FTISLAND Rock Out, Preview Future Sound at Debut New York Concert
"I want to show a different side than what you see on TV or music shows," FTISLAND lead singer Hong Gi told the passionate East Coast crowd.
A blizzard earlier in the week put FTISLAND’s debut New York City concert in jeopardy. While the weather was less fierce than predicted, the K-pop/rock band’s passionate fans probably would have happily met the quintet at the airport if it came to that.
As a huddled crowd in the pit area awaited their arrival to the Best Buy Theater stage, FTISLAND opened their set with the sweeping rock ballad “Last Love Song,” centered around lead singer Hong Gi belting into a handheld, vintage microphone. While a fun throwback, the mic may have had technical issues as his voice dropped out at different moments. But the problems appeared to fix themselves as the guys moved onto faster tracks.
Speaking for the band nearly the entire night, Hong Gi greeted the crowd after “Madly” telling them “Annyeonghaseyo” (Korean for “hello”), to which the crowd responded with an “Annyeonghaseyo” right back. When Hong Gi asked the crowd a question in Korean and it appeared that a huge chunk of attendees knew what he was saying. The almost-eight-year-old FTISLAND audience skewed older, likely indicating fans who have been immersing themselves in Korean pop culture for a significant amount of time. Noticeably, there was a row of adults hanging out at the back of the pit area shaking their glow sticks and singing along just as enthusiastically as those crammed in the pit.
Hong Gi switched to a regular mic to continue through the setlist as the lighting and backup LED screens enveloped the band with gorgeous, colorful designs, shapes and lines. Guitarist Seung Hyun, bassist Jae Jin and leader/guitarist/pianist Jong Hoon stood front stage alongside Hong Gi as Min Hwan kept beat on drums in back. It was tough to take one’s eyes off the singer — with his constant jumping around the stage and on its monitors — but he appeared happy to let his members take the spotlight for instrumental solos.
“This is our first time coming to New York City,” Hong Gi told the crowd via a translator. “Through this tour…I want to show a different side than what you see on TV or music shows.”
With that, the quintet moved into the impressive, stripped-down part of their set that saw Seung Hyun and Jong Hoon using acoustic guitars and Min Hwan sitting on a Cajon drum. Not only a set highlight, it was a rare chance to hear the other FT talents shine through like Min Hwan and Jae Jin’s beautiful harmonies during “Stay” and Jong Hoon’s Spanish guitar skills on “I Wish.”
The first indication of the true spell the band cast over the crowd came during the acoustic rendition of “Severely,” when the fans started trading off lines with Hong Gi a cappella until they fell off beat — much to the amusement of Jae Jin. During “Flower Rock” later, the singer somehow convinced the entire audience to collectively squat, jump and rock out together. He did that multiple times throughout the show, each subsequent one pulled off more impressively than the last.
“I had a lot of pressure coming to [the] United States,” Hong Gi later told the crowd. “This is where so many famous pop stars are born, I wasn’t sure if I should stand on a live stage here. I was really, really worried…what I want to tell you guys is that it’s been about a year, year-and-a-half that I can do the music I actually want to. There are many happenings in Korea, but I’m really happy now. That’s how I was able to perform here today…the music I want to show you guys is incorporated into this show.”
After mentioning that a new FTISLAND album was coming in March or April, the band pushed through the rest of their with more confidence than before while embellishing their heavy, rock-pop with more high-pitched wailing, playful audience shout outs and dreamy stage lighting. Hong Gi & Co. had nothing to worry about, these fans looked like they were ready to support even if it hadn’t been such a concise and technically impressive set.
Stay tuned to Billboard’s K-Town column for an exclusive interview with FTISLAND on their debut NYC show, new album and more coming soon.