Only a handful of K-pop acts have been able to fill up stadium venues in the U.S., but on Thursday night (March 23), BTS held the first of two sold-out shows at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
With their loyal Army cheering them on from start to finish, the seven-member boy band kickstarted the U.S. leg of the worldwide 2017 BTS Live Trilogy Episode III: The Wings Tour with a nearly three-hour long show that incorporated the group's most boisterous hits and the introspective songs of its record-breaking Wings album.
BTS members Rap Monster, Suga, J-Hope, Jungkook, V, Jimin and Jin sandwiched the show between their most recent pair of singles, beginning the night with the riotous "Not Today" and, nearly 30 songs later, saying farewell with the inspirational "Spring Day." Following the first song and its militarily precise choreography, the septet introduced themselves to the crowd and expressed their excitement at performing in the U.S. After the propulsive "Not Today" set the tone, the group performed its southern-inspired, Keb' Mo'-sampling "Am I Wrong" and the slickly choreographed fan-favorite "Silver Spoon," the only non-Wings B-side featured that night.
Though appearing a bit lethargic -- they had flown in from Brazil following two shows and a stop in Mexico the week prior -- BTS showed earnestness and an eagerness to please as the members attempted to connect with the fans who had propelled them to becoming one of K-pop's most popular acts. Each of the members made dedicated attempts to speak in English throughout the night, raising cries of support from throughout the stadium as they thanked their fandom, the Army, and credited the light stick-waving fans for the group's skyrocket to the top of Korea's music industry.
The show's intro portion came to a close with BTS' energetic 2015 hit "Dope" before moving onto a segment featuring the group's solo and unit tracks ("Lost," "BTS Cypher Pt. 4") off of Wings. The solitary, reflective showcases moved the audience, culminating in responsive cries of "we love you" from the crowd during Rap Monster's "Reflection." (Neither he nor Suga performed any of the tracks featured on their impassioned mixtapes or other projects separate from the rest of the group.) Though there were many memorable moments -- Jin being raised on platforms while singing about being unable to fly during "Awake," Suga backed by an orchestra and playing the piano while rapping about his instrument being his "First Love" -- and some audio inconsistencies, by the time J-Hope rounded the segment out with his upbeat, choral-like ode to his "MAMA," the audience was ready to see all seven men together again.
BTS reunited with the bombastic party song "Fire" before taking a break to chat with the audience once more. The group followed up with a medley of some of its earliest singles, including debut track "No More Dream," to evoke a sonic journey to the past that Jin later compared to "a rocket through the history of BTS."
After a fun-filled rendition of "21st Century Girl" that ushered BTS off the stage in a conga line, night one of two at the Prudential Center started to wind down with J-Hope returning by himself to perform a dance break to "Intro: Boy Meets Evil" before the group moved into a dynamic performance of "Blood Sweat Tears."
As the seven men left the stage after assuring the audience they had performed their "last" song ("Outro: Wings") of the night, fans around the stadium put colored plastic bags over their light sticks, creating a rainbow effect throughout the Prudential Center, in anticipation of an encore. With the first successful fan-coordinated event of this magnitude in the U.S., the BTS Army proved firsthand the type of support that had helped BTS to the top 40 of the Billboard 200 and the top 10 of the iTunes singles chart.
I cannot get over the rainbow ocean at BTS's #WINGSinNewark show. The event was the largest successful fan event I've ever seen in person. pic.twitter.com/QnjafWH6Jj
- Tamar Herman (@TamarWrites) March 24, 2017
As they came back on stage to perform two final songs ("2! 3! (Still There Will Be Better Days)" and "Spring Day"), the BTS members expressed shock and delight at the visible outpouring of love they received from their fans. Rap Monster took the opportunity to thank their fans for the group's impressive charting on the U.S. charts, declaring that it was was due to the effort of their Army: "You guys made that for us," he told the cheering audience. "[The] glory is all yours."
The first night at the Prudential Center was followed by another show on Friday. BTS heads to Chicago and Los Angeles later this week.