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As promised on tumblr. This is very long, so I apologize in advance. ^^ BTW, I'm sitting in a cafe in New Brunswick next to someone using "Fantastic Baby" as a ringtone, and it turns out she was also at the show on Friday. Small world! The New York Times also reviewed the concert, and they were pretty complimentary.

Anyway, like I said on tumblr, we really did luck out with our seats: one section over, and we'd have stayed up on the mezzanine. Instead we were moved to new seats really close to the stage - and more than that, really close to the *side* of the stage, where the stage lights spilled over onto the audience, so the performers could see us almost as well as we could see them. Maybe that's why the guys in Big Bang seemed to spend so much time directly in front of us?? Or did I imagine that??? Considering Prudential Center holds 14,000 people, I really wasn't expecting to feel like I was seen by Big Bang, but it really did feel that way. Crazy!



The main culprit here is Seungri, who was very good at this kind of, hold your gaze, smile slowly like he's genuinely glad to have made a deep personal connection with you, look away move. But everyone paid our corner a visit and GDragon, who wasn't in a confident mode last night, spent a lot of time hanging back on one side of the stage (by us) - and also managed to get our section to worship him a bit towards the end, when he ditched the elaborate stage costuming and came up in just a tour shirt and backwards ballcap (which, Chrissie is right, he is tiny, or at least very slight, in person without all the clothes and hair. OK, I'll admit this triggered some kind of deep primal desire to embrace him just because he looked so small and fragile. That's how you know I am queer and like girls. Anyway!)

Daesung and Taeyang spent more time out front, but Daesung came and sang for us and Taeyang came and did a very, very dirty dance for us. TOP came and didn't quite meet anyone's eyes, but I disagree with Chrissie that he seemed particularly lost inside his head... not any more than usual, you know? TOP's main moment tonight, for me, was when he was wheeled out on his throne for Knock Out. I wasn't really thinking this for most of the show, but for just that one moment he looked really cool.

Okay, with that fan stuff out of the way, other things that surprised me about the concert:

1. Everyone was in very good voice that night, even if it wasn't one of those incandescent shows where the atmosphere on stage is through the roof. Seriously good live vocals, a lot better than I was expecting (sorry Big Bang!)

Another surprising me was that, in contrast to the way they sound on record, with everyone carving out a different vocal niche, at the concert they sounded a lot more alike. This kind of childish, nasal, sing-song singing style - GD's style on Having An Affair and other party songs - they all slipped into it at times. (Apart maybe from TOP - it's hard to tell because his voice is so much deeper.) I guess that's what happens when you spend so much time together, yeah? Taeyang even managed an absolutely spot-on GDragon impression in an acapella beatbox version of, I think, One of a Kind.

2. Seungri was a much better performer than I expected (sorry, Seungri!) His vocals weren't the best, but he was really fascinating to watch, even when he wasn't really doing anything. Some kind of "I know I'm not worthy but please love me anyway" body language, or something? The others were also very good, natch, but I was expecting that.

3. They used a lot of pyrotechnic stuff that, honestly, I didn't think would be allowed in a US show. For instance, there were 20-foot bursts of flame on stage, they set off fireworks and used confetti canons. GD threw a light stick into our section close to the aisle, where a girl caught it and then stumbled down one step, but luckily didn't fall. Big Bang threw gifts from the audience back into the crowd, causing chaos. There was a snow machine (okay, not actually dangerous, but I wanted to bring it up because we were close enough to the stage to be snowed on and it was really pretty). Also, when Daesung stepped out on the stage in a giant pair of white angel wings for his solo Wings, he ended up putting one foot into a loop at the end of a long cable and being hoisted 100 feet in the air, holding the cable in one hand and a live mic into the other - and I could be wrong about this, but it didn't look like he attached a safety harness or anything? (I'm probably wrong, right? There was probably something that hooked onto his belt, right? No one strapped him in or anything, though, that I could see.)

Anyway, I'm not sure how they got all the clearances for this concert, but it was a pretty epic use of pyrotechnics. Cirque Du Soleil is right... but also, the show reminded me of the halftime shows at basketball games, when usually they'll have some dancers come out to do acrobatics, then a giveaway, and then some MCing, and then more dancing, etc. Maybe I'm just thinking about this because Prudential Center is where the Nets play.

3. Throughout the night, they talked about how they were happy to be in "New Jersey"/"New Jerz" - at least until Taeyang added "and New York" and then they all started saying it that way. (Also: getting the audience to sing Empire State of Mind). So, okay, yes: Prudential Center is in New Jersey, but it's the next stop on the express train and a lot closer to NYC than the Honda Center, in Anaheim, is to LA. My thinking is this: either someone explained to them that NY vs NJ is a very serious matter and that they shouldn't confuse the two; or they already knew that from listening to East Coast rap/watching movies; or (my favorite theory) they are aiming to come back to Madison Square Garden, which seats 14,000, next time.

