Editor’s Note: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the hilarity of the timing of this event coverage given that BTS stans have labelled Asian Junkie as a BTS anti site due to my horribly offensive skepticism of the Billboard Music Awards being of great relevance and importance. People are quite passionate about it! That definitely makes sense since everybody truly cherishes winning that award and it’s known as a career maker. Anyway, the sense of timing that Yas has is uncanny.
Gather around kids this is gonna be fan account style and I’m not sure how ridiculous I might get.
When tickets went on sale for BTS in LA, I did the unimaginable. I took a break. That’s right. I did what I never do. I put myself in break for the entire 15 minutes alotted by the state of California and got my laptop out as well as my phone. I did this because every damned year BTS came to town, I got screwed. Tickets would sell out and then scalpers would ask for me to sell a kidney for cheap seats in a mediocre venue.
I wasn’t ready to call myself an ARMY, as the hype on social media and what not can be unbearable, but I also wasn’t about miss out through that BS again. I’ve seen them live at festivals like KCON which is … I mean … it’s like being served a tiny steak. You get that taste, but a few bites in and it’s over. You’re left kinda hangry. And I was sick of being hangry.
The clock ticked away and suddenly we were off! For a whopping 10 minutes it searched, waiting for something to come up. Then suddenly … my laptop screen lit up and tickets were found. Just one, but I was in. I coughed up my hard-earned cash and invested in the experience! Finally, I was going to see what all the hype was about!
Concert day came and I decided I was gonna get extra turnt. Thanks to WonderCon, the streets were packed in Anaheim with 4,500 Captain Americas and a few Zatannas to make me squee with delight. I checked into my hotel, took an accidental nap, and caught a ride to the Honda Center. THE LINES WRAPPED AROUND THE BUILDING AND WRAPPED AROUND EACH OTHER. It was insane. I found my pals, some in fantastically good cosplay, and we entered the venue.
Once we were in, we designated our meeting spot after the show and scattered to the wind, because getting good seats together was a waste of time. I found my seat and lucked out at the end of a row in P4 close to the railing with a clear view of the stage. People were already screaming themselves hoarse at the various videos being played on the screens as we waited.
The lights dimmed.
And suddenly my eardrums hated me as a sea of 20,000 screaming fans lost their damned minds. The VCR video played and we all expected the “Intro: Boy Meets Evil” to begin. We were all so very wrong, and the screams intensified as BTS appeared on stage and slammed the crowd with “Not Today.”
But can we take a moment to talk about the solos?!! Because I think we need to take a moment to talk about solos.
They started with Jungkook singing “Begin,” which is such a whimsical song with this fierce contrast of a bass. You can’t help but be sucked into the warmth as he danced and sang live across the stage. His soft voice mingling with his dance. It was … it was confusing and intense. I immediately knew I was in over my head. We’d gone too far. There was no turning back and no way to jump ship as I felt myself being pulled by the tide.
Jimin. I WAS NOT PREPARED!!! Listen … “Lie” is one of my top favorite BTS songs. It’s fire and passion. Sex and betrayal. It’s a whole pile of frustration laid out in a song that made me think of smokey cabarets and strong drinks. The thing about Jimin is I could never understand why he’s got such a huge fanbase. Until now. I understand. Oh god I totally understand and it’s not okay. I felt … I felt like I needed a shower, which was really awkward because I also felt like he lit the entire crowd on fire from the feet up. We all burned together.
Like a cool breeze, like a chill mist, the flames were extinguished only to be replaced by Suga emerging from the floor of the stage with an old brown piano. He was flanked by two sets of strings, violins, cellos, and we were introduced to “First Love.” It’s less of a song and more of spoken word, a history of love and pain and devotion. It’s one of those tracks that probably gets skipped because of its eccentricity, its lack of heavy bass, its not being considered “a bop”. But in reality it’s an emotional feelercoaster that had us all screaming and trying not to cry.
Whoever wrote this set list should be given an award.
They brought out the vocal line and rolled right into “Save Me,” which brought out the rap line and they continued with “I Need U.”
Whoever wrote this set list should be shot in the foot with a harpoon.
We were feeling good! 20,000 screaming fans having a great time. Until Rap Monster stepped out with his pet whale and performed “Reflection.” This shit was no joke. The song is reminiscent of something I can’t place from the 80s. It pulls at your soul. The lyrics are so raw, so very guttural. The middle-aged woman next to me was sobbing by the end of the song. I WAS NOT CRYING. I HAD SOMETHING IN MY EYES!
“I wish I could love myself,” he said.
The crowd screamed “We love you!” over and over until he responded.
“I guess we could love ourselves,” and the tears just flowed. I dunno. I guess it hits home for anyone who’s ever struggled with depression. We were no longer the Honda Center, we were the Emotional Wreck Center.
