BTS proved the hype was real Saturday night at Citi Field, as the Korean sensation handled its first American stadium show as if it had managed crowds that big and boisterous for years.
The boy band offered its screaming fans nearly three hours of well-crafted dance pop and hip-hop, sung mostly in Korean, showing why the septet has become the fastest-growing band in the world.
Sure, RM, Jimin, Jin, J-Hope, Jungkook, Suga and V started out a little slow, stopping after the first song, their current single “Idol,” to list their accomplishments for the year – becoming the first Korean act to land two No. 1 albums in America, to address the United Nations, and to sell out a North American arena tour – like they were trying to land new jobs, dressed in matching Michael Jackson-esque black jackets with gold embroidery. Maybe they wanted to put the moment in perspective for posterity, but these fans – who proudly call themselves ARMY – certainly didn’t need convincing. After all, some fans camped out in the Citi Field parking lot for nearly a week and most of them were screaming and singing along to the band’s videos for a half hour before the show louder than crowds at actual concerts.
There were echoes of the pandemonium that happened across the parking lot where Shea Stadium once stood when The Beatles arrived. The difference, of course, is that BTS, like nearly every boy band that arrived after The Beatles, seeks out that level of frenzy. And, man, do they get it.
They can obviously sing, and the slick, well-choreographed dance moves outpace anything that the Backstreet Boys-era boy bands ever managed, especially in big dance-pop numbers like “I’m Fine” or “DNA.” When they rap, it’s more rapid-fire Eminem than, say, Post Malone, especially in “Dope” or “Outro: Tear.”
But BTS’ smartest move is giving each member his own song alone, introduced by a high-concept video to establish an individual identity and allow fans to scream for their favorites. Jin’s “Epiphany” puts him at the piano for a sensitive ballad, while Suga fires everyone up with his rhymes in “Trivia: Seesaw.”
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These solo moments also make the full group performances seem that much more impressive since it shows how much more they can accomplish together, especially in the intense, rock-leaning version of “Fake Love” or the more groove-riding “Anpanman.”
Like The Beatles, BTS’ arrival marks a shift in pop culture, showing how non-English-speaking acts can capture American audiences too. And after the Citi Field show, BTS’ ARMY is going to keep growing.
SETLIST: Idol / Save Me / I’m Fine / Magic Shop / Trivia: Just Dance (J-Hope solo) / Euphoria (Jungkook solo) / I Need U / Run / Serendipity (Jimin solo) / Trivia: Love (RM solo) / DNA / Medley: Boyz with Fun > Fire > Bapsae > Dope / Airplane Pt. 2 / Singularity (V solo) / Fake Love / Trivia: Seesaw (Suga solo) / Epiphany (Jim solo) / The Truth Untold / Outro: Tear / Mic Drop // ENCORE: So What / Anpanman / Answer: Love Myself