k-pop

I was at the BTS Busan concert: Here’s why the best is yet to come

Nikko Dizon
I was at the BTS Busan concert: Here’s why the best is yet to come
'Even after 10 years in the industry, as ARMY like to say, the boys still perform like rent was due'

Bangtan Sonyeondan, globally known as BTS, held their “Yet to Come” concert last October 15 at the Busan Asiad Main Stadium, and it was the kind of experience I wanted to keep playing over and over in my head, wishing I could turn back time.

The Busan Asiad Main Stadium. Courtesy of Nikko Dizon

In fact, less than 48 hours after the concert, it was announced that the band’s members – RM, Jin, Suga, j-hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook – would soon be fulfilling their mandatory military enlistment. We would have to wait until they regroup in 2025, when they’ve all completed their service, before we can see them perform as a complete unit again.

Now we understand the longing gaze they gave ARMY, as their fandom is called, and the sadness we think we felt from them as they wrapped up the concert with their messages. They knew it would be their last concert in a while, but they had held off from telling us.

As the eldest member, Jin, said in a recent livestream, the band didn’t want tears at the concert. Jin, in fact, would be the first to enlist, in December when he turns 30 years old, the maximum age for conscription. It was classic Bangtan: always considerate of their fans. The fact that their label mentioned the exact year when the members would regroup was an assurance to ARMY that they will be back.  

A purple sea. Courtesy of Nikko Dizon

The free concert, which was staged to help boost Busan’s bid to host the 2030 World Expo, started promptly at 6 pm with a countdown on the huge screen. Fireworks lit up the sky and the live band riffed onstage. ARMY screamed and waved their light sticks. The moment has come! Then there was a short pause, then the fireworks thundered again, and our seven boys made their entrance with their opening song, “Mic Drop.”

Even after 10 years in the industry, as ARMY like to say, the boys still perform like rent was due.

I have seen them live twice before, at the “Love Yourself: Speak Yourself [The Final]” concert and the Melon Music Awards, both in 2019 in Seoul. But it was still breathtaking to watch RM, Jin, Suga, j-hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook again. I don’t think I will ever get enough of seeing them perform with so much passion and energy. They give their fans their all, on every stage, every time.

That’s the professionalism and dedication of these seven young artists. In his musicians-on-musicians interview with his idol, Pharrell Williams, in Rolling Stone magazine (released November 1) RM said that he gets “really, really nervous and [feels] so responsible” before staging a concert. Fans from all over the world, he said, buy tickets for the show. “They come there for just that one night,” the BTS leader said.

That one night in Busan was everything any music fan could ask for, and more.  

The concert production paid remarkable attention to detail. The stage included the iconic symbols from each of BTS’ eras: the yellow bus from their “No More Dream” video; the container van from “I Need U;” the carousel and tree with a pair of sneakers tied to a branch from “Spring Day;” the angel from “Blood, Sweat, and Tears.”

They also had augmented reality butterflies and a whale flying over the audience.

BTS’ Busan concert setlist comprised some of their best songs from their extensive discography and those with significant meaning in their journey as a band. It also showcased how they’ve mastered different musical genres, which makes BTS an exciting act to follow. You never know what they have in store for you.

A most anticipated song was “Run BTS,” one of the three new songs in their anthology Proof, released earlier this year. The rock/hip-hop track, a fan favorite, is a story about the hard work that led them to where they are now. “What’s the reason for Bangtan’s success?” a line in the song goes. “It’s just that we ran no matter what others said.”

ARMY lining up for their tickets earlier that day were thrilled to hear the boys rehearse it during their soundcheck. My sister, Michelle, and our friend, Daphne, and I were lucky that our line stopped in front of a gate that afforded us a view of the boys, if we tiptoed and held our phones high enough.

Ticket booths. Courtesy of Nikko Dizon

At the concert, dressed in all black and wearing silver accessories, the boys did a stunning synchronized choreography of “Run BTS,” where they simulated running and riding motorcycles – all while singing live. You couldn’t help but be impressed by their stamina and the stability of their voices.

