In the coronavirus age, livestream concerts have been split between staying grounded in a regular gig experience and boundary-pushing technology extravaganzas. Particularly in the K-pop world, it’s the latter that has ruled. Over the last 11 months, we’ve seen TWICE being transported around the globe by a VR taxi, SuperM nailing their choreography while digital tigers leap across the stage and BTS be suspended in space.
Ever ones to march to the beat of their own drum, though, BLACKPINK’s first foray into the virtual concert sphere eschews flashy extras for a more traditional live show. Performing from a studio in Seoul, the girl group are joined by their usual live band The Band Six and, while they’re clearly missing an audience full of Blinks, having this organic accompaniment beefs out both the sound and the atmosphere. If you forget the fact there’s no crowd noise, you could almost be watching footage of an in-person gig posted after the stage lights have gone down.
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Despite getting an energetic boost from their backing band, not every moment of The Show hits as hard as you would expect in a bouncing arena. Unfortunately, it’s largely the songs from last year’s ‘The Album’ that suffer – the fierce bombast of ‘How You Like That’ feels lacklustre here, while ‘Crazy Over You’ doesn’t make much of an impression. Even the infectious ‘Lovesick Girls’ falls a little short of what you would expect to be an anthemic highlight of the concert. Perhaps this is, in part, due to the fact that most of The Show isn’t actually live at all. Instead, there are several pre-recorded tracks, presumably done to help keep things slick while allowing for outfit changes and set swaps, but potentially also sacrificing some potency along the way.
Largely, though, BLACKPINK put on a concert that’s a joy to watch. The stage sets often stray into eye candy territory, like the glittering coves of a cave from where the group start ‘Don’t Know What To Do’ or the hall of mirrors decorated with fairy lights and neon bars that BLACKPINK vogue in front of for their Lady Gaga collaboration ‘Sour Candy’ (the pop superstar doesn’t make a virtual appearance). ‘DDU-DU DDU-DU’ is backlit by plumes of fire, while the quartet dance on water with a troupe of dancers, adding even more attitude to its scorching energy.
Each member of the band gets the chance to show off their skills in their own solo stage too. In the case of singer Jisoo and rapper Lisa, these involve covers of other artists’ songs with a fresh twist. Jisoo is up first, performing a version of Tove Lo’s ‘Habits (Stay High)’ that opens with a verse in Korean that BLACKPINK’s eldest member reportedly wrote herself. It’s a savvy song choice for her, one that lets her voice does what she does best – bring an intoxicating mix of drama and elegance to the track, accentuated even further by the couple dancing to the side of her set.
Lisa’s solo is more upbeat, an impressively choreographed take on Doja Cat’s ‘Say So’ that causes her bandmates to dub her “Liyoncé” later. It’s high praise that’s totally deserved – the rapper makes the track own, even before she gets to the verse she’s adapted herself.
For the remaining members of the group, their solos are all about originals. Rapper Jennie performs an updated version of her fittingly titled 2018 single ‘SOLO’. As well as a brand-new dance break, she also shares a refreshed verse that sees her coolly boast: “W, no Ls, covered W and Elle and there’s none left on the shelves / Get in trouble by myself, solo, oh well.”
Singer Rosé follows it with one of the most anticipated moments of The Show – a preview of her upcoming solo debut. After half of ‘Gone’, the B-side of the upcoming release, plays through a stylish music video, the camera cuts to the Australian member sitting on a white swing, an empty perch on one side of her and guitarist Justin Lyons on the other. It’s a simple but addictive piece of guitar pop and one that showcases Rosé’s direct, raw vocals. “Why’d you have to hit and run me? / Now I’m all alone crying ugly,” she sings in the emotional performance. “You broke my heart just for fun / Took my heart and just left me numb / Now it’s eight in the morning, hate in the morning.”
As well as poignant moments like this and a VCR set to ‘Stay’ that reflects on BLACKPINK’s past in-person concerts, it’s the points where the band get to loosen up and have fun that work best. Case in point is final song ‘Forever Young’, which opens with Lisa and Jisoo resting their heads adoringly on Jennie’s shoulders as she sings and ends with them giddily goofing around the stage.
Even when they’re in serious performance mode, it’s easy to see what The Show means to the group. When they were making ‘The Album’ and gearing up for its long-awaited release, they were probably expecting to be able to celebrate it with at least a concert, if not a full tour. The pandemic had other plans, though, and nearly scuppered this event too – it was originally meant to take place in December, but was postponed due to a spike in cases in Korea. “I hope everybody felt our presence because, in our minds, we’re there with everyone,” Rosé says towards the end of the show. The Show might not be flawless but, with it, BLACKPINK step into Blinks’ areas worldwide and leave an indelible mark.