Review: SEVENTEEN ‘BE THE SUN’ Live in Newark

If you’re lucky enough to attend a Seventeen concert at any point in your life, be prepared to get to grips with a lot of inside jokes fast. The 13-member group wrapped up their North American Be The Sun tour with a final date at Newark’s Prudential Centre on September 6th, and as well as a meticulously crafted set-list designed to give each member a dedicated moment to shine, the shows, over the course of almost a month, also felt constructed to ensure every person in the audience feel like part of the inner circle.

It had been over two years since the group – made up of S.coups, Wonwoo, Mingyu, Vernon, Woozi, Jeonghan, Joshua, DK, Seungkwan, Hoshi, Jun, The8 and Dino – last performed in North America, with their Ode to You tour in 2020 cutting short due to the then unknown future of the pandemic. To say their return to the stage has been long-awaited is an understatement. Throughout the last few years not only have Seventeen continued to push forward with creating new music, including multiple EP’s, standalone singles and a full-length album, but also variety content that fans lovingly dub ‘free therapy’. The music and shows, made up of everything from slice-of-life reality to elaborate rule-driven skits (they’re not called ‘The theatre kids of K-Pop’ for nothing!), has collected the already-selling-out group even more fans; ones who couldn’t wait to let them know they’re ready to ‘yes, and…’ along with them.

In Newark, the group’s final stop before swiftly returning to South Korea the next day, they left nothing on the table. At the start of the concert, after wowing crowds with performances of one of their latest singles ‘Hot’, b-side ‘March’ and certified club banger ‘Hit’, vocalist DK told audiences they were planning on exhausting all the remaining energy they had left (that they had any more to give after those three songs alone is saying something!). The sentiment was echoed by other members of the group, including lythe dancer Hoshi, who reflected on their first performance at that very same arena 7 years earlier as a festival opener. “When were where at KCON we were the opening act, and now we have our own concert”, he shouted to fans, some of whom would have been aware of them back in 2016, many who wouldn’t have. Regardless of when people decided to ‘slip into the diamond life’, as it’s called amongst the fandom, there’s a unifying sense of pride in seeing a group, made up themselves of different nationalities, selling out arenas across the world to fans who, in many cases, don’t speak their language but understand their message nonetheless. Chinese member Jun told the audience of his surprise at feeling so welcomed so far away from home throughout the tour, something that truly feels intrinsic to the mass brought together by their live concerts.

I travelled from the UK to New York in part to attend these concerts, and joining the crowd at two stops near the end of the run of shows felt slightly like arriving at a house party a few hours late, when the mood is high, affection readily available and people are already referencing earlier, hilarious moments from the night. Despite the usual anxieties around travel (Should I arrive at the airport 6 hours early, actually? Did I remember to pack underwear? etc), there was never any anxiety about whether seeing Seventeen would be worth it. Since debuting in 2015, the pop behemoth has maintained a reputation for tight performances and even tighter friendships, both of which shined as bright as their famously vivid lightsticks (glow sticks common amongst K-Pop groups with dedicated designs for specific groups) that dotted the arena.

For songs like 2015’s ‘Mansae’ all the way to 2022’s ‘_WORLD’, the synchronicity of 13 bodies moving in unison tickles a very specific part of the brain that I imagine scientists will one day have to study, but the highlight of the show really came in the middle section, where the group is split into their respective units – performance, vocal and hip-hop. Entrancing armography from dancers Jun, Hoshi, The8 and Dino melted into ethereal vocals from singers DK, Seungkwan, Woozi, Joshua and Jenoghan into unabashed adrenaline from rappers Vernon, Mingyu, Wonwoo and S.coups. While these performances are, naturally, built into the set to allow members to rest between performances, they also serve to highlight the complex identity of a group often reduced to the sheer number of members they have. Sure, there are 13 of them, but isn’t that thrilling when, within the space of 20 minutes, you’re able to experience an all-you-can-eat buffet of genres and talents? That one single group can produce the sensual and airy ‘Wave’ and the esoteric ‘GAM3 BO1’ is enough force any preconceptions aside.

Of course, no round-up of a Seventeen concert can be complete without a mention of, arguably, their magnum opus ‘Aju Nice’. The group perform the loud, bombastic and slightly cheesy song twice in their set, once with full choreo bang in the middle of the concert and once (twice, third, fourth, fifth) again at the end. That last ‘Aju Nice’, the final boss of encore songs, has been dubbed the ‘neverending Aju Nice’ thanks to the group’s tendency to keep it going long past the joke should be over. But that’s just the thing, the jokes at a Seventeen concert are never over, they’re just evolving. Where they used to just perform ‘Aju Nice’ themselves, now they bring in members of the crowd to try and sing the impossible highnotes. And where those started as spontaneous jumps into the audience, they ended with fans in costumes and holding signs pleading to be their choice for the night. In fact, signs became such a frequent occurrence at shows that dedicated time between the end of the concert and the encore was given to projecting them on the big screen. Glitter and fairylight-adorned inside jokes from years’ worth of content, humorous declarations like ‘MILFS for Mingyu’ and ‘Bad Bitches Love Wonwoo’, and appreciative declarations of ‘Bisexuals Love Vernon’ and ‘Latinas for Hoshi’ all painted a picture of the community created inside and outside of the arena.

For myself, I attended these concerts with a group of friends entirely made through the internet, largely during the pandemic. Just as Seventeen created further connection with fans during moments of isolation, we too clung to each other first through avatars on a screen and then later through trips to see each other in real life. Jokes, turns of phrase and points of view that were only able to be read for the last 2 years were verbalised and built on, evolving in front of us like the tour we just attended and live-texted through the whole time. Like diamonds, formed under pressure into something glistening and beautiful, no doubt groups like ours made up of friends coming together from all points of the world, situated across the venue, have been created the same way. But after intense tension comes a release, and what better release than singing ‘Aju Nice’ six times in a row and still wanting more.


Words Lucy Ford

Photography PLEDIS Entertainment

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