The vocal line composed of Jin, Jimin, V, and Jungkook showcased their wide range and soulful singing with “00:00 (Zero O’Clock”) and “Butterfly prologue mix.” They were followed by RM, Suga, and j-hope – the band’s powerhouse rap line – in an explosive performance of “Ugh!” and “BTS Cypher Pt. 3 Killer.”

The concert showcased hit song after hit song: “Dynamite,” “Boy with Luv,” “Butter.” It was a dream come true for me to see the boys perform “Ma City” backed by a live band. The song, released in 2015, was an ode to each member’s hometown, and where j-hope paid tribute to the May 1980 Gwangju Democratization Movement. Then they kept the energy high with the classics – “Dope,” “Fire,” and “Idol.”

The boys hype up the crowd. Courtesy of Nikko Dizon

On their final set, the boys gave a back-to-back performance of “Epilogue: Young Forever” and “For Youth” – both songs a promise of forever between BTS and ARMY. As they sang “Young Forever,” the seven members stood close to each other, as if getting strength from one another, while giving ARMY one last look before they left for the military. On the screen was a reel of the boys’ black and white photos and videos through the years, adding more nostalgia to the song. It ended with, “For the rest of my life,” scribbled on a white backdrop.  

They had two special songs for their encore: “Spring Day” and “Yet to Come.”

ARMY have crowned “Spring Day” their queen because of its longevity on the Korean charts. More than this, it is also one of BTS’ more poignant ballads. It’s about longing for the past. The melancholic tone of “Spring Day” tugs at heartstrings. ARMY noted that Suga looked like he was holding back his tears in the opening bars of the song.

It is widely believed that BTS wrote “Spring Day” as a tribute to the children who perished in the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster. The band has never confirmed this, but about two years ago, their producer, P-Dogg, and Jin acknowledged in separate interviews that it was about a sad event.

BTS wrapped up their show with “Yet to Come,” after everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to Jimin, who had turned 27 two days before the concert, and the members had given their heartfelt and grateful messages to ARMY.

It was also the time when ARMY held up their identical signs (a tradition in Korean concerts and fan meets) to send their message to BTS: “The best moment is yet to come.”

The author and her relatives. Courtesy of Nikko Dizon

To this day, I thank the heavens for letting my sister and I win standing tickets raffled off by Big Hit last September – we who almost never win in lotteries. The last time I won a significant prize in a raffle was 17 years ago, when Jungkook was eight years old.

I always say that the journey to see BTS is filled with excitement and anxiety, because you’re not seeing the boys until you are actually watching them onstage. And in this pandemic, the preparations include making sure you’re not going to get sick. I limited my face-to-face meetings and I double-masked before I left for South Korea with my mother.

Kind ARMYs are also part of making a BTS concert memorable. I was in line with a Japanese ARMY and we walked together to our G04 section because our ticket numbers followed each other. For a split second, I decided to go to a clear area beside a barricade but farther from the stage. But she told me no and pulled me to a spot that was nearer the side stage. She was right. We had a better and closer view.  

We had to look to our left and strain our necks to see the center stage, and there were ARMYs in front of us who were a lot taller. But that was a small compromise compared to seeing the boys clearly when they went to our side of the stage. Before the concert started, a tall ARMY who was right in front of me asked if I could see, and when I said no, she gladly swapped places with me.

I’m excited for 2025, which is going to come by fast, especially if we go by our election calendar.

All I need to do is to continue being “disgustingly healthy,” as my doctor told me when I turned 46 this year, and keep on supporting the boys in the way ARMY know best: keep them on the charts; participate in fan-voted awards; and most of all, listen to their music and message.

At the concert, BTS asked ARMY to simply trust and believe in them. They also promised that Busan won’t be their last concert and, yes, that they will grow old with us.

The coming days and months will be quite different for both BTS and ARMY, but if there was one thing that the Busan concert manifested, it’s that Bangtan Sonyeondan – these seven bulletproof boy scouts – will be on top of their game for a very long time. – Rappler.com

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Nikko Dizon

Nikko Dizon is a freelance journalist specializing in security and political reporting. She has extensively covered issues involving the military, the West Philippine Sea maritime dispute, human rights, and the peace process.