It is pretty difficult for me to wrap my head around the fact that just over two weeks ago I was in Paris, attending the FIRST EVER EUROPEAN KCON! Let us all take a break to acknowledge this momentous occasion in history.
I cannot even begin to tell you how phenomenal the whole experience was. Not only was the concert itself incredible, but I have made friends from all corners of Europe that I’m sure I will keep for a long time and I have seen all the groups of lovely people that there are out there in Europe who also travelled far and wide for the love of KPop (particularly the ELF community who took me in with open arms despite me having spent a mighty long time floating on the outskirts – thank you to my original fandom for lifting me up on that day. I was cold, wet, sick and upset [convention woes below] but they put the smile and joy straight back into my heart and I will forever be an ELF no matter how far down the line we get).
Do not talk to me about the convention – the organisation was a shambles and we were unable to get in due to poor management within – that is an argument for another day and probably something that I will tell you about in person (not very happy) but the concert itself did not disappoint. I have never been to such a captivating and seamless concert in my life. It was packed full of fun and surprises and it lived up to every expectation that I might have held.
I was stood in the pit but I did not want to queue for hours for my position (because I had been queuing since the early hours of the morning for the convention) so I ended up at the back of the pit – but thankfully, the stage was set up to snake through the crowd so actually I ended up being VERY VERY close to some of the artists indeed. UKwon – within a stones throw…. and probably most life-changingly (THAT’S NOT A WORD) Jungkook…. looking straight at me (we’ll get to this later).
I am a ridiculous human being and I filmed at least 1 minute of almost every single song that was performed. They are in a playlist on my YouTube channel and you can find it embedded into the post below. This might help you to visualise what I am describing. Arirang/MNET Countdown were also filming for broadcast in Korea, but they did not film every song (2 songs per artist), so you may find that I have some videos that they do not (e.g. BTS’ Fun Boys and SHINee’s Beautiful for example). If you follow me on Tumblr you may have already seen these.
BTS opened the show, surprising EVERYONE and actually causing probably a few aneurysms to be honest. Let us take a whole minute to appreciate who opened this Arirang song – that’s right, KIM SEOKJIN. After BTS opened and turned the Arirang medley into something that only Bangtan can recognise (THAT CHOREO PLEASE?), all the other artists appeared on stage to join in. I felt awfully emotional when FTISLAND walked on stage (9 years we have had them in our lives!). This was about to be the start of something incredible. And what’s more is we were privileged to be in the company of the wonderful President of South Korea – President Park Geun Hye herself attended KCon France 2016! What an honour! She seems to be a Block B and SHINee fan that’s for sure.
Leeteuk MC’d the event – you may know that Super Junior are my original bias group. Leeteuk will always be an important figure head in my KPop story. He has been the strongest that I have ever seen an idol and so I look up to him. To be that close to him was incredibly overwhelming, but similarly quite comforting as I felt close to Super Junior despite them being divided across Korea. Leeteuk is a skilled MC full of charisma and charm – he spoke in French where he could and he interacted with the crowd. He had guest MCs in the form of Key from SHINee and Zico from Block B who are also equally as experienced as MC’s and did not disappoint. My favourite Teukie moment (apart from the ending – which I will get to) was him dancing along to Sorry Sorry – he managed to get a bit of SuJu in there and the entire crowd was loving it. Although people may say they don’t know/like Super Junior, I’m fairly certain that you can’t say no to Sorry Sorry.
Block B were the first act to perform, opening with ‘Toy’. Block B did not attend the convention in the day as they had been roaming Paris to film an incredible alternative music video to this song [check out the video below]. Block B had an overwhelmingly fantastic stage presence. Although they might not be as popular as BTS, you can’t beat the experience that Block B have. They work the crowd so well, interact with the fans and are real crowd pleasers. You really need to see how they did during NalinA [in my video playlist – watch the whole thing until the end] – the energy in their live performances is almost unrivalled and you can tell that they just have so much fun together. It is like watching a group of friends performing in front of a room of 20 people…. except there were thousands of people there. During NalinA, UKwon was stood on the corner of the stage in front of us and just then, I don’t think anyone was more into KCon than UKwon – he worked that stage, dancing like nobody was watching. He officially wrecked my bias list.
