Imagine a young group whose first-ever performance in North America plays out before a near-capacity crowd at Honda Center. That’s exactly the dream-gig scenario for Big Bang, a South Korean male quintet that thrilled an audience of mostly teen girls and twentysomething fans Friday night in Anaheim.
Formed in 2006, the well-marketed troupe has been expanding its brand since returning from a two-year hiatus in 2011 intent on reaching audiences beyond its native land and Japan, where the singing and dancing K-Pop sensation has racked up plenty of hits both together and via solo projects. Now the group, the sole Asian ensemble to win the World Act prize at the MTV Europe Music Awards, is on its first world tour, visiting 25 cities in 16 countries, including China, Thailand and Indonesia, plus a stop at the U.K.’s Wembley Arena.
For just under 2½ hours Friday night, the guys in Big Bang – G-Dragon, T.O.P., Taeyang, Daesung and Seungri – plus a dozen supporting dancers and a seven-member backing band (sadly positioned high above the stage and difficult to see) delivered an energetic, bombastic performance that had fans on their feet all night, screaming and cheering for more. And when they exhausted their material, they simply performed several of the most popular songs (including “Bad Boy”) again.
Like a long line of boy bands before it – from the Osmonds in the early ’70s to Duran Duran in the ’80s and Big Time Rush and One Direction this decade – Big Bang provides its youthful audience with a lively concert experience, evidenced by obviously thrilled fans from all over Southern California and elsewhere. Faced with only these dates or another pair in New Jersey next week, some admirers traveled from Las Vegas, Denver and further away to snap photos, hold up handmade signs proclaiming their affection for a favorite member and generally clamor for their heroes at one of these two Anaheim shows.
Among the most appealing songs of the night were the spirited dance track “Fantastic Baby” (with its “dan dan dan dan dance” chorus), the R&B-flavored “Lies” and the infectious pop of “Monster,” which segued perfectly into the modern urban groove of “Feeling.” In addition to the members’ vocal talents, the production for this Alive Galaxy Tour 2012 – designed by Laurieann Gibson, who helped concoct Lady Gaga’s Monster’s Ball dazzler – showcased sharp choreography and special effects like pyrotechnics, large video screens embedded in the stage, and platforms that lifted or lowered the gang on cue, all of which added to the larger-than-life impact.
Granted, there was little in the way of originality in Big Bang’s performance. But the West Coast debut proved to be a fun, well-executed show sure to please patient American fans who had waited years to see them in the flesh. And seeing as both of these Honda Center shows attracted such massive audiences, the aptly named group could soon expand its reach to more stateside points.
The bigger question – whether the group will create a more sophisticated and significant role in the musical universe, as Duran Duran ultimately did – will have to wait.