Rap Monster stepped into a lonesome dilapidated telephone booth on one side of the stage, and a moment later, V stepped out. This was their transition into the soft bluesy “Stigma.” V continues to surprise me with his velvety voice, as he hit those high notes and I was blown away. The song is deceptive with its soft teasing sounds and its almost cruel lyrics of dismissal and betrayal. He expertly slid across the stage all swagger and pomp. It was very unnerving to see him that smooth in real life.
The lights went out and suddenly a single spotlight popped up at the end of the runway on the center stage. J-Hope sat in a chair and the lights slowly began to rise and dancers appeared. “MAMA” began and J-Hope took over, surrounded by a large group of male dancers moving fluidly with him, his bubbly personality shined through in every move he made. It’s very interesting how J-Hope functions. One minute he’s happy go lucky, and the next he’s eyeballin’ you into submission. It’s very confusing and honestly magnetic. His upbeat but deep voice booming from him as he spat rhymes and sang versus dedicated to his mother and the sacrifices she made for his dreams. I wasn’t sure how this was gonna play out live, but at one point, he stood alone with a microphone and a capella’d that shit before the song kicked back in, driving the crowd crazy as they screamed the lyrics back at him. I’m sure his mother is proud.
After “MAMA,” Jin stepped out on stage and suddenly the violins were back. “Awake” began and he proceeded to pour his heart out to a packed arena full of fans who then sobbed buckets for his efforts. It was beautiful and all together so sad. By the end of the song the woman next to me and I were literal puddle of mushy feels at seeing this beautiful vulnerable and yet all too strong man sing his emotions out so clearly. He hit that emotional climax in the song and the crowd screamed themselves hoarse. It was feels overload.
There was a moment to breathe before three men emerged from the floor of the center stage and “Cypher 4” began. Personally, it’s my favorite from the group. Rap Monster, Suga, and J-Hope let the crowd start the flow as the entire arena screamed the lyrics at them to their delight. They hopped around stage as they spat rhymes to the heavy trap bass. Not gonna lie, the level of turnt is usually saved for underground hip-hop club shows! I’m lucky I didn’t fall down the aisles, we got that turnt.
BTS rolled into “Fire” and the crowd surprised the group with the ‘Ocean Of Fire,’ as each seat had a small colored plastic bag for this song. We placed it over our lightsticks and suddenly it was a sea or yellow and red mixing into flames! It was stunning! BTS looked thrilled to see it, as it was different than the ‘Rainbow Ocean’ that had been happening at other tour stops.
We then got treated to a medley they lovingly called “History Of BTS.” This was a compilation of “N.O,” “No More Dream,” “Boy In Luv,” “Danger,” and “Run.” This lead to a brief stop and chitchat from the members of the group, hyping the crowd up, as if we needed it, and rolling us into the next part of the show, which would be the last.
J-Hope stepped out and performed his choreography for “Intro: Boy Meets Evil” which was intense and crazy, then the guys joined him and they performed “Blood Sweat & Tears.” Can I just tell you this choreography is um … well … hot? They need to not because we all were already sweating our asses off and now the steam was pretty much visible. One minute they’re hopping around the next they’re Magic Mike’ing the floor with a whole lot of crotch grabbing in like a three-minute song okay?!
Luckily, BTS decided to take this time to clear all the conspiracies up. The last VCR played, and it revealed the trilogy was a story of seven members really functioning as one entity: growing up together, facing the hell that is adolescence together, and surviving together. “How many miles must a boy walk” was a hell of a message of growth. Not only as growing up but also as growing into their own personalities as adults, yet still being this one strong entity. Supporting each other and loving each other. It wasn’t the typical “we’re a family” bullshit most K-pop management companies try to feed fans, but more of a tale of friends and survival. It really was a beautiful ending to a hilariously crazy theorized plot.
They performed “Outro: Wings” together, said their final goodbyes, waited for the encore of screaming fans, came out and performed their fluffiest tracks, “2! 3!” and “Spring Day.” There was confetti and streamers, plushies being tossed to the stage, BTS members in glittery mickey ears, fanservice for the pit and just so much love.
I walked out of the venue, met my friends and we all just stood there for a while, in shock. I struggled in processing the experience I’d just had. I’d only ever been a VIP and had never claimed any other boy group fandom. I felt like. .. I was cheating. But I mean … that’s the struggle right? The multifandom struggle.
All in all, it was one of the most high energy, non stop, emotional concerts I’d ever experienced. I drove home the next day, got in my pjs and hilariously oversized OKCAT slippers. I was about to fall asleep when I got a message from my R.O.D.
“GIRL I GOT YOU THIS P3 TICKET GET YOUR ASS DOWN HERE IF YOU WANNA SEE THEM AGAIN!”
I was out of bed, and in my car in less than five minutes. I did my best impression of Cruella DeVille driving and arrived at BTS in Anaheim for the second day just in time to do it all over again and it was well worth it! The second show came with a final goodbye to the tour each member showing so much love to fans that I had to get it on video.
I know this seems crazy, but I get it now. I was skeptical because hype tends to be just that more often than not, but after two nights of BTS, I definitely get the hype. It’s hard not to.