Stepping in line after picking up my press pass from will call for Taeyang’s White Night World Tour with 15 minutes to spare, the line behind me buzzes with barely contained energy.
“Ah! I wish we got here sooner! It’ll be so hard to get up front now, even though we bought early arrival tickets!”
The teenage girls next to me pat each other eagerly on each other’s shoulders, signaling it’s their turn to take photos next to the Aragon Ballroom’s sign, illuminating TAEYANG. Chuckling, I gradually make my way into the main room, walking up the stairs with fans hurriedly climbing up hoping to fight their way through the crowds to snag a better spot.
Walking around the main floor, it’s clear there would be no chance of making my way through the densely packed crowds, tittering with increasing tension as minutes counted down to 7:30. Finding a free pillar to lean on, I quietly update Twitter while a teenager and a group of friends celebrating her birthday bounce on their heels, their mom and her friend grumbling about the overpriced drinks (I feel you, moms).
As every minute past 7:30 ticked by the crowd rippled any time a staff member came on stage. After the third fake out, suddenly the lights shut off and his live band begin their overture before spotlights descended onto Taeyang. The euphoric screams nearly shoot my arm hair clean off. Checking to make sure my earplugs are securely fastened, I turn and see tears streaming unabashedly from fans around the room – teens, women into their 30s, men who came with and without significant others – in this safe space where they can see their favorite idol perform.
He slowly descends the stairs, opening with “White Night,” wearing a blindingly white crystal embossed jacket, sporting white ripped jeans to match his platinum blonde dyed hair, making him the most aesthetic spectral being. Flanked by backup dancers, he showcases his penchant dancing ability making the air even headier with excitement and screams drowning out portions of the song.
Having followed Taeyang’s career since 2010, when a friend introduced BIG BANG’s music to me over dinner, I knew him as the crooning smooth member, using dance and R&B to set himself apart. While his fellow band members G-DRAGON and T.O.P. have seen international success by working with Skrillex, Diplo, and Boyz Noise, Taeyang easily drips with seductive appeal which his performance was set up for.
Standing in dynamic high contrast lighting to keep our eyes glued on him, until suddenly laying down on the center stairs; each female dancer dancing around or with him; and giving fan service by letting each of his increasingly jaw-dropping jackets slip over a shoulder, he used every element to give us a show. KPop and JPop idols put on performances that utilize an entire venue and engage with as much of the audience as possible – moving stages, synchronized eye contact at different sections of the room at any given time, interacting with concert cameras for close-ups, and using visuals and lighting to create a more intimate atmosphere. They perform to interact with the audience, not just having onlookers watch from afar.
As with any concert of this magnitude, particularly from a crossover artist, Taeyang spoke with the audience multiple times in English expressing his gratitude to perform in Chicago, how the support from fans allow BIG BANG and its members to continue making music. Each sentence he spoke, however brief, was always punctuated with a slow smile and endlessly screaming fans in the audience. His first monologue felt stiff and tinged with nerves, but by the third one he fully relaxed and his sincerity shone through interactions which belied his hesitation, nerves, but gratitude to be there.
He performed primarily from his titular album White Night which I felt I was the lone unicorn of unfamiliarity, until he performed one of his best known solo songs “Need A Girl” which, at his urging, the entire audience sang with him.
Closing out the main show with “Darling,” he came back out with a multi-song encore which featured two highly popular BIG BANG tracks, “Bang Bang Bang” and “Fantastic Baby,” in his final shirt of the night (which was his tour shirt being sold as merch, nice play), he bowed deeply, a final humble thanks to an audience who earnestly loved him in return. Pure, unfiltered joy shimmered in the air resting on fans who never thought they’d be within reaching distance of an enigma. It’s a collective warmth only felt in rooms with international artists – everyone forgets the world laying 800 feet away on the other side of the wall. For two hours, everyone was there for one purpose, for an unfettered joy rarely afforded in this current climate and in that brief stint in time, we existed in a space where the memories made would never be forgotten.
White Night Ringa Linga Body Superstar Wake Me Up Only Look At Me Wedding Dress Amazin’ 1AM Naked So Good I Need a Girl Empty Road Love You to Death Ride Love You to Death (reprise) Last Dance Darling ENCORE:
Break Down Good Boy Stay With Me Bang Bang Bang Fantastic Baby Eyes, Nose, and Lips
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