On March 9th,the popular Korean pop rock bands C.N. Blue and F.T. Island held Stand Up, a joint US concert for the labelmates. Taking place at LA’s Nokia Theater, it was the first American performance for both groups. Jessie and I made it to the event, so check out what we thought of the show!
Johnelle: It’s been a week since Jessie and I attended the Stand Up concert featuring C.N. Blue and F.T. Island. After returning home, we got together to chat about our experience and thoughts about the concert. Jessie, why did you decide to go to the concert?
Jessie: I made a New Year’s Resolution this year to hit up every K-pop show in the LA area this year, so I was beyond excited when I read the news about the C.N. Blue and F.T. Island show. I’ve been a fan of C.N. Blue since their debut and although I don’t follow F.T. Island as closely, I’ve been a fan of Lee Hong-ki since watching the K-drama You’re Beautiful. Needless to say, I was buying my tickets as soon as they were available because seeing these groups together was something I didn’t want to miss. Since I’ve been to quite a few K-pop shows now, I really wanted to see the difference between dancing groups and actual bands with my own eyes.
Johnelle: That is so weird, I also made a resolution a few years back after regretting for life not going to a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert to go to as much concerts as possible. Going to this concert required a little more consideration because I would have to travel to California and thoughts of Big Bang‘s forthcoming ALIVE Tour were also weighing heavily on my mind. But it was freaking C.N. Blue, who I had been following since their debut because of my affection for Jung Yong-hwa after seeing him in my fave K-drama You’re Beautiful. Lee Hong-ki (Jeremy!) and F.T. Island was just an added plus.
Jessie: I have to say that “Intuition” was a great way to start the show off, with a high energy song that everyone sang along with. They followed that up with a very rousing rendition of the track “Now or Never” from their debut mini album.
Johnelle: “Intuition” was a great start, I was a little worried at first because there was some reverb coming off of the left speakers and I was thinking “oh no, not crap audio equipment at a K-pop concert again,” but the staff was able to fix it and everything was great. Okay, so I don’t know if I had K-drama on the brain or was just sad that I was behind in episodes… but the first thing that popped into my mind when I saw Yong-hwa was Shut Up: Flower Boy Band. Was he, or was he not, rocking the Ji-hyuk look and hair?
Jessie: Oh no, I think you are totally right with that assessment. Crazy, crimpy hair… check! Leather jacket… check! Maybe he wishes he had a role on that show?
Johnelle: Maybe… I was sitting stage left and I have to say that Jung-shin‘s hair was beautiful… I was so jealous. How was your view of Min-hyuk and Jong-hyun? I didn’t have a good view of them other than on the big screens.
Jessie: Min-hyuk was completely adorable. I found myself watching him quite a bit throughout the performance. I don’t usually pay a lot of attention to the drummers, so some of the techniques he used were interesting to see. Jong-hyun seemed to fade into the background a little bit, but I love that when he would have a guitar solo he’d hop up on a riser and all of the sudden it was “epic rocking out with fog machine” time. That was his time to shine during this show.
Johnelle: Jong-hyun can really wail on that guitar–I was impressed. Next up was one of our fave performances of the night,, “Love Girl.” The audience was totally into it singing along and by the end I was, too–“L-O-Vwe-E.”
Jessie: I have to say that “Love Girl” is probably my favorite song of theirs anyways (if I have to pick) so it was so much fun to be able to sing this song at the top of my lungs with them and a venue full of other people, instead of alone in my car. Yong-hwa was having a lot of fun while singing this song too, straying from a performance that mimics the CD, for a more personal feel. He was definitely using his unique aegyo charms during this song.
Johnelle: C.N. Blue found a nice balance between their upbeat pop/rock songs and their harder rock songs. “Just Please” stood out with Min-Hyuk’s drumming, Jung-shin’s steady bass line, and even some technical problems didn’t stop Yong-hwa and Jong-hyun from rocking out on their guitars. They kept up the heavy vibe with “One Time” and “Tattoo” in quick succession. I like that they talked a little in between to the audience, but loved that they tried to get in as much music as possible and transitioned from one song to the next without wasting our limited time with them with dead air in between.
Jessie: Of those songs, I thought “Just Please” really stood out, because it seemed like the emotional performance in terms of vocals. It was mentioned before in our concert roundtable that at K-pop concerts there is still a disconnect, where the artists still seem removed and far away, even though they are in the same room with you. I’ve felt that before as well, but thought that even though they packed the show with as much music as they could fit in, C.N. Blue also made the most of their fan interactions, and Yong-hwa especially, would repeatedly strive to make connections with the audience. After a particularly entertaining chat with the crowd about Bon Jovi and the Red Hot ChiliPeppers, they played a trio of Japanese singles “Get Away” “Where You Are” and “In My Head.” This is also atypical of these types of shows in the US. Artists like DBSK who have success in both Korea and Japan usually stick to their Korean tracks exclusively, which can be a bummer, so I was glad to see these guys perform their songs regardless of language.
Johnelle: Yeah, I also felt that they had a good rapport with the crowd–the connection was definitely there. At the KMF 2011, I felt that disconnect you mentioned. Although I had fun and the atmosphere was great, most of the artists’ performances fell flat for me and I might as well had been watching them on TV. I’m not sure if the difference was because C.N. Blue was playing live or that the venue was a little more intimate, but it was a different experience. There was a significant amount of fans from Japan there both for C.N. Blue and F.T. Island, so I’m not too surprised they added in some of their Japanese hits. I’m glad they did, I love “In My Head” it was a solid song and I loved the PV for it. To keep the crowd going, the next song was their debut hit “I’m a Loner” and the crowd went wild as they sang along.
