Illuminated by pulsing, coloured strobe lights, the gargantuan stage gates steadily open to unveil the 11 members of SEVENTEEN, looming over the arena atop a descending platform as they gaze at the cameras with a commanding tenor. Piped-in roars from an otherwise absent crowd grow as the boyband make their way onto the stage. “You’re my crush,” the empathic first line of ‘Crush’ reverberates from the venue through each screen as tension builds.
August 2019 marked the overture of what would have been SEVENTEEN’s biggest world tour to date – the 13-piece had announced 30 dates for their ‘Ode To You’ tour for cities across Asia, North America and Europe, a global trek set to span for a whopping six months. Regrettably, the pandemic had begun to creep up on the group as the tour entered its final throes, forcing a handful of gigs to be prematurely cancelled and hard-earned tickets to be refunded.
‘Power Of Love’ should have been their glorious return to a raucous crowd of thousands nearly two years since the untimely conclusion of ‘Ode To You’, though that’s not how things worked out. “We thought we were going to meet you [in person],” Woozi admits as the show begins to wrap up. But if it wasn’t clear before that an online concert would do little to dampen the spirits of K-pop’s most exuberant boyband, day one of their ‘Power Of Love’ concert would go on to make that fact as explicitly clear as it possibly could.
As soon as they make their grand entrance, the group kick off the three-hour-long show post-haste. The sprawling stage can barely contain the boyband, as they seamlessly shift through elaborately designed sets (and an actual bridge) to bring to life the stories behind a setlist that’s a near-perfect culmination of the old and new. Familiar favourites like ‘Fast Pace’, ‘Check In’ and ‘Beautiful’ are nostalgic echoes from SEVENTEEN’s first three years together yet they offer a twist – their 2021 reiterations incorporate intricate, never-before-seen choreography, instrumentals and verses that inject new life into these proverbial classics.
Even the more recent fan favourites were given a refresh. There’s ‘Clap’, from their second studio album ‘Teen, Age’, duly ushered in by a rousing electric guitar solo artfully executed by Woozi that expands on the defiant spirit of the original. It truly puts the “power” in ‘Power Of Love’, as S.Coups picks up where Woozi left off by dominating the stage with their signature mantra against a backdrop of amplified guitar riffs: “SEVENTEEN right here!” Meanwhile, they opt for a softer approach on ‘Home’ after fluidly transitioning from the feathery ending notes of ‘I Wish’. It plays out against layers of wistful, almost psychedelic synthesisers in place of snappy EDM beats while the members of SEVENTEEN take on a more laid-back performance style, with members spread out across the stage. It blends smoothly with the performance prior, with traces of ‘I Wish’’s own instrumentation sneaking their way in during a brief moment of respite in the song’s bridge.
As is expected from any SEVENTEEN concert, the three Teams of the group dedicated to Hip-Hop, Vocal and Performance are given their own time to shine. ‘GAM3 BO1’, the Hip-Hop unit’s track from the ‘Your Choice’ mini-album quickly becomes one of the show’s most memorable, with S.Coups, Vernon, Mingyu and Wonwoo dialing the energy up to 11 on the hyperpop-tinged song – the joy they experience from being on stage is pronounced and exceptionally infectious. On the other hand, the Vocal Team (Jeonghan, Woozi, Seungkwan, DK and Joshua) take it slow with two ballads that do the utmost justice to their silky smooth voices and harmonisation, ‘Pinwheel’ and ‘Imperfect Love’. They giddily serenade the fans, officially named Carats, through dizzying professions of devotion.
In place of a Performance Team segment (more on that later), both Dino and Hoshi are privy to a solo spotlight each. The latter performed his debut solo mixtape ‘Spider’ live for the first time, becoming an immediate stand-out with his innovative use of monkey bars that propels the choreography forward and a brand-new dance break added to its bridge. However, it’s really Dino, the maknae of SEVENTEEN, who steals the limelight with an unreleased song titled ‘Last Order’. Here, he lives up to his reputation as an all-rounder – he switches between soaring vocals and unyielding raps with ease, all while nailing a fierce choreography. He’s clearly in his comfort zone throughout ‘Last Order’, delivering his performance with an unwavering aura of passion for his craft.
However, one thing missing from ‘Power Of Love’ – aside from a live audience – is most glaringly the absence of Chinese members The8 and Jun, who have returned to their home country for the remainder of the year. The stage SEVENTEEN grace this evening feels almost empty without the two, who make up half of the Performance Team. The remaining 11 members of the group undoubtedly try their best to make up for the vacancy left in the wake of The8 and Jun, by carrying around personalised fans of the pair during select performances and broadcasting a quick video call with the duo, who had been watching the livestream from Jun’s home in China. In spite of their absence, the unadulterated spirit that can only come from SEVENTEEN remains the same, unassailable and unparalleled in all its glory.
“This is how it all ends,” S.Coups says between gasps for air after nearly three hours of performances running at a relentlessly rapid pace. “We’ve been working so hard [for this concert] for a long time. I think all of it was worth it.” There’s a bittersweetness to his final address to the online crowd: “If you guys were here with us, we’d be even happier. I believe we can meet in person really soon.” Live performances have always been SEVENTEEN’s area of expertise thanks to their unflagging vigour and stage presence as a group, so to have such a spectacular setlist be met with a physically empty arena is undoubtedly disheartening. Despite that, the fiery atmosphere only they can bring is unmistakable even at home – we can only hope that we’ll soon be able to bask in it in person (and with all 13 members) as we enter a post-pandemic age.
‘Ready To Love’
‘Crazy In Love’
‘Rock With You’
‘Thinkin’ About You’
‘Left & Right’
‘All My Love’