BTS Kick Off Illuminating World Tour at Rose Bowl

BY CAT ABANO

Complete with flying rigs, fireworks, inflatable cheetahs and bouncy slides, pop sensation BTS brought down the house this weekend with two sold-out shows at California’s Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

PHOTO: BTS /  Twitter

PHOTO: BTS / Twitter

The shows kicked off the South Korean boy group’s first-ever global stadium tour, which has sold out in every city they are visiting -- a testament to their ever-growing popularity in the West. This is the second leg of the group’s “Love Yourself” tour, which concluded in the U.S. in October to a sold-out crowd at New York’s Citi Field -- BTS’ first-ever stadium show in America.

“The last time I was at Rose Bowl was for One Direction,” says Claudia Villarreal, 24. Villarreal runs the @1DLiveUpdates Twitter account, which had nearly two hundred thousand followers at its peak. “It’s surreal that BTS is here now. Rose Bowl has housed a number of A-list performers in the past, including U2, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Jay-Z, and Eminem. BTS has joined their rankings by bringing out an estimated 52,000 fans to each night at the venue.

The set began with “Dionysus,” straight off of BTS’ latest release “Map of the Soul: Persona”, dropped in April. A high-energy rock and hip-hop track, “Dionysus” got every member of BTS’ Army on their feet, waving their $60 Army Bomb light sticks along to the beat.

The light sticks are something singular to K-Pop, with each group having its own special design. BTS gave fans the chance to create a show of their own with the spherical bomb-shaped lights, which could be synced to their seat location using Bluetooth and controlled remotely by production crew. During one of the last songs, “Anpanman,” the crowd flashed all different colors of the rainbow while BTS members jumped around an inflatable playground on stage.

The fan culture at K-Pop shows is very different from those of Western artists. Fans create a far more organized sense of community by creating different fan projects at each date which are then promoted over social media.

One of the most frequent fan projects are banner projects. With these, fans print and hand out banners with different designs and slogans to every person who walks through the doors. Printed on the back are instructions for when to hold up the banner.

Kimberly McGuire, 20, created banners for K-Pop group ATEEZ’s concert in New York in April. “I had to get donations from fans so that I could print out 3,000 of these banners.” says McGuire. “It’s hard to get people to donate -- I ended up having to spend a bit out of pocket. Luckily, everything turned out okay.”

Banners often come with fan chant guides as well. Fans chant the members’ names and different lyrics along with the beat of the song. Fan chants are created by BigHit and published soon after the release of new music.

The interaction between BTS and their ARMY is unlike any other. During their speeches, the members speak to their fans as if they were friends -- a perk of having a fandom name is that it makes every speech feel more personal.

“We’re just BTS -- you guys are ARMY. At the same time, you guys are BTS, and we’re your ARMY,” said leader RM over deafening chants of his name. “Wherever you’re from, whatever you speak, however old you are… tonight we are one. We speak the same language. This is what we call a community -- I love you.”

Lead Image Credit: Kannon Poland / Instagram