IU-concertWhile it might not be fair to say that Lee JiEun has grown up in the spotlight, the young solo singer known commonly as IU has grown a lot in the public eye since her debut in 2008. Gaining fame at only 15, IU has spent most of her teen years as “Korea’s younger sister”. However, through her album, and the concert with the same name, “Modern Times”, IU seems to have been hinting at (or perhaps beating the idea over the head of some) that she might want to be seen as the 20 year old she has become, not just the teen she has been.
The concert opened with IU’s latest single, “The Red Shoes”. The song was a perfect opener to showcase the live band accompanying her on stage. “The Red Shoes” is definitely a song deserving of a live band every performance. The drum heavy jazz beat was incredible, on a completely different level to every other live performance or recording with the backing track simply because the room couldn’t fill with the heavy pulse of the duel percussionists driving the song.
At the dizzying end of “The Red Shoes”, IU dissappeared like a magic trick. Her dancers continued the magic with a dance aided with black lights, their shoes glowing red in the eerie dark lit stage as stage hands moved pieces of furniture to their places. On one side of the stage, IU stood. On the other, a good looking man sat in a chair. Between them, a four poster bed. IU then sang a medley of songs from the latest album, “Modern Times”, starting with “Wait” and then switching to “Between The Lips (50cm)”. Through the second song, she was sitting on the arm of the man’s chair, then leading him over to the bed, and at the end of the song, “kissed” him (though it was well implied that’s not all that happened.)
And this is where it was painfully clear that there is still a divide between what the artist seems to want, and what the fans expect.
100613_IU2_NewalbumsandsinglespreviewAs said before, IU is a 20 year old woman now. She is pretty and successful, and should enjoy herself. However, with an image as “the nation’s little sister”, it is very difficult for people to let her grow up. She can’t date, or even try to be sexy without people finding it awkward at best. This is what happens when you start young in the k-pop industry (or entertainment industry in general.) Many thought that IU’s “scandal” would ruin her because she depends on that image. However, it didn’t because she is more than just a cute face. She’s got a powerful voice to go with it. But, I think that any 20 year old is going to want the chance to be more than just cute. The medley was a great example of IU really wanting to be more than the cute image. However, she really didn’t seem to know where to start, or what to do, or how to act on stage.
And to top it off, the fans were very lukewarm at best over the stage kiss. (However, we totally support idols being whoever they want, so go IU go!) It’s not like she was going full “Troublemaker At MAMA’s” on them, so the cold reaction really felt a little silly.
Once the guy is thoroughly spend from whatever was implied, IU began to sing “Obliviate”. For some reason, at the end of the song, she ended up shooting the man who she had just kissed. The fans seemed to enjoy this much more than the kiss. Oh fans. Never change.
After the Modern Times story line, IU spoke to the audience for a second while they moved the set around. She mentioned how it wasn’t quite sexy enough and that the next time, she’d do a proper sexy stage next time. Clearly, IU was well aware of the fact that her stage presence doesn’t scream sex appeal yet, but that’s fine because her fans aren’t exactly looking for that kind of sex appeal. IU’s innocent charm is what brought a lot of families with young kids into the hall, so it’s still a bit of a double edged sword. They then switched to a transitional video where there were some pink shoes that exploded, and the opening notes for “Mia” began. People were elated, since this was IU’s debut track, so the fans immediately had their light sticks up in the air, waving them while IU stood on a cube and sung while the dancers swirled around in the stage fog and danced on desks.
“Mia” was the beginning of a long period of ballad songs. At the end of Mia, IU went up a staircase and sat in a large chair that looked rather comfortable, pulled an acoustic guitar in her lap, and began strumming along while she sung “Bad Day” and “Voice Mail”. It was really clear through IU’s choice of songs that there is a lot of emotions behind the each of the songs she performs, especially in these ballads. The individual songs mean a lot to her, and it can be heard through her voice and tone in each performance. It was really incredible to hear live. Even though multiple ballads back to back can normally be very draining on an audience, it was very easy and soothing to sit through the songs and get swept up in the emotions.
Finally, after all these songs, IU put the guitar down for a moment and introduced herself. It was the first time that the camera could really get close ups of IU without her singing or dancing, and it was really easy to see just how much that she has matured over the past few years. While her basic features might still look young, the way she held herself and composed herself, her makeup and her earrings, everything about her seemed to scream maturity. Especially the new haircut that she is sporting for her new drama, 여뻐남자 (Pretty Guy) completely changes her look from young high school student to mature young woman. She looked beautiful, to put it simply.
The next songs that IU performed were covers. “Forgotten Season” which is originally by Lee Yong, and “Letter” which is originally by Kim Kwangjin. After performing these two songs, IU came down from the elevated chair (that she had been sitting in all this time) and seemed ready to pick things up again.
The audience was well ready for some energy by the time IU returned to the main stage, after five ballads back to back. IU spoke about her fondness for going to noraebang when she was younger, and wanted to do a song she used to know. So, she covered “A Chance Encounter” by Song Golmae, complete with the noraebang video in the back so everyone else could sing along. Not that anyone did, of course, because nobody is paying to sing when they’re watching IU in concert. However, she seemed to be having a great time.
The next song was a song for IU’s parents. She mentioned that her parents were big fans of this song, and began singing “About Romance” by Choi Baekho. The song was alright, however there is something about an old fashioned Korean trot-style song that needs that classic voice to get it right, Luckily, Choi Baekho himself came out on stage half way through to help IU out and sing with her! The audience about lost it, because he is a very famous singer and he sounded INCREDIBLE. The man had an incredibly powerful voice as he sang one of his classics. Once the song was done, IU and Choi Baekho sat down for a moment and spoke about singing and his music. They then sang another song together, “Walk with Me, Girl”, which is also from the “Modern Times” album.
