Shinee‘s debut single, “Replay,” and its accompanying EP were released on the 22nd of May, 2008, but it is the date of the group’s first music show performance, the 25th of May, 2008, that is being celebrated this year as Shinee’s 11th anniversary.

This is especially fitting when you consider how famous Shinee is for their live performances, where their energetic choreography almost never compromises their live vocals. Shinee is a group you can count on to give a quality performance, and that is exactly what they have delivered time and time again for the past eleven years.

As such, any exercise in highlighting just a few Shinee performances can feel futile. Yet, I have elected to submit myself to this torture and present 11 of the most memorable Shinee performances from 2008 to now.

1. THE Debut Stage

I mean, how can I go past such a classic stage. There was an attempt to add some pizzazz with smoke machines, back up dancers, and that weird voice-over intro, but it all melts away when narrowing in to concentrate on thesd five boys. Watching this stage again reminds me of how much has changed and stayed the same.

The live vocals and performances have consistently improved since this day, especially Taemin‘s, but Shinee’s commitment to giving their best has not wavered. It is no wonder why this is considered one of the best debut stages in K-pop (especially for its time) and it is an actual crime that SBS does not have it available on their official channel.

2. That “Dream Girl” Stage

Speaking of commitment to performances, this notorious stage is a prime example. Shinee’s first comeback stage for “Dream Girl” — the first of three comebacks in one year — went so smoothly that probably nobody noticed it hardly went smoothly at all. Only at the final chorus, it becomes obvious that Jonghyun, ad-libbing while the other members rotate around him, does not have a mic stand. Where did it go?

I am glad Tony Testa is out of K-pop, but I will credit him for changing up the usual mic stand choreo by not leaving them stationary. However, that increases the opportunity for things to go wrong. Just after the two-minute mark, a misplaced step results in Minho breaking the mic stand off its base. Yet, he continues as though nothing is wrong; the other members clear away the mess and we hardly notice thanks partially to the editing, but also due to the members calculating each move so that they could swiftly remove the offending items while dancing. The rest of the “Dream Girl” promotions continued without a hitch, and without Onew knocking his head off from flipping that mic stand.

3. “A-Yo,” Let’s Goof Around

In 2010, Shinee embarked on their first concert tour, Shinee World. Their Tokyo concert is a thing of legend: a second show had to be added due to overwhelming demand — and this was be months before Shinee even announced their debut in Japan. The group worked through their whole discography up to Lucifer and its repackaged version, Hello, in a 29-song setlist. This meant that in between the fancy footwork, fireworks, and other effects, there were also moments for Shinee to give more unstructured performances.

“A-yo” is a perfect B-side for that; there is no pre-made choreographg for it, while the uplifting lyrics and cheery tune make it an apt soundtrack for Shinee to use all two of their brain cells to initiate a brief game of tag — and laugh at Onew when he’s off-sync (he really needed that brain cell, OK?). It is no wonder “A-yo” is such a fan-favourite.

4. “Excuse Me Miss,” Shinee Has a Special Treat For You

Some more shenanigans from Shinee, albeit more planned. “Excuse Me Miss” is a gorgeously chill, flirty song off Misconceptions of Me, but things were kicked up a notch with an added verse for vocalists Jonghyun, Onew, and Taemin before Minho and Key came in with their bars. Despite the extraness and cheeky arse shaking, the performance manages to retain much of the suaveness of the original.

5. The “Sherlock” Performance That Saved the 2012 KBS Gayo… But Not Taemin’s Pants

Of the three Gayos hosted by the main networks in South Korea, KBS’s end-of-year song festival is usually the most boring; not even the combined hotness of Suzy and Hara could “fix it.”

But then came Shinee.

The outfits were terrible, the stage design was nothing to write home about, and there was barely even an introductory dance break. Just as we were expecting a transition to the bridge and final chorus, however, Taemin instead launched into the second verse of “Clue,” one of the two songs (“Note” being the other) that were mixed together to create “Sherlock.”

This was exactly the kind of second wind both Shinee and the Gayo needed. We got centre!Onew and that scat-tastic Jonghyun ad-lib. Even the stage seemed to become re-energised, raising the members high above the audience. It was all just too much for Taemin’s pants, which split from the ferocity in which the wearer launched into during that final dance break.

6. My Eyes Were Looking For This “Odd Eye” Stage

Because we all love us some DARKnee, especially of the sexy (pirate) variety.

