BTS: The Red Bullet Hits Manila with a Bang
The Red Bullet didn’t just pass through Manila – it left its imprint with a bang.
BTS / Bangtan Boys conquered the MOA Arena last Sunday, December 7, leaving behind a trail of ARMYs breathless in their midst. Presented by Pulp Live World, the two-hour, sold-out concert showcased Bangtan’s impressive musicality along with their impeccable dance choreography.
What is Bangtan?
Bangtan Sonyeondan / 방탄소년단literally translates to “Bulletproof Boy Scouts” in English or as they are often called, “Bangtan Boys”. Their group name is symbolic for their music’s ambition to block out the world’s bullets – to stand and fight for the rightful beliefs in a convoluted world. Composed of Rap Monster, J-Hope, Suga, Jin, Jimin, V and Jungkook, BTS is a seven-member Korean hip hop/R&B group who are steadily gaining worldwide recognition for their inventive take on hip hop amalgamated with topnotch dance choreography, all the while encased in the ever glamorously chaotic K-pop industry.
BTS made their official debut just last June 2013 under BigHit Entertainment. A year and a half later, they have drawn considerable attention and admiration from fans around the globe with their music. They have built a formidable music discography after having released 2 EPs, “O!RUL8, 2?”, “Skool Luv Affair”, a single “2 Cool for Skool” and their latest, their first studio album titled “Dark & Wild” – all of which they had a hand in producing and composing. Bangtan’s main rappers, Suga, Rap Monster and J-Hope, are the principal composers of their songs.
Their lyrics centers on the concerns of the youth: on questioning the system, on the whimsical notions of love, the uncertainty in growing up and most prominently, the figurative and literal ambition to take on the world. So to speak, Bangtan’s members are young – their ages range from 17 to 22 years old. However, their musicality is very formidable in its inherent insight, poetry and even flexibility.
BTS has garnered a lot of recognition under their belt. They have won the “New Artist of the Year” at the MelOn Music Awards at the end of 2013 and “Best Rookie Award” in the Seoul Music Awards and Gaon Chart K-pop Awards in 2014. They are nominated for more awards this year, and they might just snatch them. Moreover, they had conducted showcases in Germany, Sweden and Brazil in the middle of this year. Also, for their reality show American Hustle Life, they had filmed in Los Angeles and trained under rappers/producers Coolio and Warren G, along with other prominent hip hop personalities and choreographers.
So what is Bangtan? Who are they?
They are a seven-member Korean group who are young, talented, ambitious, and they’re out to make a dent in the world with their own brand of hip hop.
The Red Bullet Hits Hard!
BTS Live Trilogy Episode II: The Red Bullet is their first Asia tour. They had come to the Philippines after successfully finishing their shows in Korea and Japan. It was Bangtan’s first time in our country, and they were in for a surprise.
BTS arrived in Manila on December 6, Saturday, when a huge number of fans caused a ruckus in the airport as they flocked the terminal to welcome the group. There were reports of a broken glass panel inside the airport and general rowdiness of the crowd as they arrived. Filipino ARMYs were a bit too overeager to see them.
In the evening of the same day, the High Touch Event exclusive for Pulp Royalty ticket holders was held. The event, although it went by very quickly, gave the privileged fans the opportunity to see the 7 members up close and give them a high five, if only for a second.
By Sunday, ARMYs (the official name of BTS fans) came fully equipped. They were dressed in camouflage-themed attires, BTS bias shirts and basketball jerseys along with other fashion brands often worn by the group such as Hood By Air and Dope Couture. As early as 2pm, the surroundings of MOA Arena were filled with ARMYs who were so excited to see the show, their screams can be heard echoing near the mall itself.
Limited tickets were sold prior to the concert, and these were eventually sold out on the day of the show. Only the patron and lower box area were opened yet each seat/space was filled. Sticking true to their schedule, the show started promptly at 7:30 in the evening.
The stage was set up in a red wall splattered with graffiti art with the names of each BTS member. There was a big LCD backdrop at the middle, too. The set-up, compared to other K-pop concerts, was modest. There were no runways or side screens. The stage was also smaller than usual. However, that really didn’t matter because the concert placed great focus on their music and that was just the most important thing for their show.
