In a big week for K-pop Stateside, BLACKPINK’s history-making Coachella debut is as impressive as they come

The band made their mark on the Californian festival as the first all-female Korean group to perform there

It’s a huge week for K-pop Stateside. On the East Coast, BTS are preparing to make their debut appearance on SNL, beaming Korean music into the homes of millions of Americans. Over on the West Coast, BLACKPINK are doing something equally as massive – becoming the first all-female K-pop group to perform at Coachella, and doing so in a prime slot that saw them placed on the second line of the poster.

The four-piece’s performance tonight (April 12) is not only their first show at Coachella, but also their first proper US live set (they’ve only played once here before at a pre-Grammys industry party). As the lights on the Sahara stage dim to signal their arrival, it’s clear there’s plenty of Blinks – the collective name for their fans – waiting from the number of pink, heart-shaped lightsticks glowing in the crowd.

Those who’ve already been converted by the power of BLACKPINK and those who are curious what all the fuss is about aren’t left disappointed tonight. Right from the powerful starter ‘Ddu-du Ddu-du’, the band are in the kind of form that makes you wonder why this booking didn’t happen sooner. There are huge screams from the audience for every pop or strut of dynamic choreography, every time rappers Jennie and Lisa growl their lines with that bit more intensity than on record, every time singers Rosé and Jisoo nail their soaring melodies. The women on stage are clearly enjoying it as much as the people they’re performing for, too – their faces are an almost permanent display for broad, genuine grins, while, after ‘Whistle’, Jisoo gives Jennie a tap on the elbow and a giggle that seem to say, “Can you believe this is happening?”

For their big, history-making moment, the quartet are backed by a rock band who, for the most part, add some more oomph to the set. But after Jennie gives a solo rendition of her own track, the fittingly-titled ‘Solo’, they stray into cheesy territory, indulging in a blast of drawn-out riffs and jams while BLACKPINK regroup offstage. It’s the kind of filler that threatens to dilute the momentum that’s been building and would if it weren’t for it being immediately followed by a high-energy ‘Kill This Love’.

That track is one of the group’s latest to be released, forming the title track of their new EP, released last week (April 5). On record, its songs sometimes felt lacking but pumped full of the adrenaline of performance they fare much better. ‘Don’t Know What To Do’’s lazer synths prove to be the ultimate festival party-starter, while the chanted hook of ‘Kick It’ gives the band the chance to jump around and, in Rosé’s case, grab a pink cowboy hat that’s been chucked onstage.

Between songs, BLACKPINK deliver the kind of relaxed, giddy chatter that makes it feel as if you’ve stumbled into their rehearsal rather than a major festival set. If being completely badass hasn’t already won over the entire of Coachella’s hearts, then their endearing attempts at Mexican waves will finish the job off.

The group might be having fun, but they’re also aware of what tonight means, both for them and K-pop as a whole. “We’re from totally different worlds,” begins Rosé, getting serious for a second and referencing the contrasts in culture between the US and South Korea. “But we’ve learned so deeply tonight that music brings us together as one.” She makes the comments after a joyously attitude-filled ‘See U Later’, which boasts the sassy pay-off: “See you later/Maybe never.” With Coachella well and truly conquered, in BLACKPINK’s case, we’re going to be seeing a lot more of them and, on this showing, it’d be no shock to see them topping the whole bill in a few years time.

BLACKPINK played:

‘Ddu-du Ddu-du’
‘Forever Young’
‘Stay’
‘Whistle’
‘Kiss and Make Up’
‘Solo’
‘Kill This Love’
‘Don’t Know What to Do’
‘Kick It’
‘See U Later’
‘Playing with Fire’