It’s been almost three weeks since BTS performed in South and North America for their sold-out WINGS tour. “Intense” barely describes the chaotic clamor for tickets that ensued the literal minute they went on sale. Their fans flew from different countries and continents for a chance at seeing them live. Not only that, but some sacrificed work, school, and prom to meet these seven talented men who came from South Korea to astound an audience of thousands with their concert.
Their recognizable popularity attracted various news outlets to interview them: Billboard, Teen Vogue, People, etc. March gave way to numerous k-pop concerts, yet BTS stood out the most. Maybe it was their record-breaking reputation, or it could’ve been the sight of excited ARMY coming out in droves for this rare occasion. Whatever it was, non k-pop fans certainly noticed something hot was happening, and their name happened to be BTS.
A few of our writers managed to attend the WINGS concert at their U.S. stops. Madi and Lauren saw them in Newark, NJ while Cjontai caught them both nights in Anaheim, CA. They somehow survived seeing this powerful group and are here to discuss their experiences.
Cjontai: Let’s just start with the Hunger Games that was buying the tickets in the first place. It was so stressful! I almost freaked out when it looked like I wouldn’t get squat, but clearly, I saved a village in a past life since I scored P1 pit with a sound check. I also got lucky again when I bought a last minute ticket for day 2 in Anaheim. It was pretty funny considering I was recording Buzzbeats with Lo and Madi and screamed when I found it.
Lauren: I actually think buying tickets for The Red Bullet tour in 2015 was more stressful. I had three computers going for that because I knew the demand was way more than the supply then. This time, I wasn’t quite as worried but it was still like preparing for a sports event. My stomach was tied in knots but I had my phone and my laptop ready to go, as well as a cup of tea (for hydration) and a credit card because I was willing to spend whatever it took.
I got shut out of all the P1 and P2 during the original rush, so kudos to Cjontai for actually scoring those. Luckily, I eventually got all the tickets I needed because I refuse to accept rejection as failure. I ended up buying a couple tickets from Stubhub when resellers’ prices went down. I didn’t get the best seats on either night, but I knew it would be okay. The Prudential Center in Newark is a decent venue and even bad seats are fine at a BTS show.
Madi: I think what screwed a lot of people over was that they split the tickets between Powerhouse Live and Ticketmaster. I didn’t think that was a good marketing move, but who am I to tell someone how to run an event or their company. I always wanted to experience a concert sitting in the middle and not on the sides like I normally do. I had that chance this time around.
I’ve never been so stressed out buying tickets in my life. And for the first time, Ticketmaster’s mobile app failed me for getting tickets. For the first night (which was initially Friday), when tickets went live, nothing came up. Then the announcement of Thursday happened and somehow I got two chances at tickets. The first I released because they weren’t in a good spot, but closer to the floor. But the second ones were dead middle and the second highest seating section. So I said to myself, “Let’s not release these and then not be able to go”, so I took those. Plus it probably didn’t help that I was looking for two tickets and not single ones.
Cjontai: Oh, I’ll tell them because the disorganization put such a sour note on things. I don’t know how things were handled at your venues, but I was practically screaming by time sound check happened. It had nothing to do with security in the wake of Jimin‘s death threats either, although I appreciated the extra precautions taken for that. I don’t think the venue expected such a crowd, which is puzzling for a place that hosted Big Bang a couple years ago. Staff and security struggled to communicate with each other, which frustrated fans who were being shuffled back and forth in various lines. At one point, they sat us on the ground like kindergartners to get things in order. It was a flipping nightmare.
Lo: I think Powerhouse definitely flubbed some things and ticketing didn’t go as smoothly as it could’ve for several reasons. For one, they should’ve put a cap on how many tickets any one buyer could hold at any given time. Having Ticketmaster say there’s no available tickets two minutes into the sale is just ridiculous.
I heard that the soundcheck in Anaheim was a mess (and saw some video of a bunch of stampeding fans) but as far as I heard/know, Newark didn’t have those problems. When I got there on the first day, which was maybe an hour before the show, there were remnants of a shanty town outside the venue, so I know people were camping out but luckily I missed that. When we got to the door, the line moved quickly and the security check went smoothly as well. They ushered us to multiple lines and made sure everybody got through as fast as possible.
That merch line was another thing entirely – what a nightmare.
Cjontai: Right! Thankfully, they had enough light sticks, which I wanted the most. Without one, the rainbow ocean wouldn’t have felt the same. Did y’all participate in it? What did you think of the project?