Block B setlist:
- Walkin’ In The Rain
- Very Good
I.O.I performed next (minus So-mi because her parents had not signed the consent form for her to perform in France… oops). I had my reservations about I.O.I because I have not exactly felt a connection to them. I felt like I didn’t want to watch Produce 101 knowing that I.O.I would disband and go back to their agencies after 10 months – it felt like there was no point to invest interest in them…. however, I do like ‘Pick Me’. I saw I.O.I at the airport when I landed, and they were nothing less than incredibly kind and grateful to the fans, which was one tick in the book for me…. and then I saw them live. Not only were they exactly all of the above – grateful to be gracing the stage with their sunbaes, and even all attempting to speak French (they had the words written on their hands which was very adorable), but they are actually impressive performers! Their choreography is tight and you can tell that they have worked hard as trainees to get to where they need to be. I wish them all luck in the future whatever happens with each of them after I.O.I. They were our aegyo fix for the night!
- Pick Me
- Knock Knock Knock
- When The Cherry Blossoms Fall
We had Jin Goo [of Descendants of the Sun fame] and Han Ji-Min [of Resurrection fame] celebrate the 130th year of successful diplomatic trade links between South Korea and France, before an emotional acoustic performance of ‘Shape of My Heart’ [originally by Sting] sung by FTISLAND, and a breathtaking vocal from Taemin (SHINee) singing ‘Reality’ from the OST to La Boum, a famous French film. Shape of My Heart is one of my favourite songs to exist on this planet – I could feel the hairs prickling on my arms as Hongki sang, but hearing Taemin’s voice, completely pure and effortless and without any jumped up synths in the back, really took my breath away. His vocal is so unique, so smooth – check out the video on my playlist for evidence. I think what made it such a special performance was that La Boum is such an important film in France, and with the majority of the crowd being French, the audience participation in that song was strong – it really is a memory I will hold with me for a long time, watching all the lightsticks swaying and hearing the voices echoing off the walls in unison.
f(x) were up next, sadly minus Victoria! Victoria has of course been busy in China, and it was a shame not to see her back over on this side of the world, but Amber, Luna and Krystal still managed to completely pull it out of the bag. They used members of I.O.I to fill up the stage and create the illusion of more members – credit to I.O.I for stepping to the challenge. f(x) do live performances so well – no matter what way you look at it, you have to owe that credit to Amber. Amber is the number one example of how to engage an audience. She demands the most fun out of the crowd and she talks to us like we are part of the same family – I don’t think f(x) would be the same without her personally [ok enough girl crushing]. Krystal looked tired, sadly (are we surprised?) – but she was allowed reprieve whilst her members performed their solo performances. We had Amber performing ‘Shake That Brass’ which I have not heard in SUCH A LONG TIME and got the whole crowd dancing and moving, which is again, what Amber does best – her energy is infectious. Then we were treated to Luna performing her solo single ‘Free Somebody’ for the first time live. Luna completely proved to us why she is the lead vocal in f(x) – how does she manage to produce these show stopping vocals whilst carrying out that choreography? That is a skill! I’ve already recently reviewed Free Somebody, so you will all know that I completely am on board with this track.
- 4 Walls
- Rum Pum Pum
- Shake That Brass [Amber solo]
- Free Somebody [Luna solo]
- Hot Summer
Then, the moment that the entire crowd seemed to wait for – how many of you were there for BTS, lets face it (I’m fairly certain 95% of that audience wanted to see BTS more than anyone. I’m on the edge of the 95% and the other 5% as I wanted to see SHINee the most – but again, I’m old). BTS appeared on stage immediately after f(x) – without delay. Honestly, it surprised me a little bit – I was somewhat startled – absolutely no introduction whatsoever, but they do not need an Intro. They opened their set with the ever energetic rendition of ‘Fire’ with that INTENSE CHOREOGRAPHY (it is no wonder Jin looked tired for the rest of the set), and they did not stop pulling it out of the bag for the whole performance. They chose some of the most demanding songs, choreography-wise. BTS are so skilled at nailing their choreography these days – I am proud of each and every one of them – but if I’m honest, they did look tired, and I’m sure that their schedule is getting to them. Regardless, towards the end, they managed to engage with the audience more and we were treated to such a real performance of Fun Boys [click for FANCAM]. I say real, because it was just BTS having fun – no organised choreo – just engaging with the fans, and I was lucky enough to be close enough to have JHope waving his arms in front of me, Taehyung throwing water over us and Jungkook making actual, full-on eye contact with me [which then led to 10 days of me questioning whether Namjoon was still my bias – I am sorry for the betrayal].
