EXO Light Up NJ's Prudential Center on First North American Tour Stop
Barely a year and half since their last world tour brought them to the New York area, Korean boy band EXO returned to Newark’s Prudential Center on Tuesday night (April 25) to kick off the North American leg of their EXO PLANET #3 – The EXO’rDium tour.
Since their inception in 2012, EXO has consistently been one of K-pop’s most prominent, best-selling acts. Playing up their individual strengths as performers and highlighting varied discography, the eight men comfortably dominated the Prudential Center’s stage. Though they were clearly exhausted from the time difference between Seoul and New York -- members casually mentioned the time difference and were visibly stifling yawns throughout the show -- EXO delivered a precise, energy-filled performance that had EXO-L, their fans, exuberantly cheering them on.
After launching the show with a remix of their first single “MAMA” and following it up with last year’s “Monster,” EXO performed an extended remix of “Wolf.” With an added impressive vocal bridge and a highly stylized dance break based on the song’s original lupine choreography, the performance had the audience literally howling with joy.
After a quick introduction by EXO, sans ninth member Lay, who was unable to attend the show, the group moved onto the next segment of the show, slowing things down a bit with some of their smoother dance tracks including “Thunder” and “Artificial Love,” the latter of which featured a sensual cane dance that evoked riotous cheers from the crowd.
The hot and heavy dance performance was followed by its antitheses -- and the night’s standout moment -- a stripped down medley featuring a handful of songs, including their 2015 hit “Call Me Baby,” backed only by a single guitar played by Chanyeol, who would later also DJ and play the electric guitar. Unhampered by choreography as they sat on stage, EXO’s vocals shone as members harmonized throughout the medley.
Moving on from the acoustic lull, the act performed the cheerful pop song “Tender Love.” The members jumped around the stage as they sang the infectious tune, performing a dance that Chanyeol and Baekhyun had previously taught fans. As the band members and audience waved flashing light sticks in synch along to the melody of "Tender Love," there was no denying that the song was about the bond between EXO and the their loyal EXO-L's.
A boisterous performance of “Love Me Right” was next, followed by the mellow tune “Stronger,” sung by the group’s primary vocalists, D.O, Baekhyun, Chen, and Suho. The following handful of songs showcased EXO’s preppy, schoolboy charms through performances of youthful tracks like “Girl x Friend” and “3.6.5.”
EXO switched things up with the high-energy trilogy of “Overdose,” “Transformer” and “Lightsaber," featuring some of the night’s most dramatic dance performances. EXO then took a break to chat about their time in New York City, which led to Chen leading an impromptu a cappella rendition of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” after Suho mentioned that Times Square reminded him of his favorite film, Birdman.
Just as it seemed the concert was running towards the close, Baekhyun taught the crowd a phrase to cheer along to the rap-heavy “Full Moon,” an alternate version of their debut era “Two Moons,” which led into EXO’s pump up anthem, “Drop That.” After a Eurovision-style techno dance break, EXO sung the sweet confessional “Lucky” and the upbeat “Run” before leaving the stage, declaring the latter as the night’s final show.
Like most K-pop concerts, the end is never what it appears to be and, after the audience clamored for an encore, EXO returned to perform “Growl” and “Lucky One.” The group then said their farewells, during which Suho promised that the the group would return to the New York area ("We will be back," he assured the crowd) and revealed that EXO was working on a new album. As they waved their way off stage, EXO performed the heartwarming ballad “Angel."
In their fifth year, and towards the end of a world tour series that began in July, there were few surprises from EXO at the east coast EXO’rdium show. But the precise vocals, the tight choreography, and the member’s enthusiasm made it seem like the setlist was a brand new experience for both themselves and the cheering EXO-Ls, living up to their reputation as one of K-pop's most captivating acts.