Following its sold out concert last year, KCON 2016 USA presented by Toyota is back for a fifth year with a solid lineup of the biggest pop stars from Korea. KCON is an annual festival for South Korean pop culture which consists of a three day convention and two concerts Saturday and Sunday night. Attracting over 76,000 attendees, this year’s sold out concert featured top K-Pop artists Astro, Block B, BTS, Dean, Eric Nam, F(Amber), Gfriend, Girl’s Generation – TTS, I.O.I, Monsta X, Shinee, and Twice. Additionally, special guests included one of the most popular Korean actor Lee Min Ho, 90’s K-dance group Turbo and pop-ballad duo Davichi.
Walking onto stage with his mesmerizing gaze, Lee Min Ho applauded and welcomed everyone to KCON. Suddenly, cheers and chants overwhelmed the stadium as the shadow of the girl group I.O.I appeared. As the survivors of the competition Produce 101, this group has captured the hearts of South Korea and kicked off the concert with their top hit “Dream Girls”, before transitioning to “Pick Me”, an EDM inspired track that comes with a hair swinging dance break. Thanking their fans in English, they concluded with a ballad “When the Cherry Blossoms Fade”. This was truly a treat of a performance, as this group was established as a temporary 1-year collaboration between multiple talent agencies. After I.O.I left the stage for their first and most likely last time as I.O.I in the United States, Amber and Key (from SHINee) introduced DEAN, who is possibly the hottest R&B artist in Korea.
Lauded as a “super rookie”, he has reached a level of success in just one year that countless K-Pop groups have dreamed of through their lifetimes. Performing just two songs, “Bonnie and Clyde” and “I’m Not Sorry”, his angel-like voice descended upon us blessing us with his heavenly presence.
Moving down the lineup, a six member girl group GFRIEND stepped onto stage to break out with “Navillera”, their latest comeback title track. Exciting waving and smiling at their American fans, they transitioned into “Me Gustas Tu”, one of their catchiest pieces which brought the eyes of fans. Closing with the ballad “Rough”, their complex choreography wow’d the audience and established them as an upcoming force to be reckoned with.
Suddenly, Block B’s Zico and U-KWon popped out from behind introducing a special stage – “Boys and Girls”. The cheers reached ear shattering levels as Dean appeared from behind, weaving in his vocal between Zico’s rap lines in their collaboration track “Pour Up”. The audience howled for more, and luckily, Amber rolled out right behind with “Shake That Brass”. Beloved by international fans for her tomboyish and happy nature, Amber demonstrated her ability to both rap and sing, by performing “Borders”, a personal and inspirational song about believing in oneself and never giving up, something she holds dear.
Next up was a performance for older fans in the K-Pop scene, as Turbo stepped onto the stage. Being in the act for over 20 years, they still had the energy and dance moves of any other group. Starting it off with a collaboration stage between GFriend and Astro covering “Again” and “Twist King”, the crowd quickly started grooving to the throwback beats. Finishing it off with “Loveable” and “Reminiscence”, Turbo reminded the crowd that regardless of what time and of what age, kings will always remain legendary.
Up next was Block B, and they brought the roof down with the track “Toy”. Following their comeback with their new agency Seven Seasons, Block B quickly climbed up rankings, winning awards with every comeback. As the K-Pop scene transitioned more into a hip-hop genre, their popularity skyrocketed, especially with their beloved rapper Zico, who already performed for the special stage earlier. The cheers escalated with each song, from “Very Good”, to “Her”, and finally to “A Few Years Later”.
As if the energy was not enough, epic music blared through the speakers as a montage introducing SHINee appeared on the screens. This five member boy group debuted in 2008 and is well known as possibly one of the greatest groups to exist. Their live performances are second to none, as their vocals and choreography are always on point. Teasing the crowd with “Replay”, they began the final act of the day with “Into The SHINee World”. Soon afterwards, they began a medley of pieces such as “View”, “An Encore”, and “Beautiful”. SHINee ended the concert with “Everybody”, a catchy electronic track with one of the most unique choreography I’ve laid my eyes on. They demonstrated why they were the headliners for the first night of KCON, and fans wanting more could look forward to Day 2 of the concert.