In the three years since boy band INFINITE debuted on the K-pop scene, the septet never made a strong push for the American market whether that be via famous producers, jumping on Western music trends or teasing English music. But that doesn’t mean their American supporters were any less fanatic.
With the first ticketholder in line at 8 p.m. the day before, K-pop fans flooded the main floor of New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom’s Saturday (Nov. 16) at the final stop of the U.S. leg of INFINTIE’s “One Great Step” world tour. But when the concert’s intro video started, one would have thought only half the floor tickets were sold out: INFINITE fans had swarmed the stage, held back only by barriers a few feet away from the stage.
The group opened with their No. 3-peaking K-Pop Hot 100 hit “Destiny,” and synthy “Tic Toc.” But while the boys were nailing exhaustive choreography and oh-so-catchy hooks, the security team in stage pit was putting in work too. What must have been a combination of waiting outside in the cold, lack of sleep and food, pushing fans and, surely, overwhelming excitement of seeing INFINITE live, dozens of fans began fainting during the performances, requiring security to pull them out of the sea of fanatics doing their best to get as close to the K-pop idols as possible.
Plus, it didn’t help that INFINITE’s show began strong and sexy: By song three, the ’80s-influenced “Paradise,” the group was stripping off their suit jackets into body-hugging tank tops.
Fans continued going nuts, pushing one another towards the stage, disregarding those being smashed in the front as the band powered through deep cuts “Wings” and a chair dance for “Inception.” In the middle of the boys taking a break to speak to fans — in impressive English — an announcer cut them off telling the audience to move back and stop pushing. Smartly, the boys tried to calm fans too.
“You OK?” member Dongwoo asked a crying fan being pulled into the pit and hurried to an exit by a security guard. “We are here a long time,” announced the rapper.
The crowd’s pushing somewhat subsided and the main floor began to fill with people once again as the band continued on with their set that included the hits, album cuts and loads of fan interactions, all best summarized as impressive.
Impressive in that they did not having the same technology and stage platform INFINITE is used to in Korea, the boys utilized every part of the Hammerstein arena — member Woohyun even went into the balcony section (accompanied by nine staff members) of the arena during his solo performance of “Beautiful,” even bringing a lucky female fan to tears when he got down on one knee and gave her a rose. INFINITE at the Hammerstein further proved that K-pop acts do not need to fill out an arena to give a meaningful and visually-impressive concert.
Impressive how much English the band used. INFINITE essentially spoke English to the crowd the entire time, each love call sending the concert hall roaring. Leader Sunggyu told the crowd, “I’ve been dreaming of sharing my music in New York for a long time, I’m so blessed,” while Woohyun addressed their fanbase name, Inspirt, saying “Inspirit [is] so beautiful tonight.”
Impressive that even with the rowdy audience, the boys still found safe ways to interact with the crowd — like throwing little stuffed animals and paper airplanes during a song, or getting close enough to fans to take their cameras or phones to snap a selfie and return it.
Impressive considering the variety of the stages — Whether it was just Sunggyu performing a his solo single “60 Seconds” with just one spotlight on him, INFINITE’s childhood pictures on the backdrop while the boys sat in chairs for “Mother” or giving it their all in choreography-heavy tracks like “BTD” and “The Chaser.”
INFINITE ended the show with the ballad “With,” but not before giving individual messages. The seven members all spoke for a few minutes about seeing their American fans soon, the unforgettable memories they all made tonight and that if the fans keep supporting the band they can accomplish anything.
But fans pushing and hurting other fans — so much to the extent that a fan needs to leave the concert — doesn’t garner support. It might even tarnish the support. As the members gave one last bow to the Ballroom — with members Dongwoo, Sungjong and Sungyeol all teary-eyed — one must wonder how much more unforgettable the memory would have been had every fan was present.
Want more INFINITE? Look out for a video interview, live performances and a new photoshoot with INFINITE at Billboard studios coming soon.