When the lights went off and the opening video of BTS’ roll call started playing, a sea of yellow lights burned up the Arena along with the loud, frantic cheering of the crowd. Bangtan started strong with the defiant tones of “N.O” and “We Are Bulletproof Pt. 2.
The TRB setlist was well conceptualized. There were the fiery part, the heart-melting set and the party-like-crazy encore. The thing is, Bangtan’s songs are very distinctive, each one sounding very different from the others. They have songs that are sweet to the bones and those that are quite full of rage and angst. During the concert, they distributed these songs nicely. There was no dead air. ARMYs were on an all time high during the entirety of the show. Many in the crowd were singing along to most of their songs.
Following the forceful aura of the first two songs, the setlist shifted to the slow, flowing beats of “We On”, the wistful air of “Let Me Know”, the sweet rhythmic pulls of “이불킥 (Blanket Kick)” and ”하루만 (Just One Day)”, to the conclusive heart-swaying melody of “Outro: Propose”.
One part of the set that really stood out was when the lights turned red and the opening notes of “Cypher Pt. 3: Killer” was heard. Rap Mon, Suga and J-Hope then took the stage to perform the rage-filled song which was written as a response to their haters in the hip hop industry. That part was the most intense performance, seeing as how the three rappers suddenly changed their aura. Gone were the idols for a few minutes. They ran and danced around the stage as if they were in their natural habitat – with Suga doing his crazy shoulder dance, Rap Mon screaming and rapping at the same time and J-Hope looking unusually fierce. It was a joy to see them like that for once.
Then came the opening lines of “Cypher Pt. 2: Triptych” which eventually melted to “호르몬 전쟁 (Hormone War)” followed by “Danger” and “상남자 (Boy in Luv)”. Those songs are the rock-infused ones. It felt great to headbang and sing along to them. It was the highest part of the set. At the end of it, the crowd was virtually left hanging.
Bangtan returned for the encore and this time, the Arena turned into a huge party as they performed “JUMP” followed by the anthemic BTS song “진격의 방탄 (Rise of Bangtan)” and the bouncy “팔도강산 (Satoori Rap)”.
The Seven Members of Bangtan
From the polished, killer choreography to the strenuous rapping and singing to the candid fan interactions onstage, the seven members of Bangtan did their part tremendously well during their concert in Manila.
The leader of BTS, Rap Monster, had this enormous stage presence which undeniably caught everyone’s attention. Add to that his newly colored flaming red hair that was just so striking; it was difficult to take your eyes off it. Known for his poetic verses and deep voice, Rap Mon perfectly showed how he earned his name. He didn’t miss beat nor did he twist his words. As the leader and the only fluent English speaker in the group, he spoke the most during the breaks in the concert.
Suga also dominated the stage with his fast-paced, sharp-witted rap. His stage name comes from “sugar” and the fact that his porcelain skin makes him look sweet, but well, don’t let the name fool you. He’s not exactly your typical puppy-eyed, pretty boy. He’s known for his pointed words and often feisty rapping, but then again, don’t let that fool you, too. Suga’s the same guy who composed “Let Me Know” and “Tomorrow”, songs which are both melancholic and insightful, it melts hearts instantly.
J-Hope, the rapper, dancer and mood maker, was a central figure onstage with his charisma and boundless cheeriness. The J in his name came from his last name, Jeong. “Hope” came from him being the positive influence, much like the hope in Pandora’s Box. Much as his name implies, his rap is often more melodic and more upbeat. Onstage, he’s very playful, always smiling and very much willing to do his comedic take on the Touch My Body dance along with other aegyo tricks.
Jin, the eldest, is quite the eye-catcher. Known and teased as the most visually stunning member of BTS in their interview and show appearances, he definitely did not disappoint. As one of the vocalists of the group, he also held his end well with his sweet voice. As a bonus, he’s also the most gentlemanly figure onstage.
