After watching BTS perform the first of their two sell out shows at the O2 in London - a day which many BTS fans never thought would happen, I drove straight back up to Manchester and now I can’t sleep. It’s 4am as I write this. Let’s just acknowledge it now. This is not an impartial review. For the past 12 months, I’ve wanted BTS to win. As I have learnt more and more about the band and especially it’s fans, known as ARMY, I have felt fiercely protective of them. So if you want me to give balance, I can’t. Sorry.
Firstly, I have mad respect to anyone who turned up really early in the morning and waited all day. The people who wanted to be with their community and soak up the atmosphere. When I arrived in the late afternoon you could feel the sense of pride and sheer joy. Pride because BTS finally made it to the UK. Secondly, I have mad love for the fan accounts on twitter who kept people informed, you guys always step up to the plate.
Then there’s the parents, the parents who were waiting outside the venue in their hundreds. The mums and dads who had given up their Tuesday evening to drive long distances or sit lonely in a restaurant for 2 hours so that their children could for fill their dreams. It made me emotional. Those kids will never forget what you did so that they could be there. When I stopped off at 2am somewhere near Northampton on my drive home there were parents, buying water for their son and daughter in BTS hoodies.
Then there’s the security guards who sang along to mic drop, police officers who took photos for people, event organisers who made sure the show could happen and the bars who put on BTS karaoke. You all added the finishing touches to make this one of the best nights of plenty of people’s lives.
From the moment that the familiar hook of IDOL kicked in, the arena was overcome with adrenaline. These men were born to perform. I thought it interesting they performed IDOL first, normally you have to wait right until the end of the hear the biggest song but here we were with bangtan laying it out on the table straight away. It’s because BTS know it’s audience. To people who have only just discovered BTS, IDOL is their biggest tune but inside this arena, most people haven’t just discovered them. They have known about and appreciated these men for a very long time. They may have only just popped into the consciousness of mainstream media but they have been gaining momentum online for years.
Sat next to me, was a lovely journalist who seemed very overwhelmed by the whole experience. He muttered to himself ‘oh my goodness’ as his head panned around the room taking in the ARMY bombs that were already glowing and pulsing. Then a music video started playing and the fans came to life chanting the echo of ‘Fake Love’. He turned to me and said ‘But why are they screaming? They’re not even on stage yet, it hasn’t started’. The thing is, it had. It started when people got here. This by now is about much more than BTS’s performance. It’s a festival for the community that ARMY have created, the friendships that have been forged, the self love that has been learnt.
So, back to the boys. They introduced themselves after finishing to rapturous applause for their first song. The camera clumsily panned across the group which allowed members to say something they’d learnt in English. I kept reminding myself that they’ve just finished touring America and so had been speaking English for a while which is probably why they said it with such confidence. They were dressed in something I can only compare to jackets The Beatles wore in Sgt. Pepper, with black sequins and gold detail - all of them matching. They each got the screams they deserved, none of them louder than the other as they took their time to say hello. It was a real moment. A moment for BTS to acknowledge not only how appreciated they are but also to appreciate ARMY. To gaze out into the crowd and imagine the lives of the people in front of them.
I’ll be honest, it took my eyes a minute to adjust to the sight of six people dancing. Jungkook had injured himself and had to sit out, something which resulted in him breaking down in tears at the end of the show. He apologised profusely, something that no-one required from him because for the past 2 hours he’d nailed every single vocal he’d been given and he’d spun his chair round at any given opportunity which made for some rather endearing moments. The other members of the band had done their best to include him too, at one point Jimin rubbed his head against Jungkook’s whilst he sang, RM rapped directly to him, it was wonderful.
Their friendship and genuine love for one another is part of what makes them so successful. They each respect one another and that allows them to perform as solo artists too, which they did. JHope’s energy was second to none for his rendition of Just Dance. Jimin’s vocals on Serendipity were phenomenal. Jin’s intensity during Epiphany was tingling. Suga came alive when singing Seesaw. Taehyung had the room in the palm of his hand during Singularity. Jungkook’s voice shone on Euphoria. RM performed Trivia: Love with authority. Their strength as individuals is also their strength as a band.
From memory, I counted five costume changes but I may be wrong. My favourite being the brightly sequinned jackets which have become synonymous with their song IDOL. My least favourite was a white outfit, made up of lace and I SWEAR RM was wearing a bracelet made out of tinsel. It was reminiscent of angel Gabriel from a school nativity play. I chuckled to myself when I noticed it.
For me, seeing BTS was like seeing a unicorn. They’ve seemed so magical but so untouchable for a long time. To see them here in the flesh, more than a few times I found my hands clasped together just underneath my chin with a tear in my eye. For those who missed out and really wish they’d been there, the consolation is that seeing BTS wouldn’t have taught you anything. They only confirmed what you already know. But for the journalists who stood around me with mouths agape, that had finally seen the unicorn after not believing in it for such a long time, they learnt their lesson last night.