BTS bring the ‘Love Yourself’ era to a close with powerful and moving homecoming show in Seoul

The Korean band held a run of three sold-out nights at Seoul's Olympic Stadium to close this chapter of their story

As the sun sets behind the curved edge of Seoul’s Olympic Stadium tonight (October 29), pastel hues of pink, blue, and purple brush against each other in the sky, mirroring the artwork of BTS’ 2018 album ‘Love Yourself: Answer’. It’s a fitting tapestry to hang over the venue tonight where, down below, the seven-piece Korean group are about to bring the ‘Love Yourself’ era to a close with the last of three sold-out hometown shows.

This chapter in BTS’ story so far has undoubtedly been their most powerful. When they stood on this same stage last August at the very beginning of the ‘Love Yourself’ world tour, they were already a force to be reckoned with – one that was troubling the charts in the States and selling out arenas across the globe. But in the 430 days since those first two shows, they’ve gone on a journey from a big deal to the biggest one around, breaking records and making history at a pace no one else can keep up with. They’ve topped the charts in the US and UK, sold out iconic venues like Wembley Stadium and Stade de France, and become the most talked-about band on the planet thanks to their music, message, and dedicated fans.

With those achievements and more glittering on the path behind them, tonight is obviously going to be emotional. Their annual “muster” fan meetings aside, these three shows are the first time BTS have held their own concerts in Korea since kicking off the tour, making it something of a jubilant homecoming. The excitement of ARMYs in Seoul is palpable as soon as you step off the train at Jamsil – the subway is swarming with fans of all ages as they gather to film videos of the band members on a giant screen, take photos with a timeline of singer Jungkook’s career so far that takes up entire walls of the corridor, or just hurry to get out and into the thick of the action. Outside the stadium, they swap photo cards and stickers and hand out homemade packages to fellow fans in the spirit of communion. Inside, the cheers for the music videos shown before the gig’s start grow louder and more passionate as stage time draws nearer.

The arrival of a red-bathed VCR that could double as a high-fashion advert on the screens either side of the stage means it’s BTS o’clock. After the cinematic prelude, a dark LED curtain raises along the length of the stage to reveal a digital Grecian palace with two giant inflatable panthers looming over the band and their dancers. As with every other date on the ‘Speak Yourself’ tour extension, ‘Dionysus’ gets things going in boisterous form before ‘Not Today’ puts an us-against-the-world spin on the aggressive start.

A fixture of the ‘Love Yourself’ tour has been each member performing their own solo song, each with its own unique but equally enthralling stage production. Tonight is likely the last time we’ll get to see these performances (Jin basically confirms as much later) and, for the occasion, new VCRs have been made. These fresh clips feel more befitting for a band who’ve grown so much in the last 14 months – still playful, still cute (apart from V’s, whose could also serve as his audition to be cast in a haunting noir thriller), but more mature.

The performances that follow each show similar progression too. J-hope’s ‘Trivia: Just Dance’ has never been more powerful than when he’s hopping from moving neon block to moving neon block in a cherry-red suit and mint-tinted glasses. Jungkook’s ‘Euphoria’ receives hushed reverence until he’s strapped to a black pole and sent on one final angelic flight around the stadium’s sky, physically reaching the highs a BTS concert makes you feel. Jimin’s ‘Serendipity’ is another chance to watch a lyrical dancer write poetry with his movements, the bubbles weaving between the crowd making it feel like we’re all in the snow globe the singer is encased in when he appears on stage. RM’s ‘Trivia: Love’ comes backed with an upgrade on the fancy on-screen graphics debuted this summer, including one bit where the word “love” appears in different languages, housed inside the ARMY logo. It’s stunning to look at, but so is his performance without these tricks – a masterclass in commanding a huge stage as just one person.

Later, V has the entire stadium in the palm of his hand in ‘Singularity’, each move as he acts as if he’s just woken up in bed wearing a raven-feathered cloak so precise and deliberate, each stare to the camera smouldering and intense. Suga puts in perhaps his finest performance of ‘Trivia: Seesaw’ yet, reminding the world he has more strings to his bow than just rapper and producer, while Jin does away with his piano on ‘Epiphany’ and puts the focus on his phenomenal voice instead, producing chills that no BTS x Fila blanket (each seat in the stadium is adorned with one to keep fans warm) can ward off.

As the show progresses, so the band’s natural goofiness begins to push itself more and more into the spotlight until the encore, which, as tradition now dictates, sees things hit their dorkiest peak. Now clad in their own merch, BTS pull fingerhearts out of cross-body bags like postmen delivering the most precious of Valentines. They jump around on an updated version of this summer’s bouncy slide during ‘Anpanman’, buoyantly headbang their way through ‘So What’, and conduct ARMY bomb waves as if this is their first time seeing the lightsticks change colour across the venue in synchronicity. It’s beautiful silly and infectiously fun, and enough to win over even the most cynical sourpuss.

As well as being known for their giddy chaos, BTS shows also have a habit of being incredibly poignant too. Tonight, the band have made their own banners with a message for their fans – a reverse of what ARMYs create for the group at every show. “ARMY are the stars embroidered across the BTS galaxy,” reads the slogan the seven members proudly hold over their heads after ‘Make It Right’. Before the encore, another VCR looks back on the ‘Love Yourself’ era, with close-up shots of each member looking at the camera. They’re silent but their sincere gratitude shines through their eyes and their soft smiles.

Then there are the ending speeches. Jin has to turn his back on the crowd for a minute to regain his composure during his, tears sparkling in his eyes, while RM breaks down in sobs as he reflects on the last couple of years. “I wish there was a better word than love,” he concludes between heaving breaths. “But I truly love you.” The members who don’t cry are just as moving, particularly Jimin. After comparing dancing to feeling like he’s in another place, he adds: “I think the moment when I’m with you guys is like that as well. I feel like I’m in a different world and I feel happy all the time. Thank you for making us another world.”

Minutes later, as if to reinforce his point, 300 drones form the shape of planets and the BTS and ARMY logos as the band sing an emotional ‘Mikrokosmos’ below. Lit up in purple, it’s like watching a star system be pulled by gravity towards BTS’ own planet, and a moment that’s only rivalled for position as the icing on the night’s cake by the slew of fireworks that conquer the sky much like the band have conquered the world.

“This concert is final but it’s also another start,” Suga notes wisely earlier in the night. Right now, no one outside of BTS’ camp knows for sure what that start will be and what will come next. Whatever it is though, you can bet it will be even bigger and even better than the highest of their highs so far.

BTS played:

‘Not Today’
‘Trivia: Just Dance’

‘Trivia: Love’
‘Boy With Luv’
‘Burning Up (Fire)’
‘Fake Love’
‘Trivia: Seesaw’
‘The Truth Untold’
‘Mic Drop’
‘So What’
‘Make It Right’

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