True confessions time: I’ve never been to a k-pop concert before… and it’s not for a lack of trying. I had tickets to Super Show 67.3 and that was cancelled at the last minute because the guy who changes the filter in the coffee machine at head office stubbed a toenail or something. Then I had tickets to K-pop Heart (a big arena event featuring After School, Block B, Ailee, Son Dambi, Teen Top among others) and that was cancelled because the organisers were like “contracts are overrated” and then Block B pissed their label off by demanding three meals a day and pocket money for butter to put on their bread so there went half the lineup. Both times I flew over especially for that shit and just spent the whole time shopping instead.
So when I heard about 4Minute coming, I was ready to give up on live k-pop in disgust if it didn’t happen.
Fortunately, it did happen, so now I finally have a live concert to blog about. Whether I give up on live k-pop in disgust anyway remains to be seen.
I got to the venue nice and early just to scope things out and see if I could spot any fangirl insanity, and here’s a photo I took at about 2pm:
Here’s another picture taken just a little bit later, this time from the rear of the same queue:
The hardcore 4nias were already queueing up 5 hours before the event (I’ve blanked out identifiable faces because I’m a nice guy, but if you were there, you know who you are anyway), maybe even longer. I didn’t see the point of standing in a queue for half a day for a show that was standing room up the front anyway so I fucked off to do some eating and shopping, and to check out some of Sydney’s lesser-known “cultural artifacts”:
Yes, I felt them and they seemed real.
I also saw this guy in the Chinatown mall:
The puppeteer was making the skeleton dance and sing to PSY’s “Gangnam Style” – however I noticed the song was not the original, but the Hyuna “Oppa Is Just My Style” version. “Strange choice” I thought at the time… but it would all make sense later.
I turned up back at the venue at about ten minutes before doors-open time to find out that the doors had already been opened early (clearly the venue owners couldn’t be bothered managing the queue outside and felt it would just be easier to let people in to stand around in front of an empty stage instead). Happy about not having to queue up, I made my way up the stairs to the stage, and got instantly accosted by several young girls in the entrance way screaming “two for $5!!!!!” at me, all at once. After a brief moment of confusion I worked out they were talking not about themselves but the lightsticks they had on the table, which weren’t even official 4nia lightsticks but your cheap generic glowstick variety… sorry not interested. I wanted to save my money for the official 4Minute merchandise that I knew would be on sale, and maybe pick myself up an official 4minute shirt or stick or hula hoop or shamwow… oh wait, there wasn’t any, no merch at all. First fail of the night. Bemused by the venue organisers’ apparent lack of ability to milk the fans for every last dollar, I took a position near the front of the stage off to one side a bit, and waited. I didn’t have to wait long – as it was an all-ages show, the venue probably wanted to get things moving quickly.
Before 4Minute, we had the “special guest” denoted on the flyer.
I don’t know the DJ’s name, but he came on solo first and did a 10 minute set of pop mashups that included snippets of PSY’s “Gentleman”, 2NE1’s “I Am The Best”, Crayon Pop’s “Bar Bar Bar”, GD&TOP’s “High High” and a bunch of western pop songs nobody reading this gives a shit about. His mixing skills were pretty decent and he was also good in the performance aspect, visibly getting into it and even abandoning the decks completely to dance at one point, the only downside was the fucking annoying strobe lights in my face the whole time – why does every fucking gig these days have to have harsh strobes. Then he was joined by the rapper you see on the left, who is a Korean-born rapper raised in New Zealand called The Chinga Style aka M.C. YoYo aka Newko aka whatever his mother called him when he slid out of the vag. I couldn’t find any fancams of him at this show so here’s one of his songs from his own YouTube:
I’m in no position to judge his Korean rapping ability as I can’t speak it, but I can tell you that he did a pretty good job of keeping people excited at the show, his tunes were at worst acceptable, and even better, the sound quality was actually decent too. Too many times I’ve been to rap shows and the vocals are mixed way too high compared to the backings and it sounds like anus – not here, the mixing was in fact really good and the only time the sound faltered was when he cupped his microphone the wrong way like a noob and generated a bit of feedback like so many rappers do (I’ll cover this in another blog one day).
