I’M writing this after watching yet another uplifting online concert by my favorite singing group, the seven-member Korean global superstars BTS, their fourth since their world tour in 2020 was sabotaged by COVID-19. I’m still shaking my head in awe that a band of 20-somethings who hardly speak English (except for their leader, RM) and sing mainly in Korean could still get millions of people worldwide to watch and enjoy.
The concert was entitled Permission to Dance, after the band’s third English single released last July 9. Before that, BTS held their 2021 fan event Sowoozoo online on June 13 and 14, which had 1.33 million viewers. We’re still waiting for the final numbers for this last concert.
Held last Sunday in Seoul’s Olympic Stadium, which was jarringly empty despite the excellent lighting and visual effects, the show was slick and riveting. The boys spoiled their fans with two-and-a-half hours of singing, dancing, and knockout visuals—that is, they all looked wonderful.
Fans are still reeling from seeing Jungkook, the youngest member, dressed in a cropped blazer sans inner shirt, offering generous glimpses of the muscles that he spent much of the pandemic lockdown building up. V, as announced by their management company Hybe before the concert, had injured his calf during rehearsals just the night before, so he mainly stood on the side or sat in a chair, unable to participate in the still stellar, high-energy choreography for such songs as ON, the opener; Idol, with its explosive movements; and Dynamite, the group’s first English-language Billboard No. 1 song.
If there’s anything you can appreciate about the musical team behind BTS—including, we reckon, members Suga and RM, acclaimed music producers and arrangers who probably also played around with their songs’ beats—it’s that they certainly keep things interesting. The opening film clip of the boys in futuristic outfits was a departure from the fun, pastel bubble-gum look of Dynamite and other numbers; j-hope, in particular, slayed with his jumpsuit and shades.
Yup, the boys are undoubtedly men now.
Fire, Dope, and DNA flowed into each other with seamless arrangements; V’s heart-wrenching Blue & Grey segued unexpectedly into the dramatic Black Swan. V may have been conspicuously missing from the dancing, but his voice still soared for all his parts. And yes, they sang live, obviously—when j-hope was kidding Jungkook during the beginning of Life Goes On, the youngest ended up laughing through a line or two.
Some time ago, ARMYs (that’s BTS’ massive worldwide fandom, in case you live under a rock and don’t know yet) were both ecstatic and heartbroken to hear BTS announce their much-anticipated four-day Permission To Dance On Stage live concert at the SoFi stadium in Inglewood, Los Angeles. Ecstatic, because for one, the boys will finally get their chance to perform, which is what they live for. During the online concert, Jungkook again reiterated how he believed in living passionately, and how the inability to perform live had been slowly killing his spirit. Now, finally, almost two years after the Map of the Soul (MOTS) tour was cancelled because of the pandemic, BTS are taking over the stage again.
‘The ‘hunger games’ to secure tickets have begun’
The “heartbroken” part is more complicated. As one website put it, “The ‘hunger games’ to secure tickets have begun.” That meant a mad rush to book tickets, and yes, there were complaints of glitches on Ticketmaster that led to patiently waiting fans actually losing their slots. There were also reports of unscrupulous parties buying tickets in bulk for the November 27 and 28 and December 1 and 2 dates—concert is at 7.30 pm—and selling them at higher prices than the US$75 to US$450 price range. Also, with MOTS ticketholders and then paying ARMY prioritized, the general public had to wait their turn.
There’s also heartbreak for fans like me. Yes, although I could scrape together money for a cheap ticket and plane fare, with this pandemic far from over, this almost senior tita fan is not willing to risk standing shoulder-to-shoulder with screaming fans in a crowded stadium. BTS have changed my life, but honestly, I am not about to risk my life to see them live. So with a heavy heart, and wishing so much that things were otherwise, I will miss out on LA.
I am not alone in this cautious but still sad choice, as many of my friends, including one who actually had an MOTS ticket, opted to wait it out. Our fervent hope is that borders do open, and that a more accessible concert—perhaps in Korea or Japan, where scalpers are less likely to have a field day—will happen soon.
People in the US have the luxury to party because they have all the vaccines and healthcare they need
I certainly don’t begrudge my more strategically located and/or affluent fellow fans this chance of a lifetime (although it has to be said—some are being pretty insensitive about it). It’s the dichotomy that is frustrating—people in the US have the luxury to party because they have all the vaccines and healthcare they need, and are even brave enough to choose not to get jabbed because they’ll be taken care of, anyway. Meanwhile, there are a million things to consider if you live here, a country beholden to whatever vaccines China, the US, or any other world power is willing to sell/give/dangle in front of us.
Okay, I digressed. Now for some good news. Hybe probably realized both the disadvantage for fans in developing countries who make up a big chunk of ARMY, and the fact that they could be missing out on significant online revenue. Either way, it was announced after the PTD online concert, to Pearl ARMYs’ delight (that’s what they call Filipino fans, many of whom actually had to do a double-take to make sure they were reading things right), that tickets to a live streaming of the LA concerts will also be sold. Details have yet to be announced, but knowing that many of BTS’ most memorable past concerts have been successfully captured on video—Wembley in London comes to mind, where the audience serenading them left the members in tears—we know that it’s entirely possible, and will ease the sadness of missing the chance to breathe the same air as our beloved Bangtan boys.
A highlight of Permission to Dance was sharing the show with a friend abroad, even as I bought the cheapest ticket
At the risk of being a wet towel, however, I still think of fans who can’t even afford an online ticket. BTS are democratic—it’s some myopic ARMYs who think otherwise, and believe me, there are a lot of them. A highlight of Permission to Dance, for me, was sharing the show with a friend abroad who hesitated to spend, even as I bought the cheapest ticket; I missed the privilege of watching the soundcheck, but generous friends immediately sent me videos of the highlights, as well. My overseas friend and I had so much fun messaging each other throughout the concert: “OH MY GOD, that was so smooth” or “Isn’t Yoongi cute in orange?”
BTS were so happy during Permission to Dance, probably bearing in mind that in two months, they will finally be face-to-face with the fans they have missed so much, doing what they love most. Their joy and energy were palpable.
I’m hoping again that the LA streaming ticket will include this option, as well, so that, as is the practice among many ARMYs here, sharing the experience can be possible—and BTS can bring joy to everyone, regardless of their circumstances and limitations.