Last December, SPIN traveled to Seoul, South Korea, to begin reporting for Seoul Trained, an extensive magazine feature on K-pop. Our first night was spent at the Olympic Gymnastics Arena where YG Entertainment — home to PSY, 2NE1, BigBang, Tablo, Jinusean, and more — was celebrating their fifteenth birthday with a “Family Concert” showcase. At the time, Big Bang, arguably Korea’s most forward-leaning boy band, hadn’t performed together in months, their leader G-Dragon having become embroiled in a rare marijuana scandal a year earlier. But the mood that night was one of triumph, BigBang (and G-Dragon in particular) both humbled by the warm reception and contrite in their apologies. And nearly a year later, after both the surprise success of PSY, and the launch of their Alive Tour, in support of their new full-length of the same name, they arrived as headliners in the United States with something they hadn’t quite rediscovered the last time we saw them: swagger.
On Friday night in Hurricane Sandy-ravaged New Jersey, we sat down with all five members before they stepped out in front of a sold-out crowd at Prudential Arena for the second night of a two-stand. “We are curious to know what you will think of the show,” T.O.P. told us. “I think you will see the ‘BigBang color.'” We did. Emerging from cryogenic chambers just after eight, the fivesome proceeded to sprint through two hours of hits and costume changes, through a set that included studded, leather-upholstered Segways, artificial snow, and ample attention to each member’s solo work. G-Dragon — the group’s creative core and a guy whom bandmate Seungri deemed “a genius” and personal hero twice between songs — was particularly impressive when on his own, further embracing his semi-adopted stance as Korea’s Kanye West by taking on a bit of West’s vocal grain when performing (that and a pair of his Air Yeezy 2 sneakers) cuts from his recently released One of a Kind EP. Catch some glimpses of the action that night as well as some insights from the band on both PSY, Kanye and new band favorite, Miguel.