20160229_seoulbeats_exoluxionnat_02There’s been fan accounts and reports of the negative side of the EXO’luXion North American Tour. The encounters ranged from EXO stopping the concert multiple times because of people being hurt in general admission to attendees being physically, sexually, and/or verbally assaulted that may or may not be based on race.

Despite the mixed reviews, a good portion of them ended with “but the concert was awesome.” For me, the concert was enjoyable, but I left feeling not satisfied –almost if something was missing and a “that’s it?” ending. That’s probably because more seemed to go wrong than right concerning the concert.

I went to the concert on February 21 with my close friend and had mentally prepared myself for being an adult in a crowd of pre-teens and teenagers who would be on the verge of tears, shaking from excitement, and screaming from the top of their lungs any time the members did something as little as breathe in the same airspace as them. In short, “brace yourself, EXO-L’s are here.” And in comparison to the INFINITE concert, I’ve come to notice that the further you sit away from the stage, the “chiller” the crowd section is. No one really stood until prompted by Chanyeol to do so and sang along to the lyrics and fan chants. It was one of the finer highlights for me because the section I was in was well-behaved. Even the girl sitting beside me apologized for screaming and bumping into me a couple of times.

20160229_seoulbeats_exoluxionnat_07Three major negative impacts on the concert was the seating arrangement/set up, EXO’s choreography with a missing member, and the translator. First, with how the stage was set up, the best view was straight on. If you sat on the sides, a good portion of the back section of the stage was blocked by large sliding screens. So for songs like “History”, “Hurt”, and “Exodus”, the view was half of the members or two of them if you were “Lucky.” And the tickets I purchased for my friend and I were not noted as obstructive view either.

Concerning the choreography, Lay was unable to attend the tour, which changed the staging, and somehow, balance wasn’t achieved. For example, even when EXO was twelve members, the dance for “Growl”was split into two even groups. So with Lay missing, there was an even number of members for the tour, but for the song, one section had five and the other three. The balance, or lack there of, was slightly distracting.

As for the translator, she wasn’t fully translating what the members were saying, not translating it correctly, and adding her own words. The result of this was a noticeable clash between her and the members. The melody of her tone would end up an up note, which tends to come off as someone is going to continue speaking, but then she would stop so EXO waited for her to finish, but nothing came. But the times when EXO had trouble speaking or getting their intentions across, she did step in; and when the members heard her say what they meant, they visibly agreed.

20160229_seoulbeats_exoluxionnat_04Three minor issues were with the “one step back” movement, mis-location, and sudden evacuation of a section. The constant repetition of not to push, pull, and crush others became annoying really quick. I get it. The excitement of seeing your oppa in person gets the best of you and other people’s safety is not a priority in your eyes, but that’s still not an excuse to force them to warrant a redundant warning. Considering the events that happened at the Vancouver concert, it’s understandable, but shouldn’t be.

This may be no fault of EXO, but I have to spoil the fact that The Prudential Center is in New Jersey, not New York. There was a lot of, “how are you doing New York?” and “I love New York!” and it irked me a bit in a sense of, “you’re here, but you don’t know where you are.” But EXO isn’t the only group to have this sort of ‘problem’. Promoters for K-pop concerts and events make it seem like The Prudential Center is in New York because it’s in in the Greater New York Metropolitan Area. As a result, artists tend to make this mistake. But even though it’s the New York Metropolitan Area, it doesn’t discount the fact that the state you’re actually in is New Jersey.

During “Miracles in December”, section 127 suddenly evacuated. Some people in the same section (128) as myself left too. There was speculation from those behind me of an emergency or some sort of ticket fraud, but it rendered our section really confused. And moments later, across the way on the opposite side, people in that section left too. The most rational guess is someone might have complained about the view (theirs was worse than mine), so they relocated all of them, but then I haven’t the slightest clue where they could have moved 100+ people. So if you happened to be sitting in any of these sections, please let us know what happened.

Despite the negative encounters of the concert, there were some amazing highlights.