Madi: Yeah same. I wanted to check out the merch at least, but with getting the venue roughly an hour before the concert was supposed to start, there was no choice to go around the mob of a line. I figured that getting there later, there wouldn’t have been a lot of people because the availability to merch started at 1pm I believe.Was definitely wrong on that front.
Considering the time I arrived to the Prudential Center, I wasn’t able to participate in the project. I’m sure that the handing out everything for the related projects happened earlier. There was also some handout about what to say after they introduced themselves, never got that paper either. The only thing I did get was a song to sing at a certain time, but I don’t think it ever triggered. So……… the one thing I had a chance for never happened haha.
All things considered, I think the rainbow was a great thing. Just wished I could have been a part of it. Did each stop have a different project? I imagine so, right?
Cjontai: I saw a couple of banner projects happening, and the guys have been posting some of them on social media. I think they were genuinely touched by the projects.
Speaking of being touched, it was clear that the feeling was shared by fans at the concert. Despite the mess of the first day, I found myself tearing up the that night because I was so grateful to be there. Months of waiting and working resulted in this magical moment where I was able to watch a live performance by my favorite group.
There’s something about seeing that curtain fall, and all seven of them are staring out into the audience. I was in pit the first night, so I saw the details of their costumes, the gloss on their lips, and the legendary tightness of their pants that my friend begged me to photograph for her. Just to let y’all know, pictures really don’t do them justice. I’m serious; BTS is extra fine in reality.
Lauren: Before they step out on the stage is always the best moment. The crowd was so hype and then boom, there they are. I’ve seen them a few times now, but the feeling is always the same. Everyone screams at the top of their lungs and it sets the tone for the rest of the show. The excitement is always so electric.
Since you mentioned the costumes, I just wanted to say that BigHit has definitely stepped up their game as far as presentation. The boys were all decked out in multiple customized jackets and there were quite a few costume changes. Those were especially important during the solos. Suga and Jimin‘s costumes in particular were really stunning, I remember. It’s the little details like that that can just make a concert experience better.
I wasn’t close enough to see the tightness of the pants, though. Sad.
The setlist was interesting. They opened with “Not Today”, off their Wings repackage, You Never Walk Alone, and went into some of their most upbeat songs, including “Baepsae” (which is still one of their best songs ever) and “Dope”. Then it was time for the solos and I don’t think any of us was really ready for that. Jungkook was up first with “Begin”, which is one of my favorite songs off Wings. That kid. He’s such a whirlwind. The choreography for “Begin” is kind of unexpected because it’s really fast and energetic for the song but I don’t think the emotion of the song was lost. If I had a complaint for “Begin”, it was that I wished they had done more with the staging. It seemed to be one of the most bare-bones solo stages, despite the additional backup dancers.
I’ll let someone one else go off about Jimin, because I know you all have your own thoughts on that “Lie” performance.
Cjontai: Jimin is unreal. We know a lot of idols go through vigorous training, so seeing him put years of hard work on the stage was amazing. I especially loved that lift and the blindfold.
I’m also thankful to BigHit for providing live musicians. They really brought Jin and Suga’s stages to life. Seeing cellists surrounding Suga as he rapped passionately is something all ARMY should experience. And you must hear Jin and V‘s high notes.
My favorite was J-hope‘s “Mama.” He’s my bias for a reason. That man has such a commanding stage presence. I appreciated him sharing his childhood pics on the screen because it’s something you know means a lot to him. I nearly cried seeing it.
Madi: Ah don’t make me pick one of their single stages. They’re hard to compare to each other because each one brought a different experience to the table. Hearing Jin belt out notes during “Awake” sent chills down my pine, but I almost teared up during Suga’s “First Love”. Having Rap Monster‘s “Reflection” lead right into V’s “Stigma” was perfect. J-Hope’s “Mama” had a personal touch and the Jungkook’s “Begin” as Lauren mentioned had the faster paced dance for a slower song, but the contrast only proved how talented he is.
The “History of BTS” medley was a nice touch that I didn’t expect (remember, I don’t look up fan cams or anything before concerts). I sort of wished that “War on Hormone” had a spot on the list. It’s one of my favorite “throwback” BTS song (so to speak).
Even though I didn’t get into BTS at their debut, I’ve enjoyed seeing these boys grow. Hell, even between KCON and now, they don’t even seem like the same artists I saw ten months ago.
Lauren: I’ll show my bias and talk about Rap Monster’s stage because it was one of the most powerful solos for me. Most specifically because of the fan chant, which was a creation of Brazilian ARMY and spread to subsequent shows. When RM repeated the final bleak lines of “Reflection” – ‘I wish I could love myself’ – the whole arena chanted back “We love you” and it gave me chills, seriously. On the second night, he answered back by changing the lyrics and the audience-performer connection was strong.
