20151017_seoulbeats_bigbang_madeinnorthamerica_posterLast weekend saw top-tier K-pop act Big Bang play four stops in the US as part of its MADE tour. Following their last US visit with the Alive tour, the group’s five members — G-Dragon, T.O.P, Taeyang, Daesung and Seungri — performed in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Anaheim and New York/Jersey.

A lot of our US-based writers made the trip to the three concerts; below are the exciting Big Bang concert experiences from five of our own writers — Johnelle, Willis, Madi, Lorenza and Sarah.

Johnelle: This was my second time seeing Big Bang in concert, well technically it could be considered my third time because I went to both nights at the Honda center three years ago for their Alive tour. Big Bang is my ultimate bias, the group that got me into K-pop, and the Alive tour concert was an awesome experience that made all my little VIP dreams come true; so I knew that if Big Bang ever came to the US again I would go no matter what.

I attended their LA show at the the sold out Staples Center because it was the closest location for me, coming from Hawaii. The crowd was rocking and more than ready for a glorious night of Big Bang shenanigans despite some hiccups with getting everyone into the Staples Center in a timely manner.

Willis: This was also my second time seeing Big Bang. I attended their Alive concert at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California three years ago (we were at the same concert Johnelle!), and it only seemed appropriate to go back to the Honda Center for their MADE tour this time around. I, too, felt like the entry into the venue was a bit sluggish.

Madi: I had heard that Saturday lines for the concert had not so great management. But my guess is that they changed it up and I had no problems getting into the Prudential Center on Sunday.

I was at their first concert in the US in three years during the Alive tour. It was some time after Hurricane Sandy so there was some worry about it being cancelled from the fans and even Big Bang’s side (Taeyang expressed this), but everything came back up in time. Three years ago, it was easy to tell they were glad to finally come to the US to meet their VIPs and we happily received them.

20151017_seoulbeats_bigbang_madeinnewwherever_madiAt that time, I did the VIP package (how could I not?) so I was in the GA area about five feet or so away from the stage. Sadly, I didn’t enjoy it was much I would have liked because, well, I’m short, and couldn’t see too much over the people in front of me. So I spent most of my time looking up at a screen to watch them instead of straight ahead. They promised they would come back, so I had to hold onto that hope that they would so I could have a better time.

This time I didn’t do VIP (because the price was tripled) but I did one of the first sections towards the stage in the fourth row and… It was so much better! Granted the catwalk blocked most of my view from the stage (I saw everyone from about their shoulders up). But when they used the catwalk, they were just right there and so close. It was a tolerable trade off and definitely better from the Alive VIP for me.

Johnelle:  It would have been nice to know beforehand that our view of the main stage would be blocked for most of the concert by the moving catwalk Big Bang used to go back and forth to the front stage, but the moments when the members came to the front stage right and were less than 10 feet in front of us, really made up for it.

Lorenza: Big Bang’s Vegas concert was my first time seeing them live. I’ve been wanting to go to a Big Bang concert since I learned about them in 2009, and boy, they lived up to all my expectations. Both Sarah and I went together and we got the nosebleed seats since while being close would have been amazing, the tickets were extremely expensive. Honestly, just being able to go to one of their concerts is worth it, even if you’re sitting all the way in the back. The stage is set up so you can see everything pretty easily. Their backing band was top notch, and from what I’ve seen on social media, the band loves performing with Big Bang just as much as Big Bang seems to love having them.

Sarah and I brought our SO’s who aren’t into K-pop at all to the concert and they enjoyed themselves almost as much as we did. They still haven’t stopped talking about how much fun they had, even if their knowledge of Big Bang is just through us.

Mandalay Bay didn’t have too many issues other than the sheer amount of people waiting in line. The biggest time suck for the line was the metal detectors, but once through there it was no time at all to get to seats.

20151017_seoulbeats_bigbang_gdragon_madeinla_johnelleMadi: What did you think about the set list? Some people seem to be disappointed that they didn’t perform a lot of songs prior to their Alive album. But if you’re looking for older songs, look to their previous concerts: that’s how I feel. The MADE concert was made to promote their latest singles, so looking for more songs that were before their two recent releases doesn’t make any sense.

