Sunday, June 22nd, marked Block B’s first U.S. performance through a commanding takeover of the Westbury Theater in Long Island, New York. The seven members, Taeil, B-Bomb, Jaehyo, U-Kwon, Kyung, Zico, and P.O, wasted no time as they exploded onto stage with “Very Good”, the energetic and in-your-face title track from their fourth mini-album Very Good. If the song alone didn’t have fans, also called BBCs, out of their seats and cheering, Zico yelling “Wassup America!” definitely did! BBCs were kept on their feet jumping and dancing as shortened versions of “그대로멈춰라! (Don’t move!)” and “Wanna B”, Block B’s debut singles, followed quickly after “Very Good”.
After three songs Block B took their own seats as the night’s MC introduced herself and the boys to the crowd. There was a quick Q&A session about the boys’ experience with New York and their international fans. B-Bomb shared that his favorite place to eat was Shake Shack (definitely a good choice!) and Zico explained that the first thing he did in the city was take lots of pictures by getting on the floor with his legs spread and taking air photos. BBCs were then treated to something special as seven lucky fans were handpicked by Block B to come up on stage! Block B gave their seats to the lucky ladies and serenaded them with “로맨틱하게 (Dreams Come True)”, from their first album Blockbuster, and presented them with roses. Then, as the seven BBCs left the stage, Block B continued with “싱크로율 100% (Synchronization 100%)”
The flower giving wasn’t the only surprise for fans! Six other lucky BBCs were handpicked again to take part in a charades game with the boys. Zico’s depiction of Spider-man as he leaped across the stage flinging webs was only barely matched by Kyung’s cocky one-handed weightlifting act. In the end, Kyung’s team won and the lucky three fans on his team walked away with signed merchandise! Block B’s ever-present energetic selves were toned down a bit as they sang “빛이되어줘 (Be The Light)” from Very Good and “했어안했어 (Did You Or Did You Not)” off of Blockbuster.
Fans were treated to another personal interview with the boys where Taeil shared that if he wasn’t a singer he’d want to work with animals, Zico decided that the three words that best describe him are “passion, fashion, and action”, B-Bomb was revealed to be the member who makes the most mistakes, and all of the members expressed their desire to visit Canada- so keep a look out Canadian BBCs, Block B wants to head your way soon!
Block B and BBCs united their voices for a wonderful performance of “Mental Breaker”, track from Blockbuster (and my personal favorite!). “Mental Breaker” doesn’t have much in terms of a fan chant but the song is filled with so many little vocal layers and interspersed talking bits that give the song amazing depth; BBCs picked up on all of these and made the boys live performance of this song that much more special and exciting to listen to! After thank you messages from each of the members – including a special treat from Taeil who sang a snippet of his solo song “넌어디에 (Where You At)” for the fans – Block B ended with “난리나(Nanrina)”, another energetic hit single from Welcome to the Block. Fans weren’t kept waiting long though as they returned quickly for an encore, performing “Nice Day” and a remixed version of “Very Good”, bringing the show full circle!
The boys of Block B were just as energetic and exciting as expected! They took total command of the Westbury stag and if there were any nerves about their first U.S. performance they definitely did not show it. Their playfulness came through during each song and fan interaction and it goes without saying that Block B is made up of seven incredibly talented members! That being said, as amazing as the group may be, poor planning and execution by the organizers can still make for a lousy event. Block B was incredible, but I’m seriously questioning the time and effort that went into planning this show. Admittedly, this was advertised as a showcase and showcases in Korea generally involve the same type of fan interaction and game playing that took place at the show, as well as limited song performance. However fans were charged as if this were a concert. With a VVIP ticket costing $220 (and that’s without service and processing fees), I would have expected Block B to sing more than 11 songs, with one being repeated and two others shortened. For a show that lasted about an hour and a half, Block B only sang for roughly 35 minutes. Even the cheapest ticket was $80 since they never opened up the $40 ticket tier due to poor sales. That’s a lot of money to spend to see a group perform and have them not perform. What gets me is the number of popular title tracks that weren’t touched like “닐리리맘보 (Nillili Mambo)” and their latest single, “Jackpot”- those aren’t songs I would have expected them to skip. Moreover, even if this was called a showcase, since it was Block B’s first appearance in the states it’s understandable that many fans assumed they’d be getting a standard style concert especially since they paid for this show at concert ticket prices. The marketing and ticket pricing for this show should’ve been much better.
