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Can’t stop the music

They say the proof of the pudding is in the eating. So when it comes to music, then surely the proof of the rhythm is in the live performance.

Fans of CNBLUE swear that the Korean rock band is better appreciated live than on albums or even concert DVDs, where the experience is, at best, 2-D. While they already sound good in studio recordings, the four-member-group offers a totally unforgettable live concert experience as they proved in their Bangkok leg of the Can’t Stop Tour on May 4.

Due to the Sewol tragedy in their home country, coverage on the concert was embargoed until May 16 out of respect for the victims. CNBLUE also kept the disaster in mind during the concert, thanking Thais for their help and support, and asking for continuous prayers for South Korea.
CNBLUE stages its “Can’t Stop Tour” in IMPACT Arena, Bangkok, May 4. ( Four One One Entertainment)
CNBLUE stages its “Can’t Stop Tour” in IMPACT Arena, Bangkok, May 4. ( Four One One Entertainment)

“We hope our music can become the light to them and you Bangkok!” said band leader Jung Yong-hwa, addressing the 11,000-capacity IMPACT Arena.

Bangkok was the first overseas stop in the Can’t Stop tour that featured new songs from their fifth Korean EP of the same title, which is composed of six songs, five by Jung and one by vocalist and lead guitarist Lee Jong-hyun.

Jung said the latest album shows a “new side” of CNBLUE with calmer, slower-paced and toned-down music. It was certainly a change for some of their fans who were used to their earlier releases of frenzied rock numbers.

But the doubts of many, especially those who were wary about the musical experiments that the band had been dabbling in, were erased once they heard the title track, “Can’t Stop,” as well as “Cold Love,” “Diamond Girl,” “Love Is” and “Like a Child” performed live. “Can’t Stop” ― a British-rock-sounding tune ― had the entire arena rocking and singing along, something that obviously surprised but pleased Jung, who plays the piano for this number.

“I hold the belief that Jung Yong-hwa writes his songs as they are meant to be heard live,” said a Boice, as fans of the band call themselves.

Jung, lead guitarist Lee, bassist Lee Jung-shin and drummer Kang Min-hyuk charmed the Bangkok crowd by engaging them in both English and Thai and performing some of their hits during the more than two hour long show including their debut single “I’m a Loner,” “Intuition,” “Love,” “Miracle” and “Try Again, Smile Again.”

There’s no doubt that Jung is a livewire performer, tirelessly rousing the audience like a professional conductor. His powerful vocals and showmanship may be the band’s trademark, but each member contributes to what makes them a class above K-pop factory-issued idols.

Lee Jong-hyun had his fair share of the spotlight with “Love Rides the Rain” and “Teardrops in the Rain,” which turned the entire arena into a karaoke party as fans enthusiastically sang along while lyrics flashed on the screen onstage.

Lee Jung-shin was cool and unperturbed even as fans screamed in his face while he wandered off to the extension stage to get closer to the crowd. Kang, forced to stay put with his drums set at center stage, nevertheless had his fair share of screams whenever he flashed his smile and especially when he talked about Thai food.

With their fans embracing the band’s foray into new sounds, CNBLUE vowed to continue pushing the envelope as they embark on future projects including a solo album for Jung. Jung is one of South Korea’s more prolific songwriters, composing not only for the band but for his labelmates at FNC Music. He already has at least 60 composing and writing credits under his name in a span of five years.

When pressed for more details on the solo album at the press conference a day before the Bangkok concert, Jung said it is likely going to feature other artists but did not elaborate.

The band’s fan base has widened thanks to TV dramas and variety work they have done but it is clear that for CNBLUE, especially for Jung, it is only about passion for music. And he emphasized this just before they performed their last encore song, “Love Light,” when he conveyed his message to the crowd and his countrymen back home.

“A few weeks ago, there was a tragedy in Korea. Many Koreans are grieving. We know that many people in Thailand share the sorrow and prayers for Korea. We believe that we can give light for the people in sadness. We hope our music will be a light to them.”

It has never been clearer that for the band, their music is the message and nothing can stop it. And it is better appreciated live.

“Once you watch CNBLUE live, you can’t stop watching them live,” said “blueearth,” a fan from Singapore.

By Yasmin Lee, Asia News Network deputy editor