“There’s magic in everything, with chaos to even things out,” a gravelly male voice says over a montage of Jackson Wang’s live performances and highly-stylised videos. Although the footage features several lines of magic-themed narration, as the Hong Kong-born singer and member of K-pop group GOT7 prepares to take to the stage, this one feels the most fitting tone-setter for what’s about to happen.
Wang’s ‘Magic Man’ show is spellbinding and artful from the second he appears high above the stage in a lift filled with dry ice that he regularly takes to the floor and back up again. Pyrotechnics blaze across the front of his platform, while a troupe of backing dancers flank him through addictive and sensual choreographies to the likes of ‘Go Ghost’ and ‘Drive You Home’. The production value here is so high that the show often feels outsized for the 5,000-capacity Hammersmith Apollo, demanding the sprawling reaches of an arena or stadium instead.
Tonight’s gig might be grand, but it also packs plenty of heart. Each song, from the slinky ‘Champagne Cool’ to an emotional rendition of ‘Bullet To The Heart’, is buoyed by the performer’s visceral passion. Wang tells the crowd that the show is designed to tell a story of his struggles and show the real him, as he did on the ‘Magic Man’ album. He does so over four acts, and the second – marked by the word “abandon” on the screens – sees his dancers don hooded cloaks and clamour, arms outstretched, at the back of the stage, ready to greet him as he returns in his lift. There could be a double meaning to the gesture: the ominous figures either seeing him as prey to be captured and toyed with, or showing complete reverence for him.
Wang gives impassioned speeches to the audience throughout, encouraging them to “find your magic”. He scorns at the idea that entertainers and artists should be put on a pedestal (“That’s just wrong”) and derides “media bullshit” about China. “If you travel to China one time, you’ll feel like, ‘Damn, this is a dope place’,” he asserts to big cheers.
Chaos slowly seeps into proceedings as the show progresses, be that the crowd’s reaction when Wang picks two women from the crowd to serenade and dance with during the swooning ‘I Love You 3000’ and the soft ‘80s pop of ‘Dead’, or as he glugs from a bottle before screaming “London, let’s go!”, liquor spilling from his lips as he does so. An emphatic ‘Blow’ feels like the natural end of the concert, only for Wang to return to stage in an orange hoodie moments later, Galantis collaboration ‘Pretty Please’ and remixes of ‘Magic Man’ tracks booming from the PA, turning the Apollo into an after-hours club.
It’s a sweet ending – creating the kind of party that Wang often says he wants to find after a show – but diffuses the explosive impact of what’s come before. Much like some of the show’s production elements – the repetitive use of the lift gets a bit same-y at some points – it feels like it would benefit from taking place in a much larger venue. If the ‘Magic Man’ tour shows anything, though, it’s that despite his insistence tonight he’ll disappear in “five or 10 years”, the only way for Jackson Wang right now is up.
Jackson Wang played:
‘I Don’t Have It’
‘Just Like Magic’
‘All The Way’
‘Bullet To The Heart’
‘Drive You Home’
‘I Love You 3000’
‘Drive It Like You Stole It’
‘100 Ways (Remix)’