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[Herald Review] BTS’ Bang Bang Con The Live: Nothing short of real-life intimacy

Even for BTS, long accustomed to sold-out stadium tours, an online streaming concert using its own platform was a whole new level of experience.

“Today, it’s even harder to perform than usual maybe because there’s no eye-to-eye contact, energy and screaming from you guys,” addressed band leader RM during Sunday’s “Bang Bang Con: The Live” concert livestreamed from a luxury hotel in Incheon.

The absence of ear-splitting screams from fervent concertgoers, which BTS would have missed most, definitely seemed hard on the bandmates. But they cleverly made the best of it and found a surefire way to fill in the void: bringing fans unprecedented intimacy and a closeness they’ve been craving. 

BTS (Big Hit Entertainment)
BTS (Big Hit Entertainment)
The concert enabled fans to choose their favorite angle from six screens that were available on the same display. Coordinated by US streaming service Kiswe Mobile, which has also worked with the NBA and PGA Tour, the multiview screaming wasn’t exactly of the highest quality, and it sometimes had an unstable connection. But it served its purpose, inviting viewers close enough to see and feel musicians’ sweat running down their cheeks and heavy breathing that clearly translated to speakers.

The 100-minute session, consisting of 12 hits, was held throughout six rooms and on two stages, across which BTS seamlessly moved back and forth. With “bang” being the Korean word for “room,” RM rushed through a purple door and onto the first stage with bandmates, belting out, “Welcome. This is your first time to Bang Bang Con, right?”

As they kicked off with the boisterous “Dope,” the real-time chat screen flooded with comments from all over the world and the virtual Army fan group bomb at the corner of the screen sparkled. As viewers clicked the icon, it was reflected on a virtual map that showed locations of fans watching the show.

During “Dope,” the bandmates danced atop a black hole that sucked up shattering glass, while the screen turned grainy like an old TV when Suga and RM performed “Respect” in retro outfits. With “I Like It,” they got more immersive by shooting themselves singing a sweet serenade with their individual cellphones while carrying around selfie sticks. 

(Big Hit Entertainment)
(Big Hit Entertainment)
And the fan-favorite moment came in “Boy With Luv,” when the stage walls, made of hundreds of color-changing Army bombs, twinkled to the upbeat melody while the BTS members performed with LED umbrellas. It was as if BTS was dancing with fans all over the world -- a beautiful scene to watch.

Due to the shortened set list and running time, the show felt bittersweet with mixed feelings. But BTS didn’t forget to fill in the gaps with the group’s usual quips on a living room sofa, making an intimate eye contact with viewers. The bandmates also assured fans that their connection transcends spatial barriers, shouting out, “We can hear you guys screaming from all over the world!” 

(Big Hit Entertainment)
(Big Hit Entertainment)
Excitement continued, as the bandmates gave sneak peeks of “Ugh!” and “Zero O’Clock,” two songs from their latest “Map of the Soul: 7” album, which they plan to showcase in upcoming tours. V and Jimin also displayed their duet song “Friends” for the first time while decked out in charcoal-gray school uniforms, and the group went on to perform “Black Swan” beneath mysteriously tangled plants and “Go” in a Korean traditional palace set.

After performing “Anpanman,” which saw a huge inflated Army bomb-shaped Anpanman floating over the stage, the musicians grabbed microphones to express gratitude to fans for enduring the difficult time together. 

(Big Hit Entertainment)
(Big Hit Entertainment)
“Today, after wearing all this makeup, the hairdos, microphones and in-ears in a very long time, I once again realized that this is what I do. I feel so happy performing and sweating like this,” said J-Hope.

Jimin added, “We’ve been trying to grow up and overcome this time. I hope you can also find something that can make you happy at this difficult time and let’s meet again with smiling faces.”

Also thanking the group’s fans, Suga and V promised to meet again in the future, while Jungkook said, “I hope this could be the start of something new.”

RM chimed in and said, “Honestly, I’m afraid that this might be the new form of a concert. I have fears. But still, we are the people who can only achieve things with your support and live by giving you hope and happiness. Starting from this concert, we will do as much as we can do. It was great to perform with my friends (bandmates) after so long.”

The bandmates gleefully chanted their own names for the encore and wrapped up the show with “Spring Day,” with RM adding, “I’m sure that a spring day will return to BTS and Army.”

The concert was played by over 756,600 viewers from a total of 107 countries and regions around the globe, becoming the biggest pay-per-view online music event in the world.

By Hong Dam-young (lotus@heraldcorp.com)
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