- What Am I To You (RM solo)
- Save Me
- I Need U
- Fun Boys (Boys With Fun – whatever you want to call it)
FTISLAND are celebrating their 9th anniversary this year, which makes me incredibly happy and also slightly resentful because we’re mostly about the same age and I feel like I have achieved next to nothing. Watching them live made me recognise that 9 years of experience in a heartbeat. I have not seen such passion, charisma and connection from a group in such a long time. They are natural performers. They really showed us how you put on a show when you have been in the industry for that long. Hongki is such a skilled frontman – he is so down-to-earth and engaging, asking the crowd if he could have some water, showing us that he was tired, swearing (oops) – but he didn’t hide behind the pretence of being a strong idol, he showed us that it is difficult to be up on that stage, and I appreciate that. Hongki’s vocals are so strong, so powerful – that boy can hold a note for a long time and it never wavers. We had Jaejin and Seunghyun joining Hongki up-front on the middle stage to sing, and Jonghoon and Minhwan providing a solid basis musically. I am so impressed with the sound that this group produce live and I hope lots of you were too – I know a lot of new FTISLAND fans were born on that day. I was so warmed to see the thousands of people in the crowd singing along and waving their lightsticks because this is the recognition they deserve amongst the idol groups. Honestly probably in my top two groups to have performed at KCon.
- Black Chocolate
- Falling Star
We were then treated to a Special Stage by Luna (from f(x)) and Taeil (from Block B). I’m sure many of you will have heard their individual performances of Zico’s ‘It Was Love’ but we were graced with a duet to break everyone’s hearts. I have already mentioned my love for Luna’s vocals, but Taeil has such an incredible range – he can pretty much sing anything. The combination of their vocals on this track is like a match made in heaven – don’t believe me – check it out below. My happiest moment was hearing Taeil hit the high note – whilst Luna’s flawless tone would have hit that note effortlessly, Taeil’s falsetto is so strong and powerful and that note caused the entire arena to pause for a moment for breath. I’m sure you’ll agree with me when you watch it that Taeil was the right choice for the high note. Watching it back makes the hairs on my arms prickle and emotion surge through my body – such a beautiful coupling of voices and we were lucky enough to witness this live.
Then, the moment I had been waiting for. SHINee – live…. for the first time ever! I have been waiting for this moment for a long time – SHINee were one of my first groups, so it is relatively meaningful to me. Sadly, Jonghyun could not be there as he is still promoting his new album and I guess rightly so! It was sad not to have his presence on stage but SHINee are so professional they can fill the gap at any moment. SHINee opened their set with a bang – the shapes, the lights, the choreography…. they arrived on stage to let you know that you were going to enjoy yourself, regardless of whether you were a SHINee fan or not. Someone told me after the concert that although she was not a SHINee fan, she recognised she was in the presence of KPop royalty – and it is exactly that. They showed each and every one of us exactly how it is done – how your 8 years of experience makes you a flawless performer and exceptional entertainer. They all had the biggest smiles on their faces as they sang and attempted to speak French. Can we take a moment to acknowledge how Onew’s voice is as flawless in real life as it is on recordings. SHINee were having so much fun during the performance, they always do – their positivity is infectious and it was warming to see Onew’s smile radiating through the crowd, Key’s cheeky personality shining through the performances, Minho’s suave demeanour as he addressed the crowd, and Taemin’s versatility as he took on more vocal parts and danced 110%. My little KPop infants – please stan SHINee – we have a lot to thank them for. I know many people were disappointed that they played a lot of old songs, but for Shawols like me – this is all I ever wanted so I would like to say a gigantic thank you to SHINee for honouring us and our continued support of you. Come back soon!!
- Sherlock (Clue + Note)
- Why So Serious?
The closing of the show saw each artist appear on stage to thank the crowd. They all snaked along the stage and I was lucky to have Block B in front of me again, with BTS not too far away. We had Namjoon dancing to 4 Walls which was a personal favourite, Taeil singing to ‘View’ and UKwon dancing, dabbing and singing to everything. We even had Zico attempting to pimp out BBomb (which please, who would say no?) and dancing to ‘Save Me’ [Click here to watch]. Possibly my favourite moment of all was having Leeteuk bow to every section of the crowd along the stage and stay right until the very end, constantly bowing and thanking each and every one of us. He stayed longer than any other artist and went out of his way to make us feel appreciated, even though we should be thanking him. This is why he will always be a figure head to me – he is a gracious leader and advocate for KPop and he will always love and take care of international fans considering that Super Junior have so many themselves. He recognised how much of a big deal it was for us to be there and for us to see them and he made sure that we knew that they knew that (does that make sense?) Anyway, he knew how important this was for us and he wanted us to feel recognised. For me, that was the perfect way to end a perfect evening.
I’m hoping that the success of the concert itself will prove to organisers that European KPop events will always be a success and I hope we start to welcome more artists in the near future [VIXX in Paris/Milan in September is a sure thing! Message me if you want info]. Thank you to all the artists for coming all the way to Europe and we hope to see you all back again soon!