The Collective Concert Experience – Billboard
Written by GRB on 12/09/2022
While 2022 has marked the full-fledged return of concerts since the global pandemic put a lengthy pause on touring, SEVENTEEN’s new tour could arguably be the first live show that recaptures the collective feeling of togetherness that makes the live experience so magical.
As various safety measures like masking and limited crowd interactions have understandably been at the forefront of artists’ and promoters’ minds, the final night of SEVENTEEN’s Be the Sun tour at Newark’s Prudential Center was a display in how audiences can reconnect with each other thanks to technology, production and, of course, the members that made up the K-pop boy band.
What most clearly created the inclusive environment came thanks to SEVENTEEN’s official lightsticks, a must-have merchandise item for any K-pop fan that automatically identifies you as a core member of your fandom. Specifically, the lightsticks for SEVENTEEN can shine and flash in a spectrum of different colors, which can all be controlled through a phone app via Bluetooth, as is the case with many K-pop artists’ lightsticks.
At a concert, the artist team takes over the app, so every stick in the venue blinks and glows in sync with the music. Nicknamed “Carat Bongs” to incorporate the group’s fandom name of Carats, the light sticks created a deeper musical connection when they gleamed red and yellow during the pyro-heavy opening numbers of “HOT” and “March” and soft white and pink while the group talked during intermissions.
Throughout the night, the production behind the tour also seemed to create an environment by highlighting the different kinds of people and communities who came to support SEVENTEEN. While cameras tend to pan throughout the audience to spotlight attendees on the arena’s jumbotrons, one couldn’t help but notice the different signs for which viewers had ample time to take in and register. “Mexicans love SEVENTEEN,” “They/Thems for Hoshi,” “Biracial Bisexuals for Vernon,” and “Latinas for Dokyeom” were some of the fan-made posters that got ample screen time as flags from around the world and identity-focused ones, like QTPOC Pride Flag, made appearances.
While K-pop rarely gets overtly political, giving space to these different communities and groups was a subtle way for the band to show their ongoing support for equal rights once again.
As part of the final North American stop in the Be the Sun tour, production asked fans to learn and sing a section of SEVENTEEN’s sentimental 2016 song “Smile Flower” as a gift to the group. Before the guys returned for the encore, the arena screens flashed instructions saying, “Here in the last city of the North American Tour in Newark, there is a special event for SEVENTEEN: After the photo shoot time at the end of the show, we will sing ‘Smile Flower’ all together for SEVENTEEN. Please learn the song and the lyrics for ‘Smile Flower’ now” and presented a section with the lyrics in Korean and via Romanization.
While the bright orange font color made it challenging to memorize — and SEVENTEEN later joked about the audience’s somewhat lackluster singing — the effort to connect the audience in yet another way to the artist was evident.
But SEVENTEEN didn’t just leave things up to the tech and production but did their part to create a community at the concert.
One of the night’s standout moments came when the group noticed one fan dancing in a glow-in-the-dark, LED “stickman” costume high up in the rafters of Prudential Center. After Hoshi spotted the “stick man” — who turned out to be female or, as he called her, a “stick girl” — he shouted her out for all of the 13 members to see.
The singers also connected with several individuals in the crowd throughout the night, taking time out to ask their names and have them sing various parts of their songs. As the concert winded down with closers “Snap Shoot” and “VERY NICE,” Seungkwan went down the concert floor to have Carats sing verses into his microphone before the group would follow up with the choruses. For the first time in years, SEVENTEEN and their supporters were getting face-to-face contact during the three-hour musical affair.
Newark was an extraordinary ending for the Be the Sun tour as all 13 members of SEVENTEEN could close out the North American leg of the tour together.
Throughout the run, four members were struck with COVID-19 and needed to sit out of concert dates (and skip a Jimmy Kimmel appearance), but having the entire group close out this final show not only added to the central theme of togetherness of the night but was clearly important to the guys themselves.
“We’re so glad to be back as 13 for you guys tonight,” Joshua told the crowd early in the night and was a sentiment echoed by his various bandmates throughout the show.
After opening up to Billboard about the collective “hardship” of negotiating contracts for all 13 members to continue forward as SEVENTEEN, the boy band undoubtedly know the importance of staying together and leaning on one another — figuratively and literally, one quickly lost track of how many times the members would carry one another on piggyback.
That was reflected in the group’s latest concert experience, which felt all the more significant for coming after more than two-and-a-half years of COVID concerns.