Global superstars BTS held a free “Yet to Come in Busan” concert in Busan, South Korea on Saturday night, lending their star power to the port city’s bid to host the World Expo in 2030.
The seven members of BTS delivered a performance that was equal parts reunion, delayed homecoming and civil service as entertainment for the 100,000 fans around the world that city officials were expecting to make the trip. for the concert and adjacent events. Busan Asiad’s “sold out” Main Stadium has a capacity of 50,000, with an additional 12,000 seats to watch the show live broadcast on giant screens at Busan Port and Haeundae Beach.
“It’s a bit strange to be in my hometown,” said Jimin, one of the two band members from Busan. As part of a K-pop tradition of fan-bought advertisements for stars’ birthdays, the streets of Busan were adorned with his face for his birthday this week. While introducing the song “Ma City,” which pays homage to the Busan seaside, he shouted, “Welcome to my city, let’s go! »
The “Yet to Come in Busan” concert is BTS’s first performance since the group announced a hiatus to focus on solo projects in June, catching fans expecting a world tour off guard.
Compulsory military service for men in South Korea also weighs on the group’s future.
The group’s oldest member, Jin, turns 30 in December, and the group has already been granted a two-year extension. The South Korean government grants exemptions to certain athletes, classical and traditional musicians, ballets and other dancers who have won prestigious awards like Olympic medals.
While some fans are hoping for a last-minute exemption, Lee Ki Sik, Commissioner of Military Personnel Administration, said last week that it’s “desirable” for BTS members to serve.
Busan’s streets, bridges and waterfronts turned purple, the band’s signature color, in the days leading up to the concert. City lights on major landmarks including Busan Tower and Gwangan Bridge, and roads leading to the stadium were adorned with the royal hue. Photos of all the members appeared ubiquitously on merchandise, billboards, and even subway turnstiles accompanying the shadow tributes.
BTS’s enlistment to help South Korea’s second-largest city host the Expo is a clear example of the country flexing its soft power muscles at a time of unprecedented popularity for Korean culture around the world. . BTS’s dominance of international charts, award shows, and social media has been key to this Korean wave, or hallyu, which also includes Korean movies, TV shows, beauty products, and food. Italy, Ukraine and Saudi Arabia also compete for accommodation privileges; the decision is expected in 2023.
After the Grammy-nominated septet’s 2020 world tour was canceled due to the pandemic, the group turned to online gigs. Since December, he has played eight shows in the United States. Three concerts in Seoul in March had reduced capacity, amid a ban on standing, shouting and singing due to Covid, which BTS leader RM referred to on Saturday, calling the performance show long awaited for Korean fans.
Kim Si Hyun, 18, a high school student, has been a fan of BTS since their debut in 2013. She attended their first show on Saturday and said the group exceeded expectations.
“Amazing, if I had to describe it in one word,” she said, noting their ability to sing live, dance, and the lyricism of the members’ speeches on stage. His friend, 18-year-old An Jeong Bin, said he loved BTS music before, but became an army during the show as he was blown away by their talent and speeches.
Several international fans who spoke to NBC News said they booked plane tickets and hotel rooms to Korea even before the concert date was announced.
Gebi Meidina, 35, an advertising agency manager in Indonesia, bought a ticket in August with six of her friends. For her, the highlight of the show was the first live performance of the new song, “Run BTS.”
In his opening comments, Jin told the audience, “It’s been a while since I kissed,” an exaggerated signature that has become a joke in the fandom. Later, on the verge of tears, he told the crowd that he had been battling a sore throat all week and was unsure if he would be able to sing properly. He also revealed that he would be the next to release a single.
J-Hope, the first member to release a solo album and give a solo performance as the first Korean title for Lollapalooza in August, said in his closing comments:. “I missed it so much. I did a solo scene and felt the absence of the other six members.
This story first appeared on NBCNews.com.
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