Welcome to the Amazing Store!
Welcome to the Amazing Store!
As someone who has been going to, and reviewing K-Pop concerts for well over two years now, it is both very safe and surprising for me to say with confidence that B1A4 are one of the best concert experiences in Korea. When you take into consideration that they are not with a major label, and have only been around since April 2011, their concerts are well beyond the level of their competition in terms of the performance quality and the seamless planning.
However, I am getting ahead of myself.
B1A4 came off of their Baba concerts in December 2012 and apparently jumped right into their next concert planning. Instead of the standard weekend show at a large arena, the members opted to do a 5-day show at Uniqlo AX, a much smaller venue that holds about 2000 people. The result was ” B1A4 Amazing Store”, running August 7th to 12th. The shows were sold out, with only a ticket or two free per show to try scoop up before the show. The weather was hot, and the air conditioners seemed to be running at full blast to try keep the masses of tweens from passing out as they all pushed to get glimpses of their idols.
One of the best parts of B1A4 concerts is that they genuinely tell a story. While many artists may claim to have a story to their concert, they are vague and are more used as a theme for the set. B1A4 have full on musical dramas that run for about an hour through the show. The original story for the show was that there was a toy store releasing a new line of toys, the ToyB1A4. The toy store owner, who was giving off some Drosselmeyer from the Nutcracker vibes, closed up shop, and then did a little magic. The opening line for “Baby Goodnight” echoed from speaker to speaker, wall to wall, and then the blinds that had originally covered the mannequin ToyB1A4 window pulled back to show they had come to life, and B1A4 took to the stage with “Baby Goodnight“. While it’s the same song they opened their concert to for the Baba show, it’s a fantastic way to pump the crowd up. The show went right into their debut track, “O.K.” another high energy song.
One of the things that really stood out by this point was the live band. In normal recordings, the bass and the drums don’t stand out very much. However, the band made “O.K” a really driving piece, with the drums sounding so powerful and way beyond anything you would normally hear from a standard boy group. It’s almost a shame that the members don’t play their own instruments like FT Island or CN Blue, simply so the band sound could come out more.
The group stopped to talk to the audience after the first two songs, and the audience in standing was going nuts. As a future notice to anyone who ever goes to a B1A4 concert: the standing section can get frightening. To the point where the guys stopped during their introductions to remind the girls to please stop crushing the others around them. Of course, the reminder was very good natured, involving Baro talking in a high pitched, girly voice. Following the self-introduction, the group slowed it down a little with “Yesterday” from the most recent mini-album. Once again, it’s a song where the album actually didn’t do the piece justice. B1A4 have incredibly solid vocals, and the band matched it to become a very powerful piece to listen to. They followed with”나쁜 짓 안 할게요 (I Won’t Do Bad Things)” which was both wonderful and baffling to listen to. Wonderful because it was such a smooth song to listen to, and baffling because it constantly amazes me to see little Baro rap and have a voice that equals T.O.P. in pitch.
Welcome to the forest~
Welcome to the forest~
The group then took another MC moment, this time to go to a piece of the set that had a large knob showing how they could change locations between the seaside, the valley, and the forest. The members played and did bits of fan service while deciding which location to go to. They finally decided on the forest, as a set of trees rolled in from the sides and five tree stumps came out to be chairs for the boys. A very subtle way to let the guys take a break from dancing on what was going to be a long concert with few breaks for the members. As they sat down and marvelled at the sounds of nature, the opening notes from “Wonderful Tonight (Unplugged)” began to play. The crowd was stuck between going nuts and trying very hard to not make any noise so they could hear. As a piece written entirely by the members of B1A4, it does seem to hold a special place in the heart of all Banas.
The next song required a little build up, because all of the members were going to be playing their own instruments as well. First up, Gongchan took out a cabassa (cue the entire audience being not impressed.) Second, Sandeul took out a triangle (in case the fans could become LESS impressed.) Thankfully, Jinyeong brought out a ukelele and everyone was thoroughly impressed and suddenly REALLY excited. CNU next brought out a hand drum (and the fans were really excited.) Then, just to lower everyone standards, Baro was given a shaker. While at first the song sounded a little funny when they slowly brought their instruments together, once the five began playing, it turned into the Hawaiian Acoustic version of Bling Girl. It was really relaxing, and very much deserves to have it’s own digital release.
