In its sixth year, the annual west coast leg of KCON USA Presented by Toyota promised to be bigger than ever. And that’s what fans got when KCON 2017 LA kicked off on Friday (Aug. 18).
The Staples Center hosted two nights of concerts over the weekend with a dozen K-pop acts taking center stage. Beginning with a special, Hollywood-themed performance of “City of Stars” from La La Land courtesy of Girl’s Day’s Minah and VIXX’s Leo and ending with a set by rising rookies Seventeen, the first day’s lineup bounced between newer acts and veterans, including members of Super Junior, providing a quick taste of the past decade of K-pop history in a matter of hours.
Following the opening duet, boy band SF9 took the Center’s stage with a trio of songs — “Fanfare,” the Grieg-sampling “Jungle Game,” and “Easy Love.” Having performed at KCON’s east coast event in June, the nine-member act are no strangers to the U.S and appeared at ease as they delivered their energetically tight choreography and propulsive pop tracks to loud cheers. They showed promise as a rookie group to keep an eye on, especially with their delivery of the tempo-jumping melancholic pop track “Easy Love.”
The third set of the night came courtesy of Cosmic Girls, also known as WJSN. Starting with their cheerleader-inspired “Happy,” the act’s members ran on stage, pom-poms in hand, backed by an introduction from a marching band. Peppy and bright, the group’s most recent single led into a pair of spacey synth pop songs, “I Wish” and “Secret,” that provided the baker’s dozen of Girls a chance to show off their flirty dance moves.
Moving onto Seventeen, it seemed like the boy band — whose member Joshua spent a few moments expressing his excitement over his L.A. homecoming — was set to launch into some of the singles that have landed them atop several Billboard charts but instead they took the stage in a trio of mini performances, revealing that their immense popularity had landed the group as that night’s closing act.
The 2015-debuted boy band was the second large act of the night — they’re usually 13 members but were down to 12 due to one member’s hospitalization amid their U.S tour — and they played up their strengths by splitting three separate subgroups. Their performance unit was up first with the whistling “Swimming Fool” followed by the team’s five vocalists performing the lilting electropop ballad “Habit,” before Seventeen’s hip-hop crew closed things out for the moment with their trap-y mixtape track “Check-In” before departing the stage to make way for the night’s second, and final, girl group performance.
In their seventh year together, Girl’s Day has seen major success with a variety of hits, and they opted to pair their most recent single, the brassy “I’ll Be Yours,” with their sultry 2014 track “Something” and the funky “Ring My Bell.” Consummate performers, the quartet dominated the stage in casual wear and playfully sexy dances that had them straddling the stage, offering some spice to contrast Cosmic Girls’ earlier saccharine set.
Seventeen’s American members Joshua and Vernon, who had begun the night as MCs with band leader S.Coups, returned to the stage with Mingyu and led the audience in some iconic K-pop dances, including TWICE’s “TT” and BIGBANG’s “Bang Bang Bang.” They passed the torch to Cosmic Girls, who returned to the stage to perform BTS’ “I Need U” as a nod to the group’s immense international fame. The dance segment ended with SF9 showing up and offering up a rendition of Super Junior’s iconic 2009 hit “Sorry Sorry,” which Cosmic Girls joined in towards the end of the song as the whole stadium sang along.
While it would have been a perfect segue, the performance came off as a bit of a missed opportunity when Super Junior-D&E, a unit made up of members Donghae and Eunhyuk, took the stage without joining SF9 and Cosmic Girls in the performance of their group’s hit. Instead, the duo began their performance with their poignant “Growing Pains,” before their playfulness came out in full force with the nu-disco vibe of “I Wanna Dance,” “Saturday Night,” and “Oppa Oppa,” though they unfortunately opted out of performing fan-favorite “Can You Feel It?”
Following D&E came the conceptually-driven sextet VIXX, launching into their east-meets-west performance of “Shangri-La,” fan dance and all, before playing around with fans through a special “Pinata Time” segment that had the members posing for special photos with the crowd. Up next was their electro-bass b-side “Black Out,” while the group finished out their set with a dramatic performance of “Fantasy,” which landed the group on the Social 50 Chart last year.
Seventeen returned to the stage as a whole to bring their sleek The Chainsmokers-esque “Don’t Wanna Cry” to the Los Angeles stage as the audience waved glowing lights in time with the emotive EDM track. Though they’re still relatively new, the group’s brand of vibrant pop undeniably won over the the crowd. Their immense synchronization and charisma had the whole stadium singing — and screaming — along as they performed their first song of the closing set.
The boy band then changed things up with the high-spirited “Rock,” a dance track off their 2015 Boys Be EP, before stopping to introduce themselves to the crowd, with the American members gaining particular roars of approval from the Stateside audience. The “Pinata Time” game segment then reappeared, resulting in the team performing “Uptown Funk” and a short rendition of their 2015 breakout track “Mansae” before they paused to throw autographed t-shirts into the crowd.
After teasing the Staples Center audience with snippets of their debut track “Adore U” and last year’s “BoomBoom,” Seventeen closed out the first night of KCON 2017 LA with a rollicking rendition of “Very Nice” that had the members dancing around stage with bright smiles on their faces as the whole venue sang along.
With new acts like Cosmic Girls and Seventeen standing just feet away from Super Junior’s members, who recently reached a decade in the industry, K-pop’s past and present were on full display in the closing moments of the first night of KCON 2017 LA as the acts took a final bow and said farewell to the adoring concertgoers.