G-Dragon Explores His Identity at Brooklyn Stop of Act III, M.O.T.T.E Tour

YG Entertainment
G-Dragon onstage at Barclay's Center on July 27, 2017.

After baring his soul on his eponymous EP Kwon Ji Yong a few weeks before, the K-pop icon known as G-Dragon closed out the U.S leg of his 2017 Act III, M.O.T.T.E world tour with a stop at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Thursday night.

The BIGBANG frontman drew in a dedicated crowd to the New York City venue, with loyal fans, known collectively as V.I.Ps, setting the center aglow in the yellow light of crown-shaped lightsticks. The golden aura of the crowd blended with the predominantly red and black hues of the production, bathing G-Dragon in light as he attempted to reconcile his humanity and the charismatic persona that’s made him an icon of the Korean music industry.

The tension of the night was tangible as the artist struggled to reclaim his identity as Kwon Jiyong. The concert dramatically trisected his career into three parts: G-Dragon, G-Dragon vs. Kwon Jiyong, and Kwon Jiyong. There was a steady flow through the timeline of GD’s releases, beginning with songs from his Heartbreaker album and GD & TOP Vol. 1, a collab with another BIGBANG member, in the first part, tracks from One of a Kind and Coup d’Etat in the second, and the third portion of the night dedicated primarily to his latest EP.

The journey through the past was straightforward, with G-Dragon running through just about his entire solo discography in the two-hour concert, intertwining B-sides and singles seamlessly. As a performer, G-Dragon thrived during his less well-known tracks, with a haunting rendition of “Obsession” drawing on graveyard imagery and religious iconography, and “R.O.D,” a Coup d’Etat-era reggae-electro track fan favorite that incorporated CL as a featured artist via pre-recorded video. Meanwhile, his hit tracks, like “Crayon,” “One of a Kind" and “Who You?” had the whole audience singing along as the rapper, backed by a live band and a team of dancers, dominated the stage with his swaggering delivery.

The night’s theme of separating Kwon from his identity as G-Dragon came to the forefront toward the final third of M.O.T.T.E -- which stands for “Moment of Truth; The End” -- with a five-minute video of the singer expressing his concern over living his life as a caricature of himself. “I’ve been living as G-Dragon until now, but now I want to live being Kwon Jiyong,” he said. “I don’t know what you want me to be, but what you see right now is everything.”

The Kwon Jiyong portion of the night drew on his new EP, within which GD put himself forward not as a K-pop superstar, but as Kwon, the human being. But the segment was filled with clashes of identity: He cried for affection (“I need somebody, any goddamn body”) in “Superstar,” but was raised above the stage, sitting on a figurative throne far above the crowd. He wanted to remove the glitz, but appeared onstage wearing not one, but two bedazzled red jackets. Even after he removed the sparkly overcoats and came down to more earthly levels during the finale and interacted with fans in the pit, it wasn't quite clear where the line was between G-Dragon and Kwon; the star's shining aura couldn't be diminished as he delivered a riotous, pyrotechnic-filled performances of “Middle Fingers-Up” and “B******t.”

When he returned to the stage for his encore decked out in a white robe that appeared to be covered in blood, it was G-Dragon's flamboyancy on display, underlining the impossibility of separating his duality. The discord of G-Dragon's final songs -- “Crooked,” a rollicking pop track propelled by the live band, and “Untitled, 2014,” a mellow, vulnerable song backed by a single piano -- similarly emphasized this. But as he commanded the stage for one last time, absorbing the cheers and applause of the crowd, it became very clear: As a musician who has been in the limelight for the majority of his life, separating the two parts of who he is wasn't the intent of Act III. Rather, it was a public reveal for his fans, showing the humanity behind the extraordinary persona he’s built up.

“I was worried that you might not get me,” Kwon said, addressing the crowd during one of his final talking breaks of the night as the crowd roared with support for the soloist. “Since I started this tour, I felt you guys get me.”

Act III: M.O.T.T.E was introspection in a public venue and, surrounded by the fans that love him, G-Dragon used the night in an attempt to figure out what it means to be both a man and one of South Korea’s most celebrated stars.