Once Choi Baekho left the stage, the two chairs were replaced with a couch, and a smaller version of the band moved forward, with three guitars, a backup vocal and someone on a seat box drum. Even though Park Juwon couldn’t be there, they performed a “Love of B”. The song was gorgeous, and definitely sounded like the type of song that should have been performed in some bistro or cafe, not a massive hall like we had been, but IU and the smaller group of musicians made it work.
At this point, IU had been performing for well over an hour or so with very little break, so she quickly cleared the stage and announced she was taking a short intermission, but not to worry because she was leaving us in good hands because Leessang would be coming out. The audience just about LOST IT. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with Leessang’s work enough to know the songs that they performed, however they performed two songs and the audience went absolutely wild. They were out of their seats, jumping around and cheering. It was a really great way to help the fans get their energy pumping after a heavy dose of emotions in the first half of the concert.
Once Leessang were finished, IU returned to the stage, seeming surprised at how energetic the audience had reacted. The stage had two smaller sets on it. One was a garden set with little lights all over the plants. Here, she sung “Wind Flower”. After this song, she moved over to the second set, which was a living room-type set. The transition between the two songs was like a music box as it then led into “Child Looking for a Star”.
IU left the stage after that, and there was another extended video clip while they cleared the stage. This one seemed to be joking around about her growing up through the years on camera, and some of the things she has become famous for other than her singing. The video encouraged people to do the dance to the song she was going to be performing next. The next song up was “Hey (You Know?)” which was a welcome upbeat song. IU caught fans by surprise by entering from the back of the audience and slowly making her way through the aisle. It was absolute chaos from the looks of things, but there were many very happy fans down along the left hand aisle. IU danced with a younger fan, and sang to an incredibly love struck and star struck male fan in the front row. The expression on his face while she sung to him was one I may never forget. She eventually made her way up to the stage, and was able to perform “Boo” next. With the energy up, the fans were really enjoying the cuteness that IU was exuding. It was a very different IU to the one in the first act, but of course the same IU as before, and the fans seem to love her no matter which one she decides to perform as.
After performing “Boo”, IU sung “Marshmallow”, and the most exciting part about this song wasn’t just the song, but the unconventional (for Korea) use of confetti canons as actual marshmallows were rockets across the main floor. (From the second floor, I can’t actually confirm what they were like. However, they flew like marshmallows.) Once the insanely sugary song was done, IU pulled three people on stage that seemed to have been chosen out while she had been dancing through the audience. There was a young, teenage girl, and two male fans. The male fans were wonderful to watch because one was incredibly awkward and star struck, while the other seemed to be trying to prove to his girlfriend that he could keep his head straight in the presence of IU. After some questions, IU gave the three gifts. The teenage girl took home a signed guitar, while the guys got some very nice headphones.
2013-11-24 19.58.06Once the fans cleared the stage, they had a photo opportunity. This is almost NEVER done during concerts for boy bands, so I thought this was really cool that they let the fans take photos during a designated time in the concert. While the photos do lack the same energy that might come from a photo taken while performing, it was a really nice gesture towards the fans.
Another video followed while they prepared for the final set of songs. Since IU has such sweet songs, they took the videos and made them look like a trailer for a horror movie, which was quite enjoyable. The last set of songs were all of IU’s really big hits. Starting with “Every End of the Day”, the audience was whipped into a last burst of energy as the end was near. By the time “You and I” began, the fan chants were powerful and fantastic to listen to, the audience taking part just as much as anyone else on stage might have bee. The last song, “Good Day”, was a fantastic way to end the main part of the show. Easily the song that people associate with IU the most, well known for the long note that she holds at the end, it was a great song to end with. When “Good Day” was originally promoted, IU ended up unable to continue performing the last note, because there was worry about damage to her vocal chords. When it got to that last line during the concert, IU ended up not doing the high note, singing the normal part. However, once the song finished and the crowd went nuts, she counted them in again and did the ending once again, performing the high note. It was impressive to hear, and the audience definitely loved hearing it.
The second the song ended, the audience was already chanting their “encores”. Before the encore started, there was a video of the fans, with a message of thanks from IU before she began singing “Modern Times”, from the most current album, and then ended with “Secret”. Many of the fans left after the lights went up and it looked as if the show was over. However, many IU fans stayed until the very last second, and it turned out that IU returned to the stage one last time to perform two more songs for her fans: “The Only Story I Didn’t Know” and the “Uaena Song”.
 
Overall, IU did a fantastic job with her contest. Carrying a two hour concert on the shoulders of a solo artist is a lot of pressure, and being a ballad focused singer, there is a huge risk for the concert to become overly tiring. However, with her strong vocals and the time she took to interact with the audience, IU kept the audience going and showed that she has grown a lot since her debut. With her drama running currently, hopefully 2014 will continue to bring successes to IU!

5 Comments
    1. No problem! But would you be able to use just some of the review in the note you have set up, and tell people they can read the rest here? This site is my part time job, so I really rely on people coming to the site… But I really appreciate you linking it on your fan site!

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