As the acoustic guitar began for the next song, the audience didn’t know what the song was until they heard the opening line of “못된 것만 배워서 (Only Learnt the Bad Things)” While the song seemed to have a fan chant, the audience was more stunned into a silence of listening along. After they finished, the tree stumps were rolled away, and the members lay down on the stage as the lights dimmed. The forest set became a peaceful night sky, complete with twinkling lights above and the sound of crickets in the air. People in standing complained about not being able to see, but everyone on the second floor didn’t mind. Naturally, the next song was “별빛의 노래 (The Starlight Song)” This was yet another song where the band truly stood out, the bass really driving the song well beyond what I’ve known from the recordings.
After a solid hour on stage, the boys finally went off stage as a video came up. It was a really funny clip, where the members were all asked to fill in the blank “_____ is a ______ kind of guy.” Each of the members were asked to leave and put on noise cancelling headphones as the others talked about their bandmates, trying to describe their type. Some were very easy, but by the end, the members were writing their own cards to stick on the members boards. During the big reveal, none of the members seemed to agree with what the others thought, and it resulted in them beating each other with the boards while trying to take the offending titles off. This video led into the musical section. There were 5 different stories, all which didn’t seem to connect until the very end.
The first story was Jinyeong. His story was a short one about how he was completely unable to speak to girls properly. He tried talking to a girl and she completely rejected him (and 2000 girls went completely mental at the idea) and then sung a brief part from “Hey Girl“. CNU then came out to try and help, but he really was no help. He suggested that Jinyeong just keep practising. Jinyeong asked if he should just practise on CNU, since he had longer hair like one, but that was solidly rejected. Sandeul then came out with another girl he was talking to, and Jinyeong fell completely in love with HIS girl. So then he started singing “Hey Girl (Ballad Version)” at her, which made the fans flail and rage. But she still rejected him while he was singing, leaving both Jinyeong and Sandeul wondering where the girl went. Sandeul sang a ballad version of a line from “Hey Girl” (Naneun naneun eotteokke~) and then the three of them sang the chorus. End Act One.
Credit to MBN Star
Credit to MBN Star
Second up was Baro’s story. He was with Gongchan, and he was dragging Gongchan along to try hurry him over to listen to a radio show. Gongchan judged Baro harshly for what he was listening to (“…You actually listen to B1A4 Amazing Radio?”) But Baro didn’t care. As he listened, CNU and Jinyeong (the hosts) read out an email that they’d received… From Baro. Baro flipped and listened with twinkling eyes while Gongchan cared less and less as they spoke. Baro had admitted that he hadn’t kissed anyone and had no idea what to do. So CNU and Jinyeong gave him some advice, telling him to just make sure he practised and walked him through what he should do. Without thinking fully, Baro followed along on their step by step instructions… By pulling an unsuspecting Gongchan down and kissing him. Cue the audience going insane. Gongchan was, of course, stunned and not happy about this, throwing himself off the couch and yelling at him before leaving. After a bit of talking, and looking for a volunteer to help him practise, Baro started singing “Chuchuchu” with CNU and Jinyeong dancing in the background. They toss him a pillow, and when he finishes the song he flips because they’ve suddenly appeared. They tell Baro he probably misunderstood him and to perhaps not kiss his best friend again. So Baro goes back to kissing his pillow and finishes the song. End Act Two.
