend has embodied “the show must go on” more than VIVIZ. It is beyond admirable that these young women even took the stage. That they did as much as they did is something we did not deserve.
BAMBAM follows the women of VIVIZ. This young man begins to bloom right in front of us, with charisma that drips to the stage floor, spilling over into the audience. From his charming fan engagement earlier in the day, to his performance that night, BAMBAM showcases just how far he’s come as a confident artist. It’s truly wonderful to see him come into his own, stepping out and really leaning into what he himself calls “sour and sweet.” Both bombastic and genuinely full of the most incredible joy, BAMBAM lifts a bit of the dark haze cast over the concert.
And then…ENHYPEN. If the fans’ enthusiasm was overwhelming at their fan engagement at the GRAMMY Museum, in the 7,500-seat Michelob Ultra Arena, it’s absolutely suffocating. The group’s first song comes and goes as well as one would expect from a world-class K-pop group. What follows is nearly seven minutes of MC time, which is pretty much a lost cause because the interpreter is incapable of actually hearing what they’re saying on stage. Hard as it is to believe, when the young men begin to speak individually, the crowd’s screams raise exponentially in volume. A peculiar throbbing sensation begins in the ears. By the time the second song ends and they start another extended MC session, the screaming is so oppressive any new or casual fan, unfortunately, has lost the ability to enjoy the experience. ENHYPEN takes everything in stride and performs to the best of their abilities under the circumstances. However, what was billed as the biggest draw to the convention ends up, sadly, disappointing.
Thus ends the second concert night of We Bridge. The potential is here for something truly expansive. More than the typical convention promising die-hard fans the opportunity to meet their favorite Hallyu entertainers, We Bridge has revealed a desire to create a truly pan-Asian and diasporic experience. It will be interesting to see how Infinite Prospects Entertainment expands this concept to include Japan, Thailand, The Philippines, India, and lesser-celebrated Asian countries like Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Turkey. If the goal is truly to forge a connection between the planet’s largest continent and the rest of the world, We Bridge’s inaugural event certainly made an intelligent and bold step forward.
By Cy White
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