Johnelle: I will say that I was disappointed that Seungri again sang “Strong Baby” for his solo song and that Daesung sang “Wings.” Don’t get me wrong: I love “Strong Baby”and it’s a great song, but Seungri also had solid songs on his VVIP and Let’s Talk About Love albums. As for Daesung, it wasn’t his best performance of the song and… Where’s our promised solo album?!

Madi: I believe Daesung’s supposed to go under vocal surgery at the end of the tour, so I wasn’t expecting a singing stage from him. But he performed the stage well. As much as I adore T.O.P, Daesung stole the stage during the night. Comparing him to three years ago, he didn’t speak too much or do as much fan service or interactions with the fans then. Now, he was all over that and the crowd every moment of it.

Lorenza: I really liked the set list they played at the Vegas show, though they didn’t perform “Let’s Not Fall In Love,” which I’m a bit disappointed by. Did they perform it at any of the shows?

I loved that they balanced each MADE single with some of their older hits. I only wish that their encore at Vegas was longer. From my friend who went to the Anaheim show it sounded like they did two or three songs for the encore while in Vegas they only did one. But I admit I’m being greedy. I also just really loved the cinematic cut scenes to set up the solo performances and different songs. They were very Tarantino-esque (is it just me or is the house they party in the one from The Big Lebowski?).

I really enjoyed the sections where they talked. Seungri and Taeyang were the most active at our show; Seungri cracked jokes while Taeyang egged him on. T.O.P gave up on speaking English pretty quickly but honestly, I think if I were in his position I would do the same. Daesung just wanted to charm the crowd with his “sexy dance,” which was super effective. GD was generally flirting with the crowd and being embarrassed by Seungri: AKA a normal night.

[youtube https://youtu.be/0b48OFru0YY]

Willis: Daesung’s dance was so awkward during the Anaheim concert because he was very shy about performing it there. After a few moves, he stopped and told the crowd that he was more bashful about showing this side of himself since his mom was in attendance.

I didn’t feel let down by the set list but some of my friends were. They wanted to see and hear more of Big Bang in the flesh rather than watching the numerous video cut scenes. At one point during the concert, it was alternating one song, one cut scene; so while they did find the cut scenes interesting, they thought it was taking away from live Big Bang time.

In terms of the songs played, I think we were a bit more fortunate at the Anaheim show. There were three or four encore songs performed. Also, I know a bunch of fans love “Lies” and thanks to the music director’s request, Big Bang played the fan favorite song as one of their encore songs. The tour definitely served to promote their MADE album, and folks that attended their Alive concert — hoping that Big Bang would perform as many hits from their past as they did during that concert series — may have felt let down.

20151017_seoulbeats_bigbang_top_madeinla_johnelleMadi: The cut scenes during the concert isn’t abnormal for them. They did the same during the Alive concert since their theme was outer-space. But this one for MADE was definitely interesting. Anyone have any favorites? I personally enjoy T.O.P cursing himself out in the mirror.

I hope no one had parents attending the Jersey show because there was cursing; more than I expected, which was none. I want to say Taeyang is the only one who didn’t let out any sort of profanity. Daesung was the only one who decided to censor himself (“Do you want to see my **** big eyes?”). I thought it was funny, honestly. I think in international shows they don’t have to worry about being ‘proper’ or things that would get their MVs or songs banned from the network. So they let loose and don’t give a crap.

Another expected part was the amount of English during the speaking sections during the concert. So when they spoke English to the crowd, I was taken aback. If I’m not mistaken, three years ago, Taeyang was the only person who spoke in English. Seungri tried his best back then too. But clearly they were prepared this year and for the most part, I understood them clearly. I think the only person who might have actually rehearsed the English script was T.O.P. When they gave their thanks towards the end, you could tell he was uncomfortable speaking in English and soon switched over to Korean.

Sarah: Seungri and Daesung are definitely the most improved over older English concert videos I’ve seen. They didn’t swear as much at our show, but it seems like they got a little too excited once they got over to New Jersey. Our venue, Mandalay Bay, felt very intimate despite being almost at the ceiling, and the best thing about that was we could actually hear and understand them during their talks.