The third story was Sandeul’s. When the screen comes up saying that his story would be a rejection story, the audience instantly rebelled and they all were making noises of how they very much did not want to see their precious idol in this situation. But, the story went on. Sandeul was in his room, working on his homework. He got a phone call, and seemed very happy with who the caller is, obviously a girl he likes. So he tried to talk to her, but she seemed to be constantly annoyed with him and shut him down. He asked to meet, but she responded with ridiculous answers. She doesn’t like coffee. She doesn’t like any of the foods he likes. Then she said she’s really busy with school work, but she could meet up if he could help get through some of her assignments. Because he likes her so much, he agreed but seems to realize that he’s being used. He then sang “Crush (짝사랑)” and the whole audience listened to every word because it’s probably a song they’ve listened to a thousand times over their own crushes. CNU came over to see Sandeul, apparently on his way to see his own girlfriend. They talked for a bit, and CNU got a call from his girlfriend that made him hurry off. Sandeul sang more from “Crush”, and walks off stage. End act three.
The fourth story is Gongchan’s. Looks like Baro’s little mistake from his own story hasn’t broken up their friendship, and they were hanging out. While they’re out, they saw something in the distance that doesn’t seem right. It’s Gongchan’s girlfriend, but she’s with another guy. He called once, and can see her take out the phone and hit ignore. He sang “Fooool” and because he couldn’t believe it, he calls her again, and sure enough, the girl picked up. Gongchan started going off at her about how he can see her, and he can see him as well. he demanded she put the guy on the phone, so she does… and he sounds tough. All of Gongchan’s rage disappeared with fear as he nodded and complied with everything he said. Giving up, Gongchan went back to singing “Fooool” while Baro disappeared. As Gongchan is singing, Baro can be seen off on the platform where the girl and her other boyfriend are, and he went after them and yelled at them. Definitely a true friend. End act four.
The last story of the music drama was CNU. Since he had been active in the first three acts as the advice man, it was rather horrible to see that his story was a breakup story. After running off from Sandeul’s story to go see his girlfriend, it turns out he was dumped. CNU is pretty depressed, and headed to a cafe where Sandeul is working while singing “Because of You“. CNU seemed to just want to be by himself, but Sandeul asked where CNU’s girlfriend is, since they were meeting. Cue pained screams of empathy from the audience. Next, Jinyeong ran into CNU at the cafe, and after their conversation, he pretty much asks “So where’s your girlfriend?” While the audience continued to scream in pain for CNU. CNU sang more of the song, and then Baro comes out onto the stage, sees his two radio idols, gets star struck, and seems to leave. The girl from the beginning that turns down Jinyeong, comes out. Sandeul went up to her to give her the assignment he promised on the phone… and slowly it became clear that this one girl was the same one girl through all 5 shows. All of the guys came together to realize they had all been played as the opening lines of “What’s Happening (이게 무슨 일이야)” began to play as the grand finale of their five act play.
This is the reason B1A4 concerts are so beyond most other shows. Whoever puts the lineup together makes it so that you can see the true meaning behind the songs, and creates a lot more feeling for the song, much like you would with a movie soundtrack and the song that constantly reminds you of that one scene you loved. It’s definitely the strongest part of the B1A4 shows.
After such a long run of acting and songs, all five members came back on stage for a short MC moment to talk, but it turned out it was more acting for a different story. We were suddenly pulled back into the original story line of the boys actually being toys on display in a toy store. While they were talking, there was a loud clap of thunder, and a gum-ball machine came out on the stage, with bright lights all over it. After examining it, Baro pressed the #1 button. The lights suddenly went out, and the guys disappeared. The toy store owner came out on stage, and looked over the gum-ball machine. He pressed a button, and a ball came out of the bottom. He opened it, and unrolled a piece of paper from it that said “After One Minute, Your Eyes Will Be Filled With Wonderful Jealousy”. He then rolled the gum ball machine away.
As an English speaker, I wondered if the English on the screen was just a bad translation. But no. The paper was completely correct.
Each show highlighted an individual member to do their own solo piece. For the final show, the solo performance was CNU. A video came on before with CNU being dressed in a suit by a woman. Slowly. And torturously. Most of the girls in the audience were a mix of incredibly happy and wanting to die. CNU then came out on stage and performed his solo piece, “So Fine”. Completely up to form, CNU was incredibly sexy, dancing with TWO women through the song. At the end of the song, CNU stripped off his jacket, just to really drive the girls insane, and he walked off.