Jessie: I think it is fun to see how different groups treat their debut songs, like in the US, some groups eventually hate performing the song that got them famous, and would prefer to focus on more recent material and it shows in the performance. I was glad that C.N. Blue are still proud of this song and have a good time with it.
Johnelle: I actually thought it was the last song and couldn’t believe a whole hour had gone by. I did wish their set had been longer at least by a half hour to an hour more.
Jessie: Yeah, I expected them to also. A tiny bit of me was hoping for a super exclusive sneak peek of their upcoming single, but it wasn’t in the cards for us.
Johnelle: Overall, I was totally psyched after C.N. Blue’s performance. The only disappointment that I had was that they didn’t sing any of their ballads–I love Jong-hyun’s slow songs when he sings lead like “Love Rides the Rain” or “I Will… Forget You.” I also can’t believe they didn’t sing “Love Light,” which is my favorite C.N. Blue song.
Johnelle: Other than a quick ten minutes or so to set up, it was right on to F.T. Island. So, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from F. T. Island because while I knew of Lee Hong-ki and some of their more recent songs, I really didn’t know much about them.
Jessie: I’m in the same boat as you on that one. I am familiar with several songs, but I definitely don’t know much about the group aside from their flashy lead singer. However, I was pleasantly surprised as well, and I have taken the time to learn the name of my new favorite member, Song Seung-hyun. I do have to say that I was also glad that they started with “Hello Hello” which is one of their hits that I know the best, so I could make a smooth transition between acts.
Johnelle: “Hello Hello” has a driving beat and Hong-ki was front and center in his flashy jacket getting the crowd to sing along. He really is such a showman and the rest of the band is really solid in their playing. Choi Min-hwan stood out to me as well–he’s a beast on the drums.
Jessie: This is so true! I have to say that Hong-ki was one heck of a front man, he was all over the stage dancing like crazy. After pumping up the crowd with their first song, they slowed it down a touch with “Love Love Love,” a song with a more mellow vibe. I like that even though the two bands are from the same label, they definitely have their own styles, and the performance of this song is really where it begins to show.
Johnelle: You know part of the reason I didn’t care much for F.T.Island songs is because Hong-ki can have a kind of whiny quality to his voice, but somehow live it didn’t really even matter. “Love Love Love,” one of the songs I actually knew beforehand, was great. Hong-ki was so adorkable when he tried to speak to the crowd and began by saying, “Sorry, I can’t speak Englishie…” and then F.T. Island went on to introduce themselves in broken, but understandable English.
And although Hong-ki didn’t speak Englishie well, he probably said the most significant message of the night, “We don’t need word because we have music, right?”
Jessie: During “Love Sick” is when I really REALLY started to be impressed with this group. Can I just say that Lee Hong-ki’s live vocals are AMAZING. They are both powerful and emotional and he sounds just as good as listening to a CD.
Johnelle: Hong-ki’s endurance is unreal.
Jessie: F.T. Island’s current chart-topper “Severely” was one of their top performances. I don’t know if it is just because I am a child of the 80’s, but this song totally reminds me of a Bon Jovi rock ballad, which is never a bad thing!
Speaking of the 80’s, the band also performed a cover of the Falcon song “I’ll Love Everything” from 1982 that they had previously performed during Hong-ki’s stint on Immortal Song 2. I have to say that if you listen to the original and compare the two, F.T. Island has really taken this song and made it their own, adding a layer of richness that it was previously lacking. I thought it was fun that they included this, and even though it wasn’t one of their singles the fans definitely recognized it and were very excited.
Johnelle: F.T. Island kicked the rock into gear with this remake and the crowd went wild. It reminded me a bit of one of my fave alternative bands, Incubus. The instrumentation was rock solid.
Jessie: F.T. Island then performed a pair of harder rock songs in “Revolution” and “I Want.”
Johnelle: This part of their set really surprised me because I didn’t realize previously that they were so much more rock than pop, no wonder they’re so popular in Japan. “Revolution” definitely sounded like it had a Nirvana grunge influence to it.
Jessie: “Flower Rock” had perhaps one of my favorite moments of the show, when Hong-ki had everyone in the audience sit down, and then all jump up at the same time. Even though it was a little hard to perform in the allotted seating space, it was still a fun experience to take part in with everyone there. It was after this song that F.T. Island left the stage, but swiftly came back for an encore performance of their song “Like Birds.” I was familiar with this song by title only, but I liked the upbeat ending to the show.
Johnelle: Hong-ki is such the diva, I think he got his nails done, too (they were all white and black and shiny), but he definitely knows how to work the crowd up into a frenzy. I’m glad that at least F.T. Island were able to do an encore and then they brought C.N. Blue out to say goodbye to the fans with thank yous and bows in each direction.
Jessie: Overall, I had very few complaints about the show, and even though I mentioned to Johnelle prior to the show that I didn’t want to have to stand the whole time, I didn’t mind it when I actually did, because instead of just standing up to be able to see, I was actually having fun! I do wish each group would have played for an additional half hour, and it also would have been nice if there had been merchandise. The C.N. Blue fellas were wearing shirts for their group and I was completely jealous that I couldn’t purchase one for myself. They would have made a mint!
Johnelle: Both bands put on outstanding shows, everything might not have been perfect, but if you expect perfection you should be listening to your iPod. No matter how great fan cams are they can’t compare to how great both bands sounded at the concert and you also can’t feel the excitement and electricity that was in the air. I love C.N. Blue and they did an awesome show, but you could really tell who the sunbaes were because F. T. Island really knew how to rock their stage. Both bands might look like your average K-pop flower boy bands, but they’re not because their skills are legit. I have no regrets about flying in for the concert–it was worth every penny.
(FNC Music; videos and fancams courtesy of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; photos courtesy of 1, 2, 3, 4)