“Love is nothing stronger” and more messages of acceptance and unity at BTS’s second Wembley performance of 2019
BTS are onto something incredible. Two consecutive nights at Wembley Stadium sold out in under two hours and still thousands more were left clamouring for tickets they couldn’t quite secure, with people travelling from all over Europe, and even outside of that, just for the chance to see them. The seven-part South Korean band have enjoyed a rapid rise in success in the past few years, even breaking their way onto American talk shows and British talent ones in more recent times, and I can say with absolute confidence that this is still only the beginning. Despite having been a fan for almost three years now this was to be my first time seeing them, and despite everything I thought I knew, nothing prepared me for the enormity of their success on the night of Sunday 2nd June.
The concert was meant to begin at 7:45pm with no opening act, but I found it actually started several hours before when we left the tube station and saw for the first time the wide avenue leading to Wembley and the hanging banners, each one adorned with a different members’ face. The concert began when I realised I was surrounded by tens of thousands of people who were here for the exact same reason that I was. It began when I queued for 30 minutes to have my photo taken with my friend in front of their poster. It began the first time I heard the roar of the crowd who were already inside, cheering for the music videos displayed on the big screens. It began when I first looked at the sheer size of the stadium and realised just what this meant.
The actual appearance of BTS was just as extravagant as to be expected. The music blared loud and the crowd managed to scream louder, tens of thousands of voices combined to welcome them for their second night, all the while a giant leopard was inflated behind the motionless band members. Their opening number Dionysus did not disappoint: the dance was as in sync as it could possibly have been, and every single note was hit perfectly as their complex routine was carried out, and while there were no actual standing tickets that stopped nobody, everyone from the floor to the highest rows far above was on their feet from the word ‘go’. Even where we were, sandwiched next to those standing shoulder to shoulder to us, and just one wrong step from tumbling down over the chairs in front of us, everybody was moving.
The solo performance of Euphoria, as sung by Jungkook, provided a gentle and magnificent contrast to the energy and bounce of J-Hope’s Trivia: Just Dance solo that had come before, and my friend and I watched with a mixture of awe and concern as Jungkook was strapped to a pole and hoisted, gracefully, into the air to fly above the heads of those standing below him. Not once while he was in mid-air did he miss a beat or hit an off note, there was no strain in his voice, and he glided far above as if he had wings of his own. Following this, BTS reunited on stage for Best of Me, and during this performance, golden and silver streamers exploded from the stage and rained down on those beside them and made me wish more than ever that I was down there with them so I could reach up and catch one.
For a moment later in the concert we were treated to a break in the music where the seven members joked around on stage, waved their microphones and shouted Harry Potter spells (some of which I’m sure definitely weren’t J.K. Rowling official), and made attempts at niche English slang phrases. I along with everyone else in the stadium laughed, and relied on the big screen to show me their faces.
V’s solo performance of Singularity began with him lying back on a bed, eyes closed before the music began and they snapped open. Then, he took to the stage in a performance that was both fast and slow. I was taken back by his weightlessness, and by the way he could move across the stage as delicately as if he were walking only on the very tips of his toes. Had the stadium been in absolute silence and I had been standing next to him I don’t think I would even have heard a sound. Jin’s solo Epiphany was equally as stunning for different reasons. He began his song sat at a piano before he too moved to centre stage where he brought the entire audience together to harmonise with his sweet, clear voice. It was his long, high notes, and the gentleness and melody of the hypnotic “I’m the one I should love in this world” to “so I love me” that had everyone swaying and singing in a chorus that almost moved me to tears. From where I was standing it was beautiful; I hope it was for him.
Every single thing that BTS do on stage has to be planned and rehearsed down to the last second, and this is so clear when you watch them. Their dances are complex, especially when you factor in the 10 or more backup dancers that also need to perform on the same stage, and when you factor in the numerous and sometimes risky set pieces – such as a bouncy castle – that need to be manoeuvred with. On top of this, they need to know when the camera will be on them, when they’ll need to move from one place to another, and where everyone else is at the same time. When you take this into consideration it is easy to understand how every other little thing they do could also be seen as rehearsed as well, how every wave or smile or giggle during their speeches could possibly be practised too.
There was one moment when I felt this idea was truly broken. After each member had given their speeches, each member taking out their earpieces so they could hear us call out to them in a touching sentiment, the crowd burst into song, singing for them the chorus to their Young Forever. This was a surprise for them that had been organised by their management, a secret that we had been let in on maybe half an hour previously, and as the tens of thousands of voices joined together, we watched them on the big screen as they became tearful. It felt truly genuine, raw. When they spoke again, they spoke with wavering voices and cheeks a little bit shinier than they had been before, as did we. For their final song, Mikrokosmos, the entire audience was illuminated by the coordinated light of Army Bombs and phone torches and under the dark sky, we created for them a bright yellow sea.
Something I only came to understand completely once I saw them live was the incredible power that BTS have to unite people. They promote messages of love, self-acceptance, and forgiveness, both in their songs and in their speeches to the crowd, and I could not help but remember how the Army Bombs had shone in rainbow lights when they had talked about the importance of loving one another. I had sat next to a father and his young daughter, and on our other side had been a young woman who had come alone but quickly made friends with the people behind her. The community of fans was vast and diverse and loving, and there had never been a moment where I felt out of place. Never before have I seen a group of fans quite like the ones I saw that night, and I’ve never quite seen a band like BTS before, either.