This stage (which SBS would not let me embed) has everything: Key in an eye patch, female back-up dancers who are the second-biggest producers of sexiness in this stage, Key in ice blue contacts, a slightly uncomfortable Onew, Key doing that thing he does in the second verse, everyone pulling off that body roll-gyration combo, Key in eyeliner, Minho wearing cuffs but no shirt, Key.

7. This Ballad Will Always Be By My Side

I admit I am not the biggest ballad aficionado, but it is not hard to see that Shinee has some lovely ones in their discography. What led me to choose this over “Selene 6.23,” “In Your Room,” “The Name I Love,” or even the renowned “Graze,” were two things: “1000 Years” was one of the first ballads that gave Minho serious singing lines, and this performance was the fourth of a six-song set performed at Odiba, Japan. Shinee’s second Japanese album, Boys Meet U, was released only a couple of months prior, and this set brought us back to Shinee, the boy band working to establish itself.

8. That Year We All Thought Shinee Was Going to Evaporate from Exhaustion

In 2013, Shinee had already put out an ambitious and successful double album, and released their second Japanese album. But that apparently was not enough for them and/or SM Entertainment, because we were suddenly presented with a whole EP. Any concern over the members’ rest time and health were only exacerbated when we all saw — and heard — “Everybody.” Apparently, fascist toys have a lot of energy to burn.

But even when the expected injuries happened, and Onew was stuffed into a perspex box for live stages, I could not help but appreciate how the choreography brought the concept to life, from Minho turning the other members “on,” to everyone assembling into a toy plane. Basically, “Everybody” manages to be utterly ridiculous without being “Ring Ding Dong.”

I am just relieved that they got their daesang after what they went through that year.

9. See No “Evil” … Or So They Claim

Shinee could totally see through those blindfolds, but that does not take away from the effect of its use. This stage takes the hankerchief/scarf prop to a whole new level. The “Evil” was felt throughout this performance, from the face mash-ups and the back-up dancers literally holding the members down and overwhelming Jonghyun, to Key’s eyeliner (game recognise game), as well as the mini-homages to “Thriller,” and Onew’s truly nefarious dead-eyed stare during the bridge.

10. Shinee Will Survive

I first discovered K-pop through an epic binge of SNSD‘s MVs on YouTube. At some point on the third day, I remember telling myself, “Hey, this was a great distraction, but maybe it’s time to get back to studying for your exams?” To which I replied, “Sure thing, let me just watch this one last video. I haven’t seen what the boy bands could do.”

Shinee’s “Ring Ding Dong” had kept popping up in the suggested videos section, and each time I had snorted and thought, “I’m not watching that, show me a song with a better name and I’ll consider.” So when the “Lucifer” MV popped up, I felt obliged to live up to my word… And I have not been the same since. I became a Shawol; I became a flame; I listened to “Ring Ding Dong.”

Jonghyun is a force of nature in “Lucifer” and one of the thoughts I had following his passing was how that song especially would sound without him. However, this performance from Shinee World The Best 2018 has been more soothing than I expected. It is the last song before the encore and the members can be seen giving it their all — their determination is written on their faces. Key especially, who takes over most of Jonghyun’s lines, has been a revelation. I am simply in awe of what he has achieved here.

Between this true grit and the sublime live band, this has unexpectedly become one of my favourite performances of “Lucifer” ever, and I am sure Jonghyun is so proud of his members.

11. “Replay,” Always

“Wait, Gaya, why did you put “Replay” in here twice?” I hear no-one ask, because even if I had just listed eleven different performances of “Replay” here it would be entirely valid. “Replay” is that song. In fact, that is what I am going to do next year, thanks for the idea.

But really, this is coming back to the idea of unstructured performances by Shinee, a group that operates so smoothly they were called robotic. For the Shinee World IV tour, “Replay” was used to open the encore, allowing the members to take a much more relaxed approach. The iconic dance is all but forgotten at points, further reinforcing the juxtaposition between their debut stage and now; these are no longer the nervous kids who gave rote-learned interview answers. Instead, we have a genuine exchange of love and appreciation as the entire audience joins in to sing the final chorus.

I cry, you cry, the members cry, the audience cries, and Jonghyun bawls his eyes out. I damn near flooded my room with tears while writing this article, but Jonghyun probably filled that whole venue with his. I love him so much.

This is by no means an exhaustive list — I know I had to cut out so many other performances I adore. So, let’s continue the good times: what are your favourite Shinee stages? Share them in the comments below!

If you or anyone you know is feeling distressed, a list of helpline numbers from around the world can be found here:

(Dailymotion, KBS, Mnet, SBS, YouTube[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]. Images via SM Entertainment, Ceci)