KNK is yet another group in K-pop with a tough journey behind their backs. Since debuting in 2016, they have faced the mishaps of YG’s messy survival show MIXNINE, lost a member, gained a member, and changed companies. All this resulted in a nearly 18-month hiatus, broken only in January of this year when they returned with the moody saxophones and jazz vibes of “Lonely Night”.

In July, KNK made another comeback with “Sunset” and instilled hopes for a reinvention of their sound, as the release explored disco club beats and an entrancing bassline. Propelled by this momentum, they kicked off their first European tour, Sunrise this month — where I had the pleasure to attend the Lisbon stop.

The chosen venue, Time Out Studio, presented a very intimate configuration. The small stage was comprised of a slightly elevated floor and a plain backdrop with the logo of the tour. Simple rope barriers separated the public from the stage at a very short distance — the kind that more rabid fandoms could have easily trespassed. There were no VCRs or fancy effects, and the group only did the mandatory change of outfits once, for the encore portion of the concert.

However, while modest, the concert was thoroughly enjoyable. For once, the intimate configuration allowed the public to be very close to the band — something increasingly difficult in K-pop — and offered plenty of interaction, eye contact, and energy exchange. The fans were passionate but respectful, and the overall experience was that of calm enjoyment.

Opening the setlist was the tropical EDM of “We Are the One,” a b-side out of their latest EP, KNK S/S COLLECTION. It set the mood for the aforementioned single “Sunset” and its intricate choreography — one of the highlights of the show. While common to have latest singles being played first, KNK could have benefitted from saving this moment towards the end of the concert, therefore bringing more impact to such an excellent highlight.

The exciting beginning was followed by a short ment and a mid-tempo ballad segment with “Day By Day”, “Rain” and “Lonely Night.” The songs slowed the pace of the concert and eased the group into a full ballad segment, where Seoham, Inseong, Jihun, Heejun, and Dongwon showcased soulful vocals in the tracks “Think About You” and “I Remember”.

As of praxis, another ment ensued and each member took a turn singing a song they loved, such as Heejun covering Coldplay’s “The Scientist” and Seoham showing his known love for KARD by singing “Dímelo”  — and dancing to “Ride on the Wind”. The concert followed with a balanced mix between uplifting and calmer tracks, as well as b-sides and singles like “Tonight” and “Sun, Moon, Star”. Before the encore, KNK doubled down with two of their most popular singles, “Back Again” and “U”, ensuring an impactful ending to the setlist before the encore.

They returned to the stage for the final two songs, “Love You” and “Day N Night”, and dedicated those final minutes to interact with Tinkerbells. Grabbing gifts, Portugal flags, and props like toy swords, they ran around the stage and enjoyed this casual moment with wide smiles.

What surprised me the most was the absence of their lofty debut single, “Knock”. That kind of grandiose atmosphere would have made an impressive opening to the setlist, and increase in a few minutes the expectation for “Sunset”.

But this is just a small detail. In the same way the sun always rises in the morning, KNK proved to be ready for a new page in their careers as well. As much as K-pop depends on many other factors besides prowess and skills, KNK is doing their best and consistently showing up. Hopefully, this tour took them one step closer to truly achieving the success they deserve.

(Images via Seoulbeats and 220 Entertainment)