Epik High Defy Conventions, Electrify Audiences in New York: Live Review

Epik High
Courtesy of YG Entertainment
<p>By the standards of&nbsp;most K-pop concerts, <a href="http://www.billboard.com/artist/301791/epik-high/chart">Epik High</a> shouldn't be playing to an earsplitting,&nbsp;sold-out crowd. The trio's last album was made up of emo hip-hop cuts, they don't perform&nbsp;choreography, there's no&nbsp;flashy stage setup,&nbsp;two members are married with kids, and a scandal at home almost rocked them to the point of breaking up a few years back. But there they were, playing a&nbsp;filled venue&nbsp;at New York's Best Buy Theater.</p><p>Epik High opened their show with "Encore" -- the intro&nbsp;off last year's <a href="http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/k-town/6304084/epik-high-number-1-world-albums-shoebox">No. 1 album&nbsp;</a><em><a href="http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/k-town/6304084/epik-high-number-1-world-albums-shoebox">Shoebox</a> --</em>&nbsp;with&nbsp;<a href="http://www.billboard.com/artist/277518/tablo">Tablo</a>, Mithra Jin and DJ Tukutz all standing alongside one another at Tukutz's&nbsp;DJ booth. It was a&nbsp;tame opening with&nbsp;the energy soon exploding&nbsp;as EH&nbsp;rappers Tablo and Mithra&nbsp;jumped from the booth to get in fans' faces and bounce around the stage for a medley of songs that&nbsp;included a snippet of <a href="http://www.billboard.com/artist/304305/jay-z/chart">Jay Z</a>'s "Empire of State of Mind" that went over great with the East Coast crowd.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/k-town/6502428/epik-high-sxsw-2015-us-tour-video-interview"><strong>Epik&nbsp;High on Why It's the Perfect Time to Become Their&nbsp;Fan</strong></a></p><p>"New York, are you ready for the three men from Korea?" t<span style="line-height: 20.7999992370605px;">he C</span><span style="line-height: 20.7999992370605px;">a</span><span style="line-height: 20.7999992370605px;">n</span><span style="line-height: 20.7999992370605px;">ada</span><span style="line-height: 20.7999992370605px;">-</span><span style="line-height: 20.7999992370605px;">raised&nbsp;</span>Tablo<span style="line-height: 20.7999992370605px;">&nbsp;asked the crowd in a rather un-sexy way.&nbsp;T</span>his type of dry&nbsp;humor heavily seasoned the show, making&nbsp;Epik High not only musically entertaining, but comically&nbsp;too. Like when Tablo&nbsp;introduced himself as&nbsp;"the smallest only in height" or made his dislike of a&nbsp;Q&amp;A segment inherently clear ("Doing things unrelated to our&nbsp;discography,&nbsp;careers or music...maybe that's a good definition K-pop"),&nbsp;the&nbsp;self-aware commentary made for that much more of a compelling&nbsp;show and likely connected better with the U.S. audience. But there were of course&nbsp;low-hanging, fan-engaging fruits --&nbsp;like&nbsp;Tukutz dancing&nbsp;to <a href="http://www.billboard.com/artist/276219/g-dragon/chart">G-Dragon</a> and <a href="http://www.billboard.com/artist/277528/taeyang/chart">Taeyang</a>'s <a href="http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/k-town/6327197/g-dragon-taeyang-gdxty-good-boy-mv">"Good Boy"</a>&nbsp;-- that&nbsp;played to typical K-pop concert fodder.</p><p>But that's not to say Tablo &amp; Co. didn't take the show seriously -- hardly. Even when venue-rattling beats&nbsp;threatened to drown out the guys (like on standouts including&nbsp;techno-inspired cuts "High Technology" and&nbsp;"Kill This Love," or the swaggering performances of&nbsp;"Burj Khalifa" and "Up"),&nbsp;the guys were visibly pushing themselves,&nbsp;refusing to miss a beat. Later, Tablo took the stage solo for a charged performance&nbsp;of&nbsp;"Eyes, Nose, Lips," proving they could easily hypnotize the&nbsp;audience&nbsp;with a ballad too.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/k-town/6296939/epik-high-shoebox-album-born-hater-spoiler-happen-ending"><strong>Epik High Explore&nbsp;Personal Struggles,&nbsp;Tells Off Haters on 'Shoebox'</strong></a></p><p>There were a few dozen water bottles and towels brought&nbsp;onstage for the guys, but mostly they'd&nbsp;take a sip or two and spray the crowd;&nbsp;or when they'd come from backstage with a towel, they'd&nbsp;wipe their brow and throw it into the audience. It felt like fans&nbsp;concertgoers were always&nbsp;involved in the show with Epik High&nbsp;taking audience members'&nbsp;phones for selfies or jumping down to the pit to greet them several times.</p><p>"If there's anything we can do for you,&nbsp;we hope we can be living proof that it gets better," Tablo told the crowd before they moved into the appropriately timed performance of "Fan" (that included the accompanying choreography -- a treat for longtime supporters) ahead of the encore of "Born Hater" and "Don't Hate Me."&nbsp;While Epik High barely checks off the boxes most fans look to with their K-pop concerts, the trio's&nbsp;2015 North American Tour positions them as a&nbsp;self-aware and&nbsp;more-human&nbsp;alternative to the usual fanfare that comes with Korean pop concerts -- an important (and evidently&nbsp;very well-received)&nbsp;position to fill for American audiences.</p>