20160229_seoulbeats_exoluxionnat_03The set list was close to 25+ songs ranging from their first album, MAMA, to the Winter Album, Sing For Youand three songs from every released album. Overdose was an exception probably because that era was a strange time for EXO.

Xiumin had entirely way too much energy. He was constantly bouncing around and putting more effort into the dance moves than anyone else. Also he noticed that there are a lot of male fans and wanted them to shout, but the female fans shouted anyway.

Baekhyun playing the piano during “My Answer” drew more feelings and emotions than the song normally holds. And I still regard him as one of the best vocalists in EXO.

Chen‘s voice live is too good to put into comprehensive words. Please give him more lines in songs or solos. I’m still really upset I missed out on most of “Miracles in December” because of the evacuation distraction. His vocals are immensely strong and so much better than on an audio track.

Kai‘s dancing skills clearly explains why he’s in 15+ trailers. There’s something different from watching the dance section of “Baby Don’t Cry” with Sehun and then seeing it in person. His performances were nothing less than exceptional.

20160229_seoulbeats_exoluxionnat_01Suho took control of most of the English speaking sections and the rest of the members (sans Sehun) tried their best. It was obvious the language barrier was difficult for them, so they switched over to Korean often. Even though D.O.‘s English speaking accent (or lack there of) is great, I’m surprised he didn’t talk in it more. His pronunciation of the language has always sounded so natural.

DJ Chanyeol spinning on the ones and twos made little sense, but amused me. He was jumping up and down too much to be in control of the panel. Side note: “Drop That” still doesn’t sound like an EXO song (and probably never will).

Sehun sounding a bit formal in his speech was weird, but also amusing for he’s known for speaking informally. At one point, Chanyeol and some of the other members were laughing and someone asked why they were doing so. My guess was that Sehun seemed to be trying hard to speak formally which is out of his comfort zone and he might have been messing it up.

At the beginning of the concert, the boys let the vocal track do most of the work. But once they hit “Baby Don’t Cry” and most songs after that, live vocals took over. In a way, I appreciated that, but the dependency at the beginning took away from the concert because you’re not there to listen to a pre-lay track. So thankfully it happened in the order it did and not the other way around.

The lead into “Sing For You” was definitely a nice touch. Although I wonder how long they’re going to use the OT12 to OT9 story to punch people in the face with feels. A video playing talked a lot of hardships, but sadly, a recent EXO fan wouldn’t grasp the heaviness of the situation EXO provided to them.

20160229_seoulbeats_exoluxionnat_06Interestingly enough, EXO expressed they had no idea they had a large fan base in America. I think some idols are blinded that international non-Asian K-pop fans are a thing. Granted, EXO probably has more of a following between Korea and China because of the Mandarin and Korean branches of their group, but K-pop is not held within the three “major” Asian countries anymore.

Because of this, that’s why there’s been a lot of “crazy” fans. They know EXO has always toured other places for years and now they finally come here. And with a larger fan base, people didn’t know how to control themselves. Sure, they’ve come to KCON twice, but their fan base from when they debuted is nothing compared to now, especially internationally. I’m not placing the blame on EXO or SM Entertainment, but I think if EXO had come earlier and did a tour prior to this one, the overexcited fan experience might not have happened as extremely as it did. In addition, age and maturity are factors of a fan base. EXO may, in fact, have the youngest fan base, so what people have encountered during their time at the concert cannot be helped.

20160229_seoulbeats_exoluxionnat_05In the end, not all EXO-Ls are crazy, my best friend found her bias, and I got to put the information I know about EXO to use from Baekhyun’s relationship with Taeyeon and breakup, D.O. exceptional acting skills, Chanyeol being on Unpretty Rap Star, and some other tidbits in between. EXO promised to come back, so here’s to hoping that the concert hiccups will be solved next time around.

If you attended any EXO’s stops, what were your highlights? Any particular performance or staging you were fond of?

(SM Entertainment, MBCkpop)