It was only a few months ago that BTS made history as the first-ever South Korean musical act to hold a concert at a Stateside stadium. When they brought their Love Yourself tour in October to New York’s Citi Field, it was an awe-inspiring experience that was a testament to the septet’s popularity. But when they returned to the New York metropolitan area again this weekend to perform at New Jersey’s Metlife Stadium on Saturday and Sunday nights with the final U.S. shows of their encore Love Yourself: Speak Yourself stadium concert series, the three-time Billboard 200 chart-toppers upped the ante as they elevated the performances already featured in the former tour run and introduced several new, impactful songs into their set list as they reveled in the day and what it stood for.
On Sunday night, fans couldn’t have asked for better weather for the final act of the group’s latest U.S. concert run. With hardly a cloud in sight, around 55,000 fans of BTS, collectively known as ARMY, descended on the East Rutherford, New Jersey, football stadium for the second day in a row, coming from far and wide across the country and beyond, the majority of whom were armed with their ARMY bomb lightsticks. Throughout the three-hour concert, attendees sang and danced along to the music of BTS as they actively participated in the concert experience, with their waving lightsticks — synchronized via bluetooth — facilitating an interactive light show that partnered with the graphics appearing on screens behind the seven members of BTS, emphasizing the relationship between the band and their dedicated ARMY throughout the dynamic concert. Though rain would start pouring shortly after the concert ended just before 10:30 p.m., the good weather held up throughout the entire show, giving the group the opportunity to showcase a wide array of performances.
After a lead-in of some of BTS’ more recent music videos playing on giant screens as the audience sang along, fanchants and all, the pulsating first notes of “Dionysus” roared through Metlife. One of the four songs incorporated from their newest album Map of the Soul: Persona into the Love Yourself set list — they’d also perform “Boy with Luv,” “Make It Right,” and “Mikrokosmos” — the riotous intro track welcomed the audience to the concert, inviting the crowd to get drunk on the artistry of BTS as the seven men in white suits performed the tune inspired by the ancient Greek god of wine while bolstered onstage by inflatable silver jaguars, classical columns and dozens of dancers.
“Dionysus” set the tone for much of the night: Whereas Love Yourself’s set list spanned BTS’ career, incorporating older singles with the titular album series’ songs, Speak Yourself was a celebration of the act’s rise to the top of the music world, with a special emphasis on their empowering messaging and each song showcasing the septet’s talent as singers and performers able to captivate the attention of millions of fans from around the world. Fittingly, the second song the group performed was the boisterous “Not Today,” which began with the anthemic declaration by RM: “All the underdogs in the world/ A day may come when we lose/ But it is not today/ Today we fight!” Next, the seven members took a few moments to greet the audience before launching into “Outro: Wings,” a track symbolic of the bond between ARMY and the group. “ARMY, you are our wings,” Jin sweetly expressed before RM asked if ARMY wanted to fly with the act, which then led into the uproarious rendition of the song full of harmonized ad-libs as that album series’ circular logos appeared onstage behind them.
After the opening trio of songs, the first solo of the night, J-Hope’s upbeat “Trivia: Just Dance,” arrived after one of several short video clips, known as VCRs in the world of K-pop, interspersed to split up the night’s set list. The first of seven solo songs performed by each member, the performances of BTS’ individual sets were upgraded versions from the prior variant of the Love Yourself tour, with the most notable visual effects appearing during Jungkook’s “Euphoria” and Jimin’s “Serendipity” performances. The former took to the sky, soaring high above the stadium, singing his uplifting song while harnessed onto a zipline, while the latter spent part of his set in a snowglobe-like bubble, which he later “popped” as the emotive tune progressed and he stepped out of it to offer up a sensual dance performance backed by dancers. Overall, the solo stages showcased each member’s individual performance style, like Suga dancing languidly along a track while he expressively vacillated about love in “Trivia: Seesaw” and V relaying his duality as a performer when mirrored reflections of himself appeared during “Singularity,” while RM’s wordplay-focused “Trivia: Love” and Jin’s soulful “Epiphany” rounded out the solo stages.
Interspersed with the solo songs and the unit-oriented renditions of “The Truth Untold” by the vocalists — Jimin, Jin, Jungkook and V, who endearingly sang along to the other’s verses without holding his mic to his mouth — and “Outro: Tear” from the rappers — J-Hope, Suga and RM — BTS performed several songs as a group, and a major highlight of the night came about halfway through thanks to an uproarious five-song segment that ran through some of their biggest hits and most beloved songs. As fans danced and chanted along, even making the stadium’s seating sections shake at some points, the energy exuding from the members of BTS rose to new heights. With each song, the performances emphasized just why exactly BTS and their music had made it to the point where selling out six stadium shows across the United States was not only a possibility but a given. Their latest single “Boy With Luv,” originally featuring Halsey but performed without the “Nightmare” singer, started the section, representing how they’ve been able to approach the global music market on their own terms. “Dope” followed, with the group cheering and hyping up themselves for having put in the hard work that they did in order to pursue their dreams, while the aggressive hip-hop track “Silver Spoon” arrived to express frustration with the way the world is for the current generation and motivate listeners to change. “Fire,” another explosive, inspirational dance track, similarly urged the audience to do whatever they want, while the section came to a close with “IDOL” closing things out with BTS’ declaration to love themselves the way they are, the anthem of the Love Yourself era.
Though they’d leave the stage after an impactful rendition of their RIAA platinum-certified single “Mic Drop” and return for an encore set that saw them perform “Anpanman” as they played around on bouncy houses and blow-up slides, and showcase frenzied energy during the encouraging “So What” before offering up touching renditions of “Make It Right” and “Mikrokosmos,” the latter of which brought Jungkook to tears. As one of the most prominent football stadiums in the U.S. — it is home to both the New York Jets and New York Giants — Metlife is itself is a sign of American culture. So when BTS performed their 2018 hit and fans sang along to its call-and-return shouts of Korean phrases known as chuimsae (???), which are typically featured in traditional Korean storytelling performances known as pansori (???) and not pop music, it was a momentous occasion and emphasized how the act has been able to make it in the country and the world at large in a way that has been true to themselves and where they come from.
“You know what they say, the so-called American dream. It’s a dream that some say we’ve reached it, some say not,” RM said during his closing speech. “But we never dreamed it because it was always considered something we could never dream of, that it wasn’t possible. But ARMY, look at this: We made it together. Dear America, thank you for embracing us, thank you for having us, thank you for accepting us. As seven boys from Korea who sing in Korean, and who have even different looks, speak different languages. But you guys truly proved to us that music transcends the language, looks and everything. Thank you for accepting us.”