Jimin never failed to take the spotlight whichever side he went. Being one of the most active in fan interactions, he always had this energetic vibe. Always brimming with charisma, he had a ready smile and puncturing gaze to match it for everyone in the crowd. His trademark air kick and smooth dance moves were definitely worth seeing live. More than anything, though, it was most captivating to hear him sing and hit the high notes perfectly.
V is surprisingly very much like you’d expect him to be – full of innocent humor and weirdness (in most cases), which is his charm, really. That, and his sonorous voice which can either give you goosebumps when he sings seriously or give off rage whenever he shouts. He’s quite the crowd favorite, too.
Jungkook is the main vocalist, occasional rapper and dancer of BTS. Oh, and he’s also the youngest at 17 years old, earning him the title of “Golden Maknae”. Showing off his versatility and talent, he did everything extremely well during the concert; it was difficult to believe that he’s the youngest. Also worth noting: he’s very, very tall in person.
BTS, composed of these seven lads, is very different from other K-pop groups. Yes, they are “idols”, but they are not confined strictly to that standard of glamour and showmanship. Each to their own credit, they are very talented. More than that, however, they are capable of writing and producing their own songs. They have a mature musical sensibility for their age, along with the soul and passion to match it.
BTS, The Red Bullet Roundup
To be honest, their music made me appreciate hip hop. I mean, I occasionally try to listen to all genres there is, but I never stuck to hip hop. Bangtan caught my attention because they know how to create good music which does not only sounds nice, but is also insightful and inspiring. Their albums have all been impressive, to say the least. Even the raw, unreleased tracks in their Soundcloud account are well composed.
BTS’ dance choreography and synchronicity are topnotch, too. It makes me wonder how they manage to do it so well while singing and rapping at every performance. I could only imagine how much energy and effort it took to run a two-hour concert while doing all those dances. Add to that their effort to speak completely in English during their speech/talks.
Lastly, they are not just eye candies. If anything, that’s just a bonus. Even with those faces, they’re all exceptionally talented in their own field, and they deserve to be recognized for their music.
BTS Live Trilogy Episode II: The Red Bullet is the best K-pop concert I’ve had the privilege of witnessing upfront. From the beginning to the end, it was just mindblowing – their music, the energy and just being right in front of them. It was the best experience I’ve had. The Red Bullet hit Manila with a bang. It was loud. It was glorious. Right until the last flower confetti was falling, it made me wish they came back for another encore. Oh well, I guess that would have to wait until the next tour.
Note: TRB is the second episode of the trilogy and it’s their first tour. Yes, you read it right. Their second episode is their opening tour, and as they had confirmed in the concert, Episodes 1 and 3 are about to be launched next. So what mystery lies beyond that? Who knows? But I’m sure thousands of Filipino ARMYs are dying to find out. Meanwhile, we keep our fingers crossed for Episodes 1 and 3!
Special thanks to Pulp Live World and Ms. Happee Sy for bringing Bangtan to Manila!
Photos and Writeup by Sandra Mae Laureano
BTS 2014 Live Trilogy: The Red Bullet Live in Manila Setlist
2. We Are Bulletproof Pt.2
3. We On
4. 힙합성애자 (Hip Hop Lover)
5. Let Me Know
7. 이불킥 (Blanket Kick)
8. 하루만 (Just One Day)
9. 여기 봐 (Look Here)
10. Outro: Propose (Extended version)
11. No More Dream
12. So 4 More
14. Miss Right
15. 좋아요 (I Like It)
16. If I Ruled the World
17. BTS Cypher Pt.3: KILLER
18. 호르몬 전쟁 (Hormone War)
20. 상남자 (Boy in Luv)
21. 길 (Path)
23. 진격의 방탄 (Rise of Bangtan)
24. 팔도강산 (Satoori Rap)
Sandra Laureano is a capricious dreamer who enjoys music, fiction, poetry, photography and watching moving pictures in glass screens. In between her job as a finance person, she stares into space, plots little ideas, writes in bits and attends as many concerts as she can.
Visit her blog at bluntvoidprototype.tumblr.com
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