To me, even Block B’s role in the fan interaction parts of the showcase was downplayed. The MC spoke more than any of the members, and that’s not just because of her fluency in English versus the boys’. Although fans were told that the multiple Q&A sessions (which they really should have combined into one Q&A to cut back on transition time) were in place to bring them closer to Block B, I felt like I heard the translator and the MC speak and comment far more than any member. Not to mention it was hard to tell who was being asked each question since the MC did not seem to know their names. I guess “We’ll ask this question to you” works, but it definitely doesn’t feel as personal. Let’s also not forget the times they were referred to as “B Block”. I really do commend the MC as a volunteer to get up on stage and speak in front of such a large crowd of people. Her voice was clear and she seemed very comfortable in her position. It’s always commendable to see people act confidently on stage! But I heard “B Block” far too many times for me to consider it as an accident, and when you pair that up with the lack of using their names to address them I have to really question if she was a fan they picked or if they just didn’t prepare her enough to play the part.
Lack of preparation seemed to run rampant throughout this showcase, especially when it came to picking contestants for the flower giving and charades game. This show was by no means sold out and the fan selection really brought attention to that fact. Almost every other ticket stub that was called did not have a person in that seat (which was a surprise that people could even tell since everyone had moved as close as possible and forwent their purchased seats as soon as the show started) and it quickly became awkward waiting to see if someone was coming on stage or not. It also added an unnecessary amount of time to game preparation. Plus there were mix-ups on chosen fans since one girl thought she had been picked and came up on stage for the flower giving only to have another also follow her on stage (which I still wonder how she got onto the stage so easily) and replace her. Better planning, pre-picking of winners, and a better explanation to the MC and fans of what was going on would have made all of the awkward downtime and confusion almost non-existent, and would then hopefully have provided more time for more songs! For an $80 – $220 show I’d like to hope that everything would at least run somewhat smoothly, but there was so much backtracking. For the game specifically, a fan was picked and then told to wait off stage because the MC forgot to explain the game and the boys hadn’t been split into teams yet. It looks unprofessional and makes the concert feel messy when you’re constantly stepping on your own feet and back-pedalling. I also wish they had announced that the fans they were selecting were only from the VIP and VVIP sections. As a regular section ticket holder, I don’t mind being told that VIPs get special perks- they should get special perks, they deserve it! But when you announce these fan events as if everyone has a chance to win them, it makes it more disappointing to figure out that you’re not in the running.
Finally, the hi-touch/fan signing/fan photo could have been much better organized. Every ticket holder had the hi-touch, since the $40 tickets never went on sale, but keeping the hi-touch until the very end was a poor decision. Every single person had to wait for an extra hour after the show in order to participate in what their money bought them. It would’ve made much more sense to have the photo-op and fan sign before the show as VVIPs and VIPs were filed into the venue. Or, if it really needed to happen after, then force fans to keep their tickets and mark them as each event happens. File people out through the hi-touch and then go on to the more exclusive events so people don’t have to wait around any later on a Sunday night. Marking tickets (and/or taking them away at the end of the event) would have also eliminated the hi-touch problem that happened at the very end. I am so, so sorry to every BBC that had their hi-touch taken away from them because one fan tried to sneak her way back in. It’s unfair that this opportunity got taken from you because of someone else’s selfish actions. And I also will commend the organizers because, although it sucks for those who didn’t get their chance, cancelling does keep the boys safer in the end. But if you created a better system than just lining people up section by section and created a way of tallying people (for example, by requiring then to show their ticket before entering the hi-touch and then marking it or taking it away at the end so people can’t reenter) then this whole mess could have been avoided.
As a hopeful worker in this industry I’m ashamed by what I saw at Block B’s showcase. I think it’s incredibly unfair to charge fans at such high prices and then essentially keep them from what they obviously paid to see- Block B performing their songs on a stage in the United States. But even more than that, I’m angry as a fan. Block B and their music are precious to me and I feel like I was ripped-off. I’d hate to think of this as my only time to experience a performance of theirs live, and again I will say that what the boys themselves did was nothing short of wonderful! Every time they were performing on stage there was this great energy exchange between the boys and their fans that made me so happy to be a part of! I hope they’re in someone else’s hands next time around because this unorganized mess of a show did not do Block B justice- and Block B, like any music group, deserves nothing short of the best.