If there was any doubt that BTS could conquer a major U.S. stadium, that was quickly put to rest when group member Jungkook, suspended by a cable, soared over 60,000 fans at the Rose Bowl on Saturday (May 4) to the uplifting anthem “Euphoria.”
The boys from Seoul — RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook — opened the U.S. leg of their Love Yourself: Speak Yourself stadium tour with a two-and-half-hour show that featured 24 songs, including an array of energetic dance numbers, sexy solo ballads, envious production values and a memorable rap in an inflatable bouncy house.
Fresh off winning two Billboard Music Awards last week — for top group and top social artist — BTS continued on their ascent to the top of the pop world. The first of two nights in Pasadena opened a six-city tour of U.S. stadiums, including two performances in Chicago and in East Rutherford, N.J. over the next two weeks. The tour will then move on to Brazil, Europe and Japan.
Even as sex scandals involving other K-pop idols have dominated headlines back in Korea, BTS has seemed impervious to the controversies. A performance last month on Saturday Night Live followed the release of their latest album, Map of the Soul: Persona, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. It was BTS’ third consecutive No. 1 debut in one year, making them the only group to achieve that feat since The Beatles in 1995-96.
BTS sold out both performances at the Rose Bowl, which was configured for about 60,000 seats. This was a substantial increase from the crowd of 40,000 that attended their sold-out 2018 concert at New York’s Citi Field, which was confirmed to Billboard by a Big Hit Entertainment spokesperson. The two Rose Bowl shows top the group’s previous record audiences at Seoul Olympic Stadium, where BTS sold all 90,000 tickets for two concerts (about 45,000 per show).
The Rose Bowl production design gave the group plenty of room to roam. A long rampway connected a wide stage under two massive video screens with a square stage around the 50-yard line that could easily host a large house party.
BTS opened their show in the square with “Dionysus,” an elaborate dance number where they were flanked by several other white-robed dancers. Later, they did their biggest rap numbers there, including “Mic Drop,” “Outro: Tear” and “Anpanman.”
A sea of “ARMY bomb” lights transformed the open-air night sky into an orgasm of carefully choreographed set decoration that was timed to match the mood of each song. For the uninitiated, the $60 Bombs are connected to a smartphone app that gives the show control over them during the show. (One girl seated behind me panicked when she realized her phone was at 10 percent and that her bomb wouldn’t be part of the show if her phone died.)
The band showcased new Dior stagewear designed by Kim Jones, his first ever collaboration with a pop band. At times, it made the idols look like they were dressed for a sexy pajama party in the Hollywood Hills, but the silky outfits were free-flowing and shimmered during dance numbers.
The show balanced the military-precise choreography BTS is known for on anthems like “Idol” and “So What” with thoughtful ballads like “Epiphany” and “Trivia: Seesaw.” The solo work seemed to better satisfy the cravings of many female fans who shrieked when Jungkook flashed his toned abs during “Fake Love” and Jimin started “Serendipity” in a bubble that he dissolved with a flick of a finger. Later, the group tugged at the heartstrings with “The Truth Untold,” with Jin, Jimin, Jungkook and V singing in tandem on a platform that lifted them several feet in the air.
Long pauses between songs were filled with artsy videos: some featured band members staring at flowers and sand falling in slow-motion while others fixated on floating oranges and seductive peeking from under the bed covers. While the energy was kinetic in the center square, this show was meant to be watched on video screens, where tricks — like RM sky-writing “I Luv You LA” with a big heart sign — elevated the show that much more for the YouTube generation.
The show concluded with rousing renditions of the rap “Anapanman,” where the boys slid down the slide of an inflatable bouncy house, “So What,” “Make It Right”and the kinetic “Mikrokosmos.” During “ARMY time,” RM admitted to being nervous and out-of-sorts before the performance. “Something was wrong with my headphones… with my headset… something was wrong with my Dr. Strange ring. But whatever, this is the most important night of my life.”
V seemed to sum up the night best: “This place, this breeze, and you, is perfect for us.”