Nearly three years ago, BIGBANG played New Jersey’s Prudential Center for the East Coast leg of their 2012 Alive tour. The K-pop phenoms opened the two shows emerging from capsule pods and spent it riding bedazzled segues and ziplining above concertgoers. It felt like the quintet represented the future: A previously unidentified breed of boy bands for U.S. audiences with their spectacle equally as captivating as their genre-bending bangers.
Fast-forward to this past weekend, BIGBANG has since released just eight new songs as a group, but nonetheless brought their Made world tour to North America with the U.S. leg closed by another two-night stint in Newark. While the band still has yet to release their full-length Made album (which was pushed back indefinitely from its initial Sept. 1 release date), the show created a powerful statement that positions BIGBANG not as the boy band of the future anymore, but as five individuals that are separately complex, but together an undeniable supergroup.
A Tarantino-esque film showcasing the well-dressed bad boys BIGBANG portray in music videos opened the concert and kickstarted a narrative that the quintet is trapped in a glamorous world of complex girl, substance and mental problems. Throughout the night video interludes exhibited the band’s sex-symbol/rapper TOP drunkenly yelling at himself in a mirror while leader G-Dragon couldn’t stop flashing back to a past lover.
But when the guys emerged from behind towering LED screens, it was mostly their signature cool-dude swag that was under the spotlight — albeit, with a newly sophisticated presentation.
Openers “Bang Bang Bang” and “Tonight” brought a flashy, onstage party complete with streamers and fireworks, but the guys may have shined brighter during softer moments. Standout “Bad Boy” included sections of slick group choreography which helped the band command the audience to bounce along with them throughout. It was followed by a tender take on “If You,” presented as the guys stood at microphone stands wearing white dress shirts and suits. But the most remarkable moment had to be when the quintet led the entire arena in singing the all-Korean chorus of “Haru Haru” — a song released in YouTube’s early days and four years before “Gangnam Style.”
This time, BIGBANG’s mind-boggling visuals weren’t necessary. In 2012, BB vocal powerhouse Daesung performed solo track “Wings” outfitted in larger-than-life angel wings, but now he was fine rocking alongside backup dancers. Meanwhile, hip-hop-leaning cuts like “Zutter,” performed by G-Dragon and TOP, and “Bae Bae” didn’t rely on flashy props, but instead the members’ charms for a believable performance. Each BIGBANG dude had a solo performance and each found a way to get fans screaming throughout. Equally important were the onstage antics — the most entertaining provided by Daesung’s multiple hip thrusts or youngest and most sprightly member Seungri‘s crowd yells (e.g. “Give me your energy!” he roared during a crowd chat) — which earned big-time audience approval.
G-Dragon addressed the status of the elusive Made LP during the show saying the “new album is coming out very soon. It’s amazing, we love it.” Rumor has it that after Made, the BIGBANG boys could serve South Korea’s mandatory two-year military service for men, marking an uncertain future for a band who only put out eight songs in their last three years — a lifetime and a half in the quickly moving K-pop world. The sentiment wasn’t lost on member Taeyang — who stepped up his stage presence, grabbing control of the spotlight and consistently refusing to let it go — telling the audience, “I don’t know when I’ll see you again, but I really want to see you again.”
Whether it was goodbye or not, the Made tour may have accomplished more than a night of entertainment in showing that boy bands can, in fact, shine as a collective and on an individual, human basis. BIGBANG and its five superstars are still redefining what a boy band is today and experimenting with what happens when real life enters into the mix.