“Is this a concert or a festival?” asks SEVENTEEN’s resident showman DK on Saturday (July 22), gesturing to the two sides of the cavernous Gocheok Sky Dome stadium, seemingly weighing the options. It’s a third of the way through day two of their Seoul concerts, and the powerhouse singer is reprising his role as emcee for a vaudeville-esque segment. In booming stereo, he lands on an emphatic answer: “A show you’ve never seen before!”
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He’s not lying: when the thirteen-piece band step on stage, you’re in for a show like no other. An outgrowth of the creative autonomy they’ve flexed since day one, and the level of comfort the band has built with one another over the span of a decade, attending a SEVENTEEN show feels like being let in on an inside joke. Between all the bangers and ballads, of which there are many in the three-and-a-half hours, their chemistry leaves room for much delightful spontaneity.
Take their mid-show prank on Mingyu, for example – the members toss furtive glances toward each other during ‘Left & Right’, missing cues, all for the mischievous joy of catching out the unaware rapper, who unbeknownst to him, is the only one who dances the mock choreo. As always, it’s all in good fun: In the following song, Mingyu does the fake moves over and over with a bashful grin.
Missing from the chaos tonight, however, is member Seungkwan’s exuberance and wit (not to mention vocal virtuosity), as the singer is currently on hiatus. These are big shoes to fill, and in ‘Dust’ and ‘Pinwheel’, DK pulls double duty, his warm lower register a devastating contrast to Woozi’s airy soprano and Jeonghan and Joshua’s gentler tones.
In suave suits, Hoshi, Jun, The8 and Dino then hit the stage with a rocked-out version of ‘Highlight’, prompting loud gasps with their swift magnetism. Later, they lose their ties for the undeniably sexy ‘I Don’t Understand But I Luv U’, clavicles on full display through the lidded gazes and body rolls.
Sirens announce the Hip-Hop unit’s raucous set, bouncing between madcap brag raps ‘Back It Up’ and ‘Fire’. Putting up a cocky front, S.Coups, Wonwoo, Mingyu and Vernon track their long road to success (“Made it this far, got nothing to prove / Just look back at our footprints”) and take stock of where they are now: “Been touring domes now, haven’t you heard now?” Vernon raps in English, arcing his finger up toward the roof overhead.
You could see that growth in the confidence and swagger of opening trifecta of ‘Super’, ‘Don Quixote’ and ‘Clap’, which immediately set the bar as high as maestro Woozi on his elevated rig (He gets the most definitive mic drop of the whole night, only one song in). Or in the fluid, breathtaking choreo of throwback classics ‘Don’t Wanna Cry’ and ‘Thanks’, in which their twelve bodies unfurl in a wave of sinuous motion, as if a single entity. Crowd-pleasers ‘Anyone’ and ‘Good To Me’ also lay bare the transformation of boys to men.
The pièce de résistance of their showmanship is the extended version of ‘Hot’, which set the stadium ablaze by soliciting screams of “Hot, hot, hot” from the audience, before the charismatic, composed Dino rips off his jacket and careens into the high-energy finale: a runaway train of an encore, that, by the end, has the members panting into their mics.
Energy is the word of the night – and, for once, the fans may have SEVENTEEN beat in that department. A visibly tired Jeonghan flops around like a human cheer-o-meter (“Everyone please raise him up!”) and, as a nod to Seungkwan in his absence, Mingyu and the crowd take turns bandying an invisible orange back and forth, growing in size with each pass, until it’s so large the rapper falls flat on his back at its enormous, pretend weight.
“I think as we age, our stamina seems to decrease,” enigmatic dancer Jun confesses near the end of the concert, before shooting a quick “Sorry!” to the older members. But, even if the group doesn’t have the physical resilience they once did, the abiding energy of the fans in the room feeds their inner fire, Jun says. It echoes a sentiment he conveyed the day before: “When I think about it, I have found my sun, and that is all of you.”
And, after night one was cut short due to the stadium’s curfew, today became the day to leave everything on the stage, and in the stands. In what can only be described as an exhaustive battle of endurance between artist and audience, SEVENTEEN send off the show by jumping, bounding through the aisles, and belting high notes through what must be a record number of ‘Aju Nice’s (15, to be precise).
“We won’t let you go home tonight,” Woozi teases early on, and it’s a statement Carats, the name for SEVENTEEN’s fans, clearly take to heart, shouting “Hanbeon deo!” (“One more time!”) through even the members’ final bows – the first one, the second one, and then the third and real final bow, after a couple more rounds of ‘Aju Nice’ in between for good measure.
The atmosphere is like that all night long, everyone slowly catching their bearings after a punishingly hot and humid Friday – this is, after all, the first Seoul summer for some who came from afar. Outside the stadium doors, strangers conversed eagerly in a medley of languages; inside, the cheers whenever members spoke in their native Mandarin or English were deafening.
“You all have your own lives, and yet you came here from far away,” Woozi says in his sincere ending speech. But it’s less about the distance traveled individually than the memories created together. It’s that intangible feeling that lasts a lifetime. “Even though it can’t be seen with our eyes,” he continues, “it’s a happiness that was carried here.”
Close to the end of the night, the members hop into motorized carts to make their rounds around the stadium floor, performing ‘Run to You’ and ‘To You’ directly to the fans. “Then I can find you,” they sing in harmony with the crowd. “Who cares if it’s a bit far?” Certainly not the thousands looking out at the scene in shared rapture. Like whatever journey they’d been on to get here, it had been worth it and more.
‘Don’t Wanna Cry’
‘F*ck My Life’
‘I Don’t Understand But I Luv U’
‘Back It Up’
‘Left & Right’
‘Good to Me’
‘Run to You’