The stage then went dark as another video came up. This one seemed to be a sleepover type situation where the boys had made themselves a blanket fort and were telling ghost stories. The audience was completely suckered in as the boys told their different ghost stories. It was really interesting to hear what is considered a ghost story in Korean versus other cultures. Jinyeong told a story about playing in a school yard when he was visiting his grandmother, and going home when the bell rang. However, his grandmother told him that was impossible, the school had been abandoned for years, and that bell hadn’t chimed since. (A chiming bell indicates your time to die in Korean culture.) Sandeul told a story about working with a girl in the studios and how he’d never seen her before but they worked together on some music without getting her name. When he asked the security guard who it was, the guard said that Sandeul was the only person who had come into the studio that day. Baro’s story was from when he broke his leg, and was put in a 3-person room in the hospital. There was another person in the room with him, and they became friends. When he left his room for a moment, he noticed he was the only name on the board outside the room. When he mentioned it to the nurse that the nametag must have fallen, she replied that there was nobody else assigned to that room. Gongchan’s story came from the library, about an older student who worked day and night. He studied next to him all year, and the boy never moved from his chair. On the day of his exam, Gongchan went back to the library and the boy wasn’t there. When he spoke to the librarian, asking where he had been, the librarian replied “What do you mean? Nobody has sat there all year…”
The fans scared very easily, so they were horrified by these stories. Baro’s story seemed to scare people a LOT. There was then a video with the guys in suits as “Tried to Walk” began to play. It was very dramatic and suited the horror story mood that had been created before. They then went right into “This Time It’s Over” and then directly into “Baby I’m Sorry”. Each song was a bit more energetic than the last, going from the dramatic mood from the stories to something a bit more upbeat each time.

After these three songs, the boys announced that the show was nearing its end, and they gave their thank yous and goodbyes. CNU choked up during his moment to speak, but none of the others really did. Baro actually wrote a letter to their fans to read during the final show. His letter was very sweet, telling the Banas that they were the reason he had the energy to continue, and that he thought they were more wonderful and beautiful than the moon and stars, flowers and suns, babies and bunnies, and even every other girl group out there combined. And then he teared up a little as well, as well as CNU and then Sandeul. They then performed one of their most popular songs still, “Beautiful Target”. The energy from the guys and the audience was incredible because everyone knew it was getting to the end of the show. During the famous “sprout dance”, Baro decided to show off some abs while wiggling down, which made CNU crack up, since not even CNU the token “sexy one” had flashed much skin during the show. They then closed with “You Are My Girl”, as Baro tried to switch his parts with the other members.
2013081415134534202-615x408When the lights went down, the show was obviously not over. Someone from the balcony yelled to the girls, and the entire audience began singing “Only One” instead of chanting encore (which is a good thing, because Korean concerts can never really sustain a good encore chant.) A bit after the song finished, the encore ended up being quite a few songs. The first one explained that while the shows were considered sell outs, there was one show where it was almost impossible to get tickets after the original sell, and that was the day of Baro’s solo. So, for those who could not make it into his show, he would do his solo piece again, performing “Supersonic” which was a fantastic performance. The whole group came out then, wearing the concert good teeshirts as they performed ‘In The Air”. They then closed with “If… (As Long As There Is You / If 너만 있우면)” There was no more extra talking or dragging things out, because at this point the boys had been on stage for three hours. They bowed to the different sections of the audience, headed back to the original display for the ToyB1A4 window, went back to their positions, and just like at the end of all good “toys come to life” stories, they returned to their toy state as the audience was left with the memories of them coming to life as the stage went dark and the lights went up.
The B1A4 fans are blessed to have concert planners who are so thorough with their planning, an agency that does not wait for a #1 to give their fans a concert, and idols who are so hands on in the creative process. Both of the concerts put on by B1A4 have been the cream of the crop in Korean concerts, and compete against major, established groups for the quality of their shows. Even if you’re not a hard core BANA, a B1A4 concert is worth going to. If you can get in. But if you do, avoid the standing section.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply