BTS have made history by becoming the first South Korean group to headline Wembley Stadium.
The boy band blasted through 24 songs on Saturday, assisted by quirky props, glitter cannons, jet sprays… and 60,000 fans screaming their approval.
The septet, who said they “grew up watching videos of Live Aid,” even paid tribute to Freddie Mercury.
During the encore, lavender-haired singer Jin led the crowd in a version of the Queen frontman’s “ay-oh” chant.
“You guys always had the greatest artists, historically, in the music industry – The Beatles, Coldplay, Ed Sheeran, Adele. We don’t even have to make a list,” added his band-mate Kim Nam-joon, who’s known to fans as RM.
“So the UK was like the big, big wall to me.
“But tonight we, and you guys, just broke the wall.”
The gig was the first of two sold-out nights at Wembley Stadium – and just the third UK show of BTS’s career.
It capped off an extremely successful year for the band, who topped the UK album charts in April with Map Of The Soul: Persona, played Saturday Night Live and Britain’s Got Talent, and scored their biggest hit single to date when Boy With Luv entered the UK top 20.
Unlike previous Wembley headliners, they’re not quite household names yet (and many people would be hard-pressed to name one of their songs) but their fanbase, dubbed the “Army”, is unusually devoted, highly mobilised, and growing daily.
Indeed, BTS’s sold-out stadium debut comes just eight months after they played the smaller, 20,000-capacity O2 Arena on the other side of London, and the significance of their achievement did not go unnoticed at home.
‘Hype and excitement’
“Everyone in Korea is so excited,” said Sungmi Ahn, a K-pop reporter for the Korean Herald. “They’re doing a live broadcast of the show so everyone can watch it.
“The Freddie Mercury film Bohemian Rhapsody was huge in Korea, so when people think of Wembley Stadium, they know how important it is, and BTS are getting a lot of hype and excitement as a result.”
For the band, however, this meant an additional level of pressure.
“I barely got any sleep last night, that’s how nervous we are,” said rapper/singer Suga at a pre-show press conference. “But the nerves will just make us work harder.”
You certainly couldn’t have accused BTS of slacking off.
From the moment they burst onstage from behind two giant panthers, no pirouette was left un-spun; and no leap left un-leapt.
Every member got their moment to shine: Resident heartthrob Jungkook floated perilously over the audience’s heads for a high-wire performance of Euphoria; while Jimin showed off his balletic dance moves during Serendipity.
But the best moments came when the septet united for tracks like the rap-rock juggernaut Fake Love and the Justin Bieber-esque Make It Right.
The band’s camaraderie was especially evident in the encore, as they leapt around an inflatable playground trying to make each other laugh with ever-more goofy dance moves.
They even attempted English accents, with Jungkook declaring, “easy peasy, lemon squeezy,” for no particular reason during the intro to Dope.
It was a shame the backing tracks were all pre-recorded, as the lack of a live band robbed the show of musical spontaneity.
And there was a lingering suspicion the boys were miming during their more athletic dance routines, even though the impassioned harmonies of The Truth Untold proved they could ably handle a live vocal.
But any such minor gripes were swept away by the tidal wave of fans’ enthusiasm.
They sang at the top of their voices, even during the Korean sections, and started Mexican waves with their “Army bombs” – Bluetooth connected light sticks that created cascades of colour across the stadium.
Oh, and they screamed. They screamed at the dancing. They screamed at the fireworks. They screamed when Jin held up a rose. They screamed at RM grabbing his crotch. They screamed at every, single smouldering look to the camera.
Even V’s pet dog Yeontan got a scream of approval when he popped up in a video interlude.
Never has the phrase “Wembley, make some noise,” been more redundant.
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