Concert recap: BTS lives up to the massive hype with 'Map of the Soul ON:E'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Oct 12 2020 05:25 PM

BTS is currently the most popular South Korean boy band in the US, and probably the whole world. Their debut single album "2 Cool 4 Skool" was released in 2013 in Korea, and from that year onward, they had been steadily building up their loyal fan base called the Army with members from all over the world. 

I first heard of them only when they hit it big on the US charts in 2018 with two No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200: their third studio album "Love Yourself: Tear" and their compilation album "Love Yourself: Answer." That same year, their singles "Fake Love" and "Idol" reached No. 10 and No. 11 respectively on the Billboard Hot 100.

BTS is composed of 7 members, but I did not really know each one by name before. I had watched their recent Tiny Desk concert on YouTube last September 2020, and noted that each one carried a microphone of a different color which also corresponded to the colors of their earpieces, so that was how I identified them. They are RM (blue), Jin (pink), Suga (black), J-Hope (red), Jimin (gold), V (green), and Jungkook (purple). 

I had no idea that BTS was having an online concert until an FB friend who watched the first day last Saturday, October 10, encouraged me to go check out the second day of the concert Sunday afternoon. She sent me instructions on how to book a ticket (good for two devices) to the concert from the Weverse app, which I tried but could not figure out. Fortunately, my daughter, who was a big K-pop fan, was able to score a ticket for us at the last minute. 

The whole concert began with a video of the boys all donning their red hoods in a desert with a crag of rock jutting out from the sand. This would transition onto a live stage where they opened the show with a performance of their 2020 song "On" (a No. 4 song on the Hot 100) with a platoon of masked backup dancers. Then, they performed two of their earliest hits from 2013, "N.O" and "We Are Bulletproof Pt. 2." 

There was a video interlude with closeups of the boys, while the stage was set up for the first solo number called "Intro : Persona" featuring RM (or Kim Namjoon) who was the recognized leader and spokesman of BTS. He delivered his strong rap number from behind a lectern, as if delivering a political campaign speech. That hanging mic he used that burst into flame when he threw it into the air was a cool gimmick.

The other guys later joined him to sing "Boy In Luv" (2014, not to be confused with the 2019 hit "Boy WITH Luv") with a building in flames behind them. After the song, all the members individually addressed their fans in Korean language. At first, there were no English subtitles, so I could not understand what they were saying. Fortunately, the later speeches would eventually have these much-needed subtitles. After their introductory messages, they performed "Dionysus" (2019), with the building ruins behind them lit in green.

After another video of the boys posing and modeling, it was Suga's turn to show off his rap skills in his solo spot "Interlude : Shadow." Suga had a quick costume change from white to black ensemble as his hooded dancers surrounded him. Then the other guys got back together with him in a smooth transition to perform another 2020 single "Black Swan" with an underwater kelp forest-like backdrop, which concluded in a balletic solo dance by Jimin.

With a major set change, the three rappers Suga, RM and J-Hope came out donning satin boxing robes to perform the highly energetic hiphop number "UGH!" After this, the other four guys, Jin, Jimin, V and Jungkook, rendered a dramatic "00:00 (Zero O’Clock)" number, wearing white outfits, with a giant digital clock display and winter scenery behind them. 

There was another video montage of the boys, which concluded with Jungkook in a room full of clocks. This segued into his solo number "My Time" which had him dressed in fiery red dancing under a spotlight, first alone, then with four dancers in black. The next was Jimin's solo number "Filter" in a white room with TV monitors and mannequins where he danced ala Michael Jackson. Jin had his turn next with the song "Moon" where he began singing on a replica of the moon with huge red flower growing on it. The next number of this set was "Inner Child" by V, in an elaborate set with a giant suspended carousel, with a little boy riding on one of the horses with him.

There was another video montage of images of the boys, after which J-Hope performed the final solo number "Outro : EGO" with a red classic convertible and four ATVs on stage. This was followed by the first song I was actually familiar with in this whole show -- their No. 8 US hit "Boy With Luv" which they sang carrying transparent umbrellas. After this song, the guys were already expressing their initial thanks and goodbyes, but like it was in a regular concert, of course there would be more to come. 

The next three high energy numbers -- "DNA" (2017), "Dope" (2015) and their very first single "No More Dream" (2013) -- were performed with elaborate computer-generated sets like a floating stage, a moving elevator or bursts of fireworks to make things more visually interesting. Then, the boys stood in front of massive video walls which showed a multitude of Army (mostly female) cheering them on their webcams while watching the concert live. With that background, they performed "Spring Day" (2017), "Idol" (2018) and their recent Hot 100 No. 1 hit song "Dynamite" (2020). 

Each one of the boys addressed their fans again individually to thank them for their support and express their hopes to be able to perform live once again with them. The live audience was really the missing factor in this concert, as their fangirl energy could not really transmit very well through their Zoom screens, even if they were frantically waving their light sticks and balloons. Their loud screams and fan chants are very much part of this and any K-pop concert and they were much missed in this online concert experience. 

The boys sang their final number "We Are Bulletproof : the Eternal" before walking back to the desert set and they bid their final farewells on the same massive rocky crag set piece where the whole concert began.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."