In any case, they were probably right about New Jersey, since that's where most of the fans who took the train back after the show were headed, including us (NYC would have been the next track over).

4. The Big Bang crownsticks really are the most genius thing ever. I mean, I already thought so, but it's really true. A LOT of people had them, including everyone in the VIP (standing) section. Chrissie and I bought ours too, and one way I can tell the concert was awesome is that after traveling for more than a day, being on a plane for eight hours, only sleeping a couple hours out of the last 36, etc, I could still jump around waving that thing, which is about as heavy as an AA-battery flashlight, for the whole two hours without feeling tired. Yeah concert energy!!

More than that, the crowd was really enthusiastic and in sync! :) A lot of the times the songs suggested a movement, like the part on Hands Up that goes "Hands up high/High, and low"; at other times someone in Big Bang would do a move and then we would copy it. At the end of the show, before the encore, three of the guys from the backing band lead the audience in waving the sticks up and down, waving them in circles... waving them up and down AND in cicles, creating chaos... must have been really fun for them, haha.

5. Speaking of the backing band, those guys are awesome! Big Bang is a poppy band, but with Ludacris' backing band the music had more of a rock/hip hop feel. They did a really great job with Seungri's What Can I Do, in particular... well maybe I'm a bit biased on that, because I've never liked the "down down down" part of chorus and they just did away with it totally, replacing it with a funk breakdown. But no, seriously, the band was really cool. The two Korean backup singers, on our side of the stage, were also really cool - the shorter one looked a bit like GD and had a surprising amount of charisma. In fact we all, in our section, mistook him for GD before the show started and cheered and waved. I bet he enjoyed that, lol.

6. A bunch of songs that aren't my favorites on record turn out, no surprise, to be great live songs. Crayon, High High, Feeling, Fantastic Baby, Hands Up all fall into this category... and also, surprisingly, Love Song. Man, I really didn't think I would ever like Love Song, but there really is no better place than a large stadium for this kind of overly dramatic, giving-myself-over-to-this-feeling, U2ish stadium rock song, apparently.

7. Highest point of the night: High High. I think the whole audience must have watched the video.

8. Also: The Last Farewell! That and Lies actually sound quite a bit different from, I guess, other songs by massively popular international pop stars. They have that special Kpop frenzied feeling to them. Also, the sketch sections in the middle of the show were major high points, almost higher than some of the songs? Not that the songs weren't high points, but Big Bang are very, very funny as a group. A bit of MCing that stood out was when TOP, having been prompted throughout the night to "say something!", finally started to really talk... in Korean. And unlike GD, who just said some words of thanks, he went on for quite a while, prompting Taeyang to ask afterward, "Why So Serious?" - which of course got another really long answer.

I'll say right now that I thought this was very cool, not because Korean is the best language or anything like that, but because no one bothered to translate or explain. They just went on. And they were right to do that, because if I wanted to I could, right now, find a fansite or something where someone has translated TOP's speech into English - and they know that. That kind of belief in the intelligence, attention, skill, and obsession of the audience is actually one of the really appealing things about Big Bang.

9. Encore kicked off with Heaven, which might be my favorite regularly-performed Big Bang song. And then Fantastic Baby, which they filmed from the stage, and which was just as good the second time. OTOH, I'm not sure the mood was right for Feeling|, or maybe the sadness of the end of the concert came early. Then we all sang Na Na Na, Goodbye...

10. Chrissie was mistaken about the guy sitting next to us, he was in fact a GD fan. Nearly everyone in our section went for either GD or TOP, depending, I guess, on how straight they were (lol just kidding - except not really). The girl sitting next to us was really cute and a really good singer (and dancer). Speaking of, a surprising number of people knew the words to Bad Boy and Haru Haru - in Korean! Blue and Heaven are hard to sing well but we all made a valiant attempt. Overall I think that we, the audience, did pretty all right for ourselves.

In conclusion, not a transformative event or anything like that, but a very solid, professional show, and a great experience. Totally worth the ticket price!

***

In other news, I'm now an official columnist at The Hooded Utilitarian - you can find my stuff under "Subdee" in the Contributors->Columnists pull down menu. It's making me a little bit nervous since the level of the writing on that site is really high. So far I don't have a theme for my column - anyone want to suggest things to write about? I thought about continuing to write about "zeitgeist" things but I'd run out of topics I actually know something about pretty quickly, lolz. Speaking of the zeitgeist, though, I have an article up on Gangnam Style, also two on Jojo's Bizarre Adventure and one on Homestuck - and now I am working on one about Saiunkoku Monotagari. It's like a disease, this urge to write about alternative-mainstream things with huge cult followings. >_> I might do Five Star Stories next, not sure - I'd, um, have to read it first...
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