It wasn’t the stadium concert experience fans had been looking forward to attending, but BTS’ “Bang Bang Con: The Live” was the next best thing to being there. For 100 minutes, the Korean septet made viewers forget that many of them had to set alarm clocks for 5 a.m. ET/ 2 a.m. PT to watch the live stream — presented by BTS’ management company Big Hit Entertainment with a cloud-based remote production studio Kiswe Mobile — from Seoul, South Korea.
While the challenges of feeling up close and personal with a group that’s not even in the same city are obvious, one of BTS’ charms is their ability to make fans feel valued and seen.
That kind of intimacy translated well during this streamed event. RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook eased their way through a 14-song setlist that paid homage to their seven years together as a group. The members opted not to sing solo songs (as they usually do in concert), singing instead together as a full group or in various subunits. Their setlist encompassed music from their earliest recordings (2014’s rap ballad “Just One Day”) to selections from their current hit album, “Map of the Soul: 7.”
Kicking their show off with the one-two punch of “Dope” and “Boyz with Fun,” the members made their entrance from separate doors along a colorful hallway. Dressed casually (in the first of several costume changes), they looked and sounded chill.
“This is too much fun,” said group leader RM, after he read some of their fans’ comments in real time.
On the infectiously catchy “Jamais Vu,” Jin, Jungkook and J-Hope sang about taking solace from the problems of life, asking listeners to save them and give them a chance. Decked out in baggy retro suits, RM and Suga followed up with a swag-filled rendition of “Respect”: “Everybody says it so easily / though you don’t know what it is.”
And in one of the more poignant subunit performances, Jimin and V sang “Friends,” in which they reminisced about the difficulties they overcame together: “One day, when these cheers die down/ Stay by my side.” Outfitted in charcoal grey suits that harked back to their school uniforms, they grasped hands like youngsters. At the end of the song, V cheekily alluded to an argument he and Jimin had in the past: “We’re going to eat mandu [Korean dumplings] and not fight now, right?”
Near the halfway mark, the group sat down on a cozy sofa and chatted. J-Hope passed out bracelets he had made for his bandmates. Some of the members put on boxing gloves and bounced around.
They sang snippets of the diss track “UGH!” before seguing into a couple verses of “00:00 (Zero O’Clock).” With its crescendos and soothing lyrics, “00:00″ is a calming song of hope, telling listeners that every day there’s a chance at happiness: ”This day will be over / when the minute and second hands overlap … You’re going to be happy.”
Noting how several of the songs were abbreviated, V said, “If we sing this short, it could be sad for ARMY,” the group’s name for its fans.
They went back to full-length renditions with “Black Swan,” which was set against a fairytale-esque forest backdrop. The trilling intro set the mood for the dreamlike melody that showcased trap and vocal distortion. The stage for “Boy With Luv” included an Elvis-worthy sea of bright ARMY Bombs (lightsticks) as the group performed with lit-up umbrellas.
At about an hour into the show, Jin said, “ARMY, raise your voice!” His bandmates answered by making enthusiastic crowd sounds. The group hammed it up with “Go Go” and “Anpanman,” before ending the concert with the introspective “Spring Day.” Unlike the recorded version, where RM kicks the song off with an extended rap, J-Hope started the song. “Spring Day” conveys sadness and longing, but also leaves room for optimism and the possibility of a better tomorrow.
“Bang Bang Con: The Live” was a bittersweet reminder of the concerts ARMY could have attended if not for the coronavirus pandemic. But as some fans noted, this streamed show was the closest many folks will ever get to attending a live BTS concert. Though there were a few glitches (some viewers couldn’t see any subtitles and the video sometimes stalled), it was overall a satisfying way to “attend” a show from the comfort of your own home.
As each member gave his ment (short statement), they reiterated how much they’re looking forward to being reunited with their fans. When they did their group hug, they made sure to leave a big space for ARMY.
Saying farewell to their fans, they headed back into the hallway where they had made their entrance – only this time, they left together through one door.
2. “Boyz with Fun”
3. “I Like It”
4. “Just One Day”
5. “Jamais Vu”
8. “UGH!” (abbreviated)
9. “00:00 (Zero O’Clock)” (abbreviated)
10. “Black Swan”
11. “Boy With Luv”
12. “Go Go”
14. “Spring Day”