Having only been to KCON concerts before this, where the sound was horrible, I was prepared to not understand them through their accents even if they spoke in English. But the sound at Mandalay Bay was excellent — top scores to the sound director, and their big screen camera person for all the close-ups. And their live band, the members made sure to thank them individually because they were also amazing.

I think the best stage at the Las Vegas show was T.O.P’s “Doom Dada,” though they were all so hyped the entire time that it would be very hard to say why that one was better. It just had so much power: he pulled out all the stops (strobes, dancers, and the fireworks), the backing track was new — more of a trance beat — and T.O.P did his best badass, I-don’t-care, impression in his Mondrian suit.

Johnelle: The highlight of the concert for me was watching Daesung jam out to his drum solo in “Sober” because he looked so happy and free playing the drums. I also absolutely loved hearing Big Bang sing my favourite song off of MADE live, the lovely ballad “If You.” The boys all also upped their English game having a lot more to say to their US fans than three years ago. To cap off the night, Seungri and Taeyang spending some quality time on our side of the stage while dancing to the encore performance of “Bang Bang Bang” was some great fan service.

After waiting months for the concert, it all seems like so much of an amazingly awesome blur — from the beginning with “Bang Bang Bang” getting everyone hyped up from the start. I would have to say that in comparison to the stage from the Alive tour, I was a little unimpressed by the MADE stage. There weren’t as many bells and whistles; but the huge LED screens made up for it with some superb views of Big Bang for all the fans, even those who were farthest away from the stage.

20151017_seoulbeats_bigbang_daesung_madeinla_johnelleWhat the stage itself lacked in impressiveness, the concert made up for in superb use of lighting effects and an abundance of pyrotechnics, streamers and confetti. In fact, the biggest biggest prop of the night was G-Dragon’s fur hat that he wore out during the “Sober” set. Of course all that is just “the icing on the cake” because the concert is really all about the impressive show that Big Bang, their dancers, and their live band puts on.

Willis: If Big Bang are performing at a venue near you and you are able to afford a ticket, I would recommend seeing one of their live shows. Each member gets their own opportunity to shine and their personalities come through nicely. Big Bang are seasoned performers and know how to please a crowd. I love that they have a live band backing them, and their live singing and rapping do not disappoint.

At the end of their MADE Anaheim concert, Taeyang was getting sentimental about not knowing when they will be back and mentioned how he hopes fans will still be there in the future if they do return for another concert somewhere down the line.

Madi: I totally agree with Willis. Even if you dipped a little into BIGBANG or are a VIP, go to the concert. The high energy is no joke. If you’re ever considering attending a BIGBANG concert, just go. Don’t even think about it, do it.

Lorenza: This was honestly my first “real” K-pop concert, other than attending KCON’s concerts this past summer. I think this concert is up there as one of the best concerts I’ve been to and it’s definitely worth the time and money. If there’s any way for you to go see Big Bang in concert, I highly recommend it. They’re one of the best in the business for good reason.

Sarah: As Lorenza said, we went together and brought our SOs who between the two of them know that GD is the one who wears the weird clothes and maybe there are five members? Still, they loved the show! They said it was close to being the best concert they’ve ever been to, and that’s saying a lot for two music lovers. So, if anyone is debating going or has friends who aren’t huge VIPs, just do it! Bring your friends along, don’t worry, they will have fun.

Johnelle: The almost two and a half hours that the concert felt like it went by in a flash of a second; before I knew it, the concert was over and all that I could do was bask in the VIP afterglow and buy more merch. Big Bang has been together for almost ten years and it shows and it is more than evident in the quality of their concerts.

The future is more than a little uncertain for Big Bang with all the members approaching enlistment and their contracts with YG ending. As an avid and anxious VIP, what’s my only regret after flying halfway across the Pacific Ocean to attend the MADE concert in Los Angeles at the Staples Center? That I didn’t also buy tickets to see Big Bang in Anaheim the next night at the Honda Center.

(YouTube. Images via: Johnelle, Madi, Sarah)