Best of all, he didn’t overstay his welcome, he knew we weren’t there to see him and fortunately he respected that – an all-too-rare quality in opening acts. Bless him. About 5 songs and he was gone, and then we only had a few minutes wait and a (very) short introduction video before 4Minute came onto the stage and blinded everyone with more fucking strobe lights while people predictably went apeshit:
If you’re annoyed because you can’t see anything in this picture, don’t worry, neither could I and I was there.
As you would expect, 4Minute started their set with their horrid new songs “What’s Your Name?” and “Is It Poppin’?”, and diligently began shakin’ dat ass:
The new songs actually went across pretty well live, because those annoying computer fart noises tend to get a bit lost in the ambience of the venue, and the screams from fangirls drowned them out too. The fans also drowned out a lot of the rest of the music too, but oh well. Now I know how all those Beatles fans felt in the 60s who just wanted to hear the fucking show.
Then, the group went through a few of their better older songs, including a couple of their written-while-taking-a-shit ballads, which was good because both the girls and the lighting were still for that so it allowed me to get some clearer photos:
Then a couple more songs, a bit of audience chat, some ass-shaking, and they were gone.
- I didn’t time it, but if I’ve got one big criticism of the show, it was that it was just way, way too fucking short. Their set was easily under an hour, in fact it felt like it barely scraped 45 minutes. Of course, they came back for an encore, but they may as well not have bothered, because they just played “What’s Your Name?” and “Hot Issue” again – two songs that they’d already done in the main set (what’s with k-pop and the stupid repetitive encores?). And that was it – $139 plus booking fee thank you very much. And it’s not like they didn’t have the material to go longer if they wanted – there’s no reason why they couldn’t have thrown in some album tracks, or a Hyuna solo or a 2Yoon song to mix things up a bit and give the other girls a break, and they didn’t even do “Volume Up”.
- Their live singing is fine, the fancams don’t convey it but the reason why sometimes vocals don’t come out clearly for some singers has more to do with mixing and microphone technique rather than singing and vocal technique. They’re also really good performers when it comes to encouraging audience participation and engaging with the crowd. Believe it or not it’s actually their live dancing that sucks. They may as well not have bothered with most of the routines, it’s not like any more than the front row would have been able to see what was going on anyway – but there wasn’t much to see.
- I’m convinced that the puppeteer in the Chinatown mall picked the skeleton to represent Hyuna because he’s concerned about her health, I think it was some kind of social statement. Her face looked gaunt and bony as fuck, it was actually a little bit frightening when she got close enough for me to see her face in detail. I don’t know if it’s weight loss, surgery or just too much BB Cream in the wrong places but in any case it wasn’t a good look.
- Speaking of which, all the girls were careful to do that “break from the routine to wave and smile at a random audience member so they get to go away saying OMG SHE LOOKED RIGHT AT ME” thing that I’ve heard so much about and which seems to be standard practice in k-pop. I had Jihyun and Sohyun look right at me at various points and smile and wave like they had just seen an old friend they hadn’t seen in 6 months but the obvious emotional manipulation of it felt distasteful and each time my knee-jerk reaction was “don’t stare at what you can’t afford, girls” and I just raised my eyebrows at them a bit. Neither of them tried that shit a second time on me.
- “Heart To Heart” was the best song and the highlight of the night, the chorus was a bit screechy (although perhaps that was the fangirls’ screechy audience participation blending in with the actual vocals) but it still came off best. The remix of “Huh” (rejigged into some sort of techno thing) was also decent. Worst song was probably “Hot Issue” simply because most of the details of the song were a bit lost in the mix, turning it into a melody/harmony-less chant fest. Other songs mostly came off pretty good.
Am I glad I went? Yes. Did I enjoy it? Yes, but maybe not as much as I should have given what I paid for it. Would I go again? No, not for that price – unless they were billed with some other stuff I also wanted to see, or the promoters promised a much longer running time, at least double what I experienced that night.
5.5 kangaroo scrotums out of 10.
(and don’t ask me why it was called “Party Rock”, I have no fucking idea, that shit was never explained)