Back in 2014, BTS hosted their first solo concert in the United States at Los Angeles’ 400-capacity Troubadour nightclub. The show was announced at the last minute, just days before the K-pop group landed on these shores. Fast-forward to 2018, and the septet just became the first South Korean musicians to host an American stadium show. Held at New York City’s Citi Field on Saturday night (Oct. 6), thousands of fans, known as ARMY, filled the 42,000-capacity venue to cheer on the history-making Boys: RM, Suga, J-Hope, Jin, V, Jimin, and Jungkook.
Armed with Bluetooth-synched, multi-hued light sticks (aka ARMY Bombs), BTS’ fans set the stadium awash in glowing lights after some had spent days camping out ahead of the show, a scene some Citi Field security guards said they’d never witnessed before a concert. Fans, from all walks of life, regardless of age, race, gender, sexuality, etc., were there to not only see their favorite songs performed live, but also to partake in the historic occasion that placed BTS in the footsteps of The Beatles, whose 1965 show at the nearby former Shea Stadium is considered one of the Fab Four’s most iconic concerts ever. For BTS, the Citi Field show came at the culmination of the North American leg of their sold-out global Love Yourself tour, which heads to Europe next. It was a night full of love and motivational positivity flowing between BTS and their ARMY.
The show was both a perusal of BTS’ most recent, record-breaking Love Yourself album trilogy — Her, Tear, and Answer — and a walk down memory lane with some of the group’s older fan-favorites, like the rambunctious duo of 2013’s “Attack on Bangtan” and 2015’s “Boyz with Fun.” Those tracks were interspersed into the show along with hit singles, after the night kicked off with BTS’ latest, “Idol.” The anthemic song set the thematic tone for the concert, putting forth the message of self-love that BTS has explored through the Love Yourself series and beyond. “You can’t stop me lovin’ myself,” the members declared during the chorus of the song, which went to No. 11 on the Hot 100 upon its release in August.
The narrative that started with the first song continued with the emotive pair of high-energy foil tracks “Save Me” and “I’m Fine.” As the show went on, BTS continued to explore what it means to love, both one’s own self and others, through group, unit, and solo tracks alike: the future bass track “Magic Shop” featured all seven reflecting on the bond between band and ARMY (“You found me, you acknowledged me/ You gave me the best of me/ So you’ll give you the best of you”), while Jin’s “Epiphany” about the truths of love and RM’s wordplay-laden “Trivia ?: Love” ruminated on life and love, before the hip-hop trio’s “Tear” and the vocalists’ “The Truth Untold” emotively put heartbreak in the spotlight as a tool through which people grow.
Expertly woven into the performances in a way that bypassed linguistic and cultural divides, the group’s message resonated through the venue, coming to conclusion with the uplifting finale “Answer: Love Myself.” As the show came to an end, RM expressed how its theme relates to his and BTS’ relationship with ARMY and vice versa. “What is loving myself? What is loving yourself?” he questioned. “I don’t know. Who can define their own method and the way of loving myself? It’s our mission, it’s our mission to define the way to love ourselves. It’s never intended but it feels like I’m using you guys to love myself so I’m going to say one thing,” he paused briefly. “Please use me, please use BTS to love yourselves.”
But the Citi Field show wasn’t only about the philosophical nature of BTS’ music, but also a celebration and showcase of what they have achieved in their five-year career, propelled by the passion of their fans from around the world. Rousing renditions of songs like “Airplane Pt. 2” and “Silver Spoon (Baepsae)” reveled in how far the group has come despite their hardships, while “Anpanman” celebrated how they’re a “new superhero” of sorts, lifting up listeners with their songs. For their solo sets, each of the seven put forth a sense of self, with the theatricality of V’s neo-R&B track “Singularity” and Jimin’s skillful dancing during “Serendipity” standing out as some of the most captivating moments of the night; many watched with awe as Jungkook served up a rapturous “Euphoria” performance backed by silhouettes of light, and with trepidation as J-Hope moved with fluidity atop a high-rise platform while performing “Trivia ?: Just Dance.”
Each song highlighted the group and its member’s dynamic skill set as they performed cleanly-defined choreography and delivered perfectly-honed vocals, with minimalistic sets and props serving as a backdrop in a way that emphasized how little additional pomp and flare the seven needed to command the attention, cheers and fan-chants of tens of thousands. It was all about the men, their music, and their fandom, and for many throughout the stadium it was an experience that’s not to be forgotten anytime soon.
And though the setlist was the same as the well-received one they had performed just a week before in the nearby Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, the feel of the entire night was different, vibrating with renewed energy in the stadium setting. Not only was the venue’s scale immense, but performing in a prominent New York City location meant something to the group itself, with RM acknowledging how New York has impacted him as “the place where the music that changed my life was first born” and Jimin ending the night in tears, overcome by emotion.
As the concert came to an end — with Jin donning ARMY Bombs as epaulets and J-Hope wearing a Mr. Mets hat for the encore set– and they said their final farewells, BTS simultaneously hinted at a return. ”This is just the beginning,” said Suga in Korean via translator. “You guys know what I mean, right? What that means that, maybe next year. I’ll leave that up to your guys’ imagination. For us, we dreamed a dream and you guys imagined it, and now we’re here. Let’s see each other next year.” As someone whose words have preceded other achievements by the group in the past, it came across as if Suga was gifting the fans with a prophecy of what 2019 may hold. No word on when or where, but Citi Field is certainly just the starting point for more to come.
At Citi Field on Oct. 6, BTS performed:
“Trivia: Just Dance”
“I Need U”
“Boyz With Fun”/ “Attack On Bangtan”/ “Fire”/ “Baepsae”/ “Dope”
“Airplane pt. 2”
“The Truth Untold”
“Answer: Love Myself”