When ATEEZ returned to America for the first time since 2019, the breakout K-pop group wasn’t as much amazed by upgrading from 800-person-capacity clubs to sold-out arenas as they were with finally reuniting with the actual people in the audience.
“We just saw them on screens for two years, but now finally we see each other,” says Hongjoong, ATEEZ’s bubbly leader who turns into the fervent and fiery captain onstage. “When we were in Korea, we had online fan meetings with many American fans, but it felt like we were watching them on TV. It’s really amazing to see them in person; it’s almost unbelievable.”
With puppy-like energy palpable as they hang out together, hardly any question for ATEEZ goes answered by just one member. San quickly adds after leader Hongjoong begins, “I’m really happy because my fans and I can look each other eye to eye again,” the athletic singer shares, his ferocious onstage personality tamed by a fuzzy cardigan tonight. “It’s just a really important thing.”
While the face time was thrilling, so was playing for the biggest crowds of their career. According to figures reported to Billboard Boxscore, five of the reported six U.S. stops in ATEEZ’s 2022 The Fellowship: Beginning of the End tour sold 43,500 tickets and grossed $4.6 million. That included a $1.1 million gross at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., for their Jan. 24 show, and $2.2 million at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., for Jan. 30-31. These numbers mark one of the fastest rises for K-pop artists in Billboard Boxscore history.
ATEEZ gets a chance to reflect on their first arena shows during an after-hours tour of the Empire State Building as the touring team’s one night out as they kept all focus on finishing the trek safely and healthily with only limited activity outside hotel stops. Hongjoong, San, Seonghwa, Yunho, Yeosang, Wooyoung and Jongho spent the visit taking photos together and with their staff. During the night visit, eighth member Mingi rested at the hotel as a precaution after the rapper felt muscle aches earlier in the day.
“This was our first experience with more than 15,000 ATINYs,” Hongjoong reflects while naming the group’s adoring fandom. “The loudness from the screams was different — louder than any time we’ve experienced.”
Dance machine/burgeoning actor Yunho describes the volume as “so amazing” with San sharing, “When they shout out our names, my heart really starts beating — it feels like my heart is still beating from it.”
That rush has been a long-time coming for ATEEZ, who were on track to have their breakout moment in America back in 2020 and show the competitive K-pop industry what they were capable of accomplishing as touring tour de forces. Originally titled as The Fellowship: Map the Treasure World Tour, Billboard first reported how seven instant sellouts in markets like Los Angeles, New York and Dallas led to additional tickets opening for for what should have been a humongous world tour across continents. All before COVID-19 concerns shut down everything.
Instead, the group kept the momentum going from home in Korea. ATEEZ held virtual concerts and events from Seoul (about a dozen live streams), released four EPs as part of their Zero: Fever album series (that landed them their first-ever Billboard 200 entries last year), and snagged major TV gigs (including opportunities to act, host, collaborate, and compete on the boy-band performance show Kingdom: Legendary War alongside other chart-topping groups).
ATEEZ say the time not only led to increased domestic visibility but helped deliver a better show for their first go at arenas.
“Off-camera and on-camera [performances] are so different, so what we learned from performing online is how to work better with the camera,” Yunho shares of two years of performing to cameras instead of live audiences. “We grew in that sense: how we express ourselves evolved.”
“While we were on Kingdom, we all worked together to make good performances and stages because we weren’t with the fans directly and we had to think of ways to make better stages of communicating fully,” ATEEZ’s youngest, most vocally blessed member Jongho says. “That translated into our concert and tour as well, so we can see the different colors that we brought from Kingdom and those two years working on new albums.”
Hongjoong recognizes that “most of ATEEZ’s songs are really energetic, so it’s different when there’s an audience of fans and when there are no fans — most of the members just missed the time before the pandemic,” before noting there were “good points too, but we like being with fans.” San bluntly adds, “I don’t like it because ATINYs were not there, [it felt like] ‘This was not a stage.'”
The break also led to a rebranding for the tour that expressed their ongoing artistic story and hopes for the global pandemic itself.
“As you might’ve noticed, the name of the tour got changed to The Beginning of the End,” says Seonghwa, another superstar juxtaposition as quiet and subtle off stage but instantly draws your eyes with his confidence on stage.
“With this tour, we wanted to express exactly what was happening with ‘the beginning of the end’ of the pandemic but, also, if you noticed that during the opening show of the tour in Seoul, the first song was ‘Win’ which was more like, ‘Let’s finally go! Let’s win this!’ But these U.S. shows started with ‘Wonderland’ which has lyrics in it that express the beginning of the end — we’re going into this final chapter.”
Upon closing out the tour, ATEEZ confirm that their Fever era is officially at its end as well. A new era of music is already in the works to send ATINYs into yet another dimension of the group’s growing musical universe that began with the Treasure Ep.1 album in late 2018.
“I can say that the Fever series is definitely finished,” Hongjoong says carefully. “The Fever series tells the story before the Treasure series and many ATINYs are making guesses about the next series. But if Fever is before Treasure, why don’t we go with the next series following the time after Treasure. Maybe!?! We’ve already prepared that next album and ATINYs will love it differently. To our longtime fans, I think the Fever series might have come off as softer — we debuted with really hard and high-tempo, intense songs, which we love. Fever was more soft and catchy. No matter what, we want to keep showing who ATEEZ is.”
Since their start, ATEEZ has shown themselves to be masterful performers as well as self-aware idols in touch with the more significant social impact they can create within their fandom. Their music tells lyrics of finding brighter days and journeys of self-discovery while the members took moments during The Beginning of the End tour to speak about self-love and their dreams. That’s created an even more intimate connection with their ATINY that has fans caring about new music and the people behind the songs.
“ATINYs always worry about our health, our mental and physical health, but I’d say that, yeah, we are good,” Hongjoong asks to add before the night out ends. “I’d say that, yeah, we are really good, and we are really happy that we can finally perform in front of so many ATINYs. That’s the cure to it. So I have to say to ATYINYs, ‘It’s okay, don’t worry.'”
“That’s a really good sentence,” San adds. “It’s the cure.”
Even when ATEEZ have run into difficulties, the guys push through with camaraderie (“When one of us is stressing out, instead of working it out by ourselves, we find a way to work it out together,” says Wooyoung, the second-youngest member whose confidence and biceps have grown remarkably since the last tour) and gratitude (“We will be working hard to only give fans happiness back to show you all tenfold what they’ve given us,” says Yunho).
All of these elements are working together to make ATEEZ’s ultimate goal — the pinnacle of touring accomplishments — come true.
“Our concerts were first at small venues; now we are in arenas,” Hongjoong says. “Our next goal is to go to stadiums. Yeah, that’s our big goal — and we’ll make it someday. I trust that. And our fans really want it too.”
“We can do this,” San adds, naturally right in step after Hongjoong speaks. “We believe in ATEEZ.”