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How EXO Lost a Member, But Shined 'United as a Whole' at Premiere Solo Concert
Holding back tears, the scandal-shaken group told thousands of fans: "The beginning of EXO is now"
It is not an overstatement to say that SM Entertainment's newest boy band EXO has launched a new era of K-pop boy-band invasion.
EXO's rabidly loyal fans made the group's first full-length LP, "XOXO," become Korea's first million-selling album in 12 years and bring millions of clicks to the group's YouTube channel. Plus, the act has already established a global fanbase, seeing its latest EP, "Overdose," hit No. 129 on Billboard 200. With such fan fervor, it is no surprise that the tickets to EXO's first solo concert in Seoul, "EXO FROM EXOPLANET #1 - THE LOST PLANET," sold out in less than two seconds. And after selling out a second night, a third night's show was added as well.
But in the midst of what seemed like a smooth-sailing career kickstart, an unexpected turn hit when Kris, the Chinese-born, Canadian member and leader of EXO sub-group EXO-M, abruptly filed a suit against SM Entertainment in a bid to nullify his exclusive contract. The news broke out a week before EXO's big Seoul date, leaving many fans puzzled and disappointed.
Amid the heated controversy, the 11 remaining members carried out their promotions and first two days of the concert, staying relatively quiet until the final day of the show. Prior to the May 25 concert, EXO held a press conference to address the issues as well as details about its tour.
“Honestly, when we first heard the news [about Kris' departure] we were extremely flustered," explained member Chanyeol. "But our biggest concern was about putting on a high-quality, perfect performance for our fans. We united as a whole and used that energy to put in extensive hours of practice and rehearsals to make a perfect performance.
Baekhyun added, "We want to take this time to thank our staff members who made it possible for us to make this show happen. I am proud of our members for coming together as one."
EXO-K leader Suho added details about the live affair. "The concept of this show is about us from being EXO planet," he explained. "We wanted to create something that you would not experience on Earth."
After indirectly confirming Kris' departure – and putting media drama and scandals down to rest – the boys took off to prepare for what proved to be an epic night.
A throng of hysterically excited fans descended to Seoul Olympic Park, filling up the 14,000-seat arena. SM CEO Lee Soo Man, as well as label mates, BoA, Super Junior members Siwon, Donghae and Kyuhyun also joined the affair. At the sight of Lee, fans went buck wild, chanting his name minutes before the show launched.
Around 4:15 p.m., near-deafening screams erupted as the members emerged on stage, opening with the Haka-inspired routine for hard-hitting debut single "MAMA."
Despite having just a week's time to rearrange the choreography and stage route for the now 11-membered EXO, the group proved that they're not a group of fresh-faced puppets. Over a grand production featuring eye-blinding laser lights and high-budget video backdrops, the boys glided through tracks from their first LP and new EP with ease.
The concert not only spotlighted the group’s collective, immeasurable talent but also each member’s beneath-the-surface gift, showcased through solo performances: Lay flaunted his fancy footwork to his self-composed track "The Lay"; Chanyeol fired up the crowd with an intense drum set; Chen rocked out to a solo track "Uprising"; D.O. gave a striking vocal performance through 2012 track "What Is Love?;" Baekyun belted out the all-consuming ballad "My Turn to Cry" behind a piano; Sehun and Xiumin double teamed fans with a charismatic dance performance; Luhan exuded his loveable charm, and chiseled abs, over "The Star"; Suho captivated the crowd with "Beautiful"; Kai, arguably the best dancer of the group, mesmerized with a powerful dance routine; and, lastly, Tao showcased his well-honed martial art skills.
Considering what the group has dealt with in the last few days, EXO was all smiles throughout the two-hour show. However, at the end when the group came together onstage to express their gratitude to fans and their founder Lee Soo Man, some members were spotted holding back tears as they kept emphasizing that "the beginning of EXO is now."
EXO deserves praise for bringing their A-game onto the stage and putting on a super entertaining show, despite Kris' absence. The highly energetic, 31-song set proved the boys were strong even as a 11-member group. The show was also a reassurance to fans and doubters that the group will continue to remain as "one."
Estimated 3,000 diehard admirers, who were unable to get tickets, spawned outside the venue and watched the live-streamed show through a large projector in the pouring rain.
"EXO FROM EXOPLANET #1 -THE LOST PLANET" drew in a total of 42,000 attendees during its three-day stint. EXO will export their extravaganza to Hong Kong on June 1 and 2.