BTS feels the love during its second online concert
The question that has been lingering on everyone’s minds since musicians first began holding online concerts earlier this year is how can such a format provide a different and enjoyable experience? With its latest online concert held this weekend, BTS provided the answer.
BTS held its online concert “BTS Map of the Soul ON:E” on Saturday and Sunday, which was streamed live across the world. It marked the band’s first concert in four months since “Bang Bang Con The Live” was held in June, its second-ever online concert that required a ticket purchase. The concert was initially planned as a two-way event, which would see some fans come to the offline concert while others could access the streamed version online, but the unexpected surge in coronavirus infections in the greater Seoul area that came in mid-August put an end to that plan and only online viewing was available.
BTS is known for its extraordinary music and performances, so it came as no big surprise that the concert would also awe the audience. But there is one particular reason why the “ON:E” concert, which is shortened for “ONline Edition” according to the band’s agency Big Hit Entertainment, exceeded expectations and set a new standard of possibility for the entire music industry — it showed how an online concert can entertain viewers in different ways than an offline concert.
Since earlier this year, multiple K-pop bands have been holding online concerts to substitute for the loss of opportunity to perform on offline stages due to the coronavirus pandemic. While each concert strived to entertain the viewers in the best ways it could, many — if not all — focused on the fact that the format was digital. Various digital technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and extended reality (XR) were used to make the stage look bigger and fancier, with more colors and attractions than offline concerts.
While BTS’s “ON:E” concerts still used such digital technology — and very well too, especially at the last stage of “We are Bulletproof: the Eternal” where fans’ faces were turned into floating cubes to fill the arena — one performance showed the greatest possible potential for an online concert without using any AR or XR. Instead, it focused on the fact that the camera could fill the whole screen even from a small space.
A solo stage performance by member Suga, who sang his song “Interlude: Shadow” (2020), was kicked off from a small hallway filled with fog and dim lighting. As the song proceeded, he walked out toward the camera and multiple hands started pushing inwards toward Suga, much like the image used by multimedia artist Yiyun Kang for her video installation “Beyond the Scene” created earlier this year as a part of the contemporary art project “CONNECT, BTS.” Suga walked out of the narrow hallway to the stage, which was also surrounded by digital LED screens and floors that also had the image of handprints pushing toward the stage.
There was no huge AR graphic to exaggerate the extent of the stage, but it was a performance only made possible by taking advantage of the fact that the whole scene didn’t have to be visible to everyone seated in the audience — it just had to be visible to the camera. It was the perfect trinity of art, music and digital technology realized at its finest.
The command of camerawork, leaping flawlessly from performance to pre-recorded videos and vice versa, also heightened the quality of the viewing experience. Jimin’s dance solo after “Black Swan” that was immediately followed by a video of the band was so impeccable that it felt like part of the band’s performance.
According to Big Hit Entertainment, it took the agency eight times more production fees compared to the band’s last online concert “Bang Bang Con The Live.” Four large-size stages were decorated in different ways “to best show BTS’s performance.” The multi-view service allowed viewers to toggle through different angles during the concert, which may need some work until the switch becomes 100 percent delay-free, but was still a meaningful function for fans.
Topping off the concert was, as always, BTS’s sincerity — the apex of which came during the last talk session when member Jimin shed tears while sharing his thoughts in front of the LED screens showing the faces of fan club ARMY members from all around the world.
“It felt so unfair,” said Jimin, trying to hold his tears in. “When the coronavirus broke out, I didn’t know why I had to go through all this. Why? All I wanted to do was just go outside, have fun with the members while performing and share that with you. When I saw the members having so much fun during the encore, I just couldn’t concentrate anymore.”
When Jimin couldn’t hold his tears back anymore and started to cry, fans also began crying with him on the screen. He wept briefly, then gathered himself to thank the fans.
“I’m sorry that we didn’t get to show you everything that we prepared for today. But really, your hope got through to us. We don’t know if our hearts are with you, but I hope they are. I thank you ARMY so much for always supporting us and embracing us,” said Jimin.
Unlike the “Bang Bang Con” concert, the “ON:E” concert showed the faces of fans on screen for the first time. Fans communicated through the online chat box for the last concert, but seeing people’s faces definitely changed everything, according to Jin.
“Honestly, I didn’t feel like this was a concert before today,” said Jin. “We’ve worked on a lot of promotions so far, with ‘ON’ and 'Dynamite’ and so on. Even when we were rehearsing today, it just felt like a part of a promotion. But I saw the faces of ARMY holding their ARMY bombs [light sticks] on the screen, it finally made me feel like I was with you all. It made me so happy and made me think of something that a senior musician once said. They said, ‘If you set foot on stage and feel the fans’ love, there’s no going back.’ And today, I truly feel what they meant.”
BTS is readying itself for the release of another album “BE” to come on Nov. 20. With Covid-19 keeping fans at home and making travel difficult, BTS urged everyone to stay strong and adamant.
“For anyone abroad, for people everywhere out there; we are literally strong,” said RM in English for the global fans.
“The ARMY I know and the BTS you all know, we're all strong. We'll find a way, we always have. If there's no way then let's draw the map, the whole map again. So no worries. We're strong and we’re still connected. And even [in our] ways come catastrophe [like], windfall, snowfall, rainfall, anything — let’s not just stop to believe. Let's believe in ourselves.”
BY YOON SO-YEON [email@example.com]