Like Cjontai said, J-Hope’s gospel-tinged “Mama” was also a standout. He took all of us to church and I was not ready.
When it was time for another one of my favorites, “Blood Sweat & Tears”, I think I was emotionally wrung out from the solos and screaming for “Cypher 4”, but those hip thrusts brought me back to life. The concert was almost over, but BTS had just as much energy as in the beginning, maybe even more. I was rejuvenated and I didn’t want the show to end. Like Madi, I definitely missed the inclusion of some of their old b-sides and getting snippets of their older title tracks wasn’t enough for me, either. Basically, I wanted BTS to be on stage for four hours and sing the majority of their discography. Not too much to ask, right?
Cjontai: Well, it is called the WINGS tour, so having that album be the main focus wasn’t a huge deal to me. Still, I’ll chime along with my own lament of what I wished they performed — “House of Cards.” I know it would’ve been my funeral, but I don’t care! I wanted that song so badly.
Aside from that, it’s a shame that we don’t get more chances to see them in concert. I understand the logistics of why, plus BTS would get homesick after a while. They traveled across oceans to see their fans, which meant a lot to ARMY. I’d like it if this tour reached Europe and other countries that don’t get many k-pop concerts. I’m privileged to live in a popular location like California because I know 99% of the time, we’re getting a tour stop. I wish other fans could be as fortunate.
I miss having them here already after two weeks. I miss the camaraderie of the ARMY. I miss seeing my bias wreck my life during sound check and Cypher Pt. 4.
I don’t think I’d change anything about the concert itself. BTS was so gracious at the end, thanking us for the rainbow and for being supportive fans. I need Big Hit to bring a lot more merch next time, though.
Madi: Obviously not too much to ask, Lauren. I mentioned this Cjontai how I felt completely different between BTS and Big Bang considering their concerts. Big Bang has this club vibe and when you feel it’s about to wind down and it’s time to go home, you have this sense of satisfaction when it’s done. When BTS was hitting that winding down moment, I was not okay with that. After the concert ended, I was left with wanting more and that has never happened to me during a concert. I was happy, but left feeling so unfulfilled.
I will make a comment about “Cypher Pt. 4” though. A girl attended the concert with her parents who obviously gearing up to eat, drink, and suffer through the entire thing. They probably took a picture here and there, probably not for their daughter, but to be like “wow Korean concert, this is an experience,” and show it to their friends or coworkers” But when “Cypher Pt. 4” came on, the dad was bobbing his head, recording the state, and was thoroughly enjoying it. I’m positive he had no idea what the lyrics were outside of the English ones, but it made me smile. Bring in more parent ARMYs to fangirl with their kids!!! No, I’m kidding, but it just made me happy that he was reeling in the moment like the rest of us, even if it was a very small amount.
I wish I could have looked at merch even for more than five seconds. I definitely would have picked up something. But they seemed to have a lot? I don’t know if they had less by the time they got out to the west coast.
But if BTS ever reads this, thank you for spending our time with us and as you mentioned in the NJ concert, you were happy that you got to perform on a bigger state and sell out. These are achievements and I am so proud of you and look forward to what you’ll do in the future.
Lauren: Exactly. Being in NYC, I’ve been lucky enough to see them multiple times but I’m glad I got to see them at Kcon last year because seeing “Cypher Pt 3: Killer” for (maybe? hopefully not!) the last time was so worth it.
I agree about merch, too. I missed out on getting a RM fan thingy because, on the second night, pretty much everything was sold out by the time I arrived. I shrugged it off and headed for the bar instead but it still stings a little bit. Just a bit. At least ARMY bombs were in plentiful supply. The pricey lightstick seemed to be the one item they brought enough of.
As a group, their English has gotten a tiny bit better but their genuine appreciation for their fans is always felt, no matter what language they’re speaking in. Jin gave his signature hand kisses. Taehyung and J-hope’s enthusiasm didn’t need a translator. Jungkook showed determination to get all of his script correct. Suga and Jimin reverted to Korean to thank the crowd but, judging by the screams, the crowd didn’t mind. RM’s English still isn’t perfect but he was great at finding the right words to connect with the audience in ways that felt real and were memorable. The group as a whole just left a very good lasting impression.
Who else attended the WINGS tour? Share your experience in the comments!
(Images via Big Hit and Cjontai)