BTS Returns for First Live Concert in South Korea Since 2019

Published March 11th, 2022 - 07:24 GMT
BTS Returns for First Live Concert in South Korea Since 2019
INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 03: (L-R) V, Suga, Jin, Jungkook, RM, Jimin and J-Hope of BTS attend 102.7 KIIS FM's Jingle Ball 2021 Presented By Capital One at The Forum on December 03, 2021 in Inglewood, California. Amy Sussman/Getty Images/AFP

K-pop superstars BTS made an emotional return to the stage on Thursday for their first concert in front of a local audience since 2019 as they kicked off the first of three Permission To Dance On Stage - Seoul shows.

Spirits were high for the return of the hometown heroes, but COVID-19 restrictions kept the atmosphere at Seoul Olympic Stadium more subdued than usual, with a reduced capacity of 15,000 and a ban on cheering, singing and -- ironically enough -- dancing.

The septet opened the show with "On," the lead track from their fourth full-length album, Map of the Soul: 7, which was released in February 2020, just before the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic derailed touring plans for the next two years.

The setlist moved through older hits including "Dope," "DNA," "Fake Love" and "Idol" and onto more recent global chart-toppers such as "Butter," "Dynamite" and show closer "Permission to Dance."

During spoken interludes throughout the roughly 2 1/2-hour set, band members Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V and Jungkook reflected on their return to the stage.

"I missed you for 2 1/2 years because of COVID-19," J-hope said to the audience. "But as soon as I saw you I felt complete. A singer needs an audience."

Band leader RM lamented that the COVID-19 restrictions limited the full concert experience, but said it was special to be back in front of a local audience.

"It was a difficult two years because we couldn't see each other, talk, receive energy or say 'I love you,'" RM said. "But at least we were able to finally hold a concert. It was special that we sang 'Home' today because we came back home. This is our hometown. I'm so happy that we can sing here."

In addition to the smaller crowd, dialed-back special effects brought an almost intimate atmosphere to the stadium show. But the K-pop idols still delivered intricate choreography, countless costume changes and spectacular set design. Colors and moods shifted from monochromatic black, white and red to disco-era technicolor and paisley psychedelia.

Enormous LED screens were a highlight, blending eye-popping graphics with close-up footage of the performers, while set pieces for songs "Black Swan," and "Idol" reached elaborate heights.

Before the show began, fans who had been lucky enough to snatch up the heavily in-demand tickets posed for selfies and soaked up the atmosphere.

Yoo Jeong-hyeon, a South Korean student, said she had seen BTS already but was looking forward to hearing the material that had been released since their last concert.

"We haven't been able to see their shows live since 2020," she said. "So I can't wait for songs like 'Permission to Dance.'"

Nastya Borshcheva, a 22-year-old Russian studying in South Korea, said that she's been a BTS fan for nine years but hasn't had a chance to see them live until now.

"Now that I'm in Korea it's a huge opportunity," she said. "I'm finally here. I've been counting down the minutes and the seconds."

Two more shows in Seoul are scheduled over the weekend. The concert on Sunday will be streamed online, while Saturday's performance will be broadcast in select theaters around the globe.

Thursday's show was the first time BTS has performed in Seoul since October 2019 on the Love Yourself: Speak Yourself tour. The group held online concerts in 2020 and 2021 before returning for a handful of live performances in Los Angeles in November and December 2021.

After completing their Seoul run, BTS is heading to Las Vegas for four dates in April and will be up for a Grammy the same month for their single "Butter." The band's label, Big Hit Music, teased in December that BTS was prepping a new album but details remain scarce on the upcoming release.

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