Two years ago, a line wrapped around the Wilshire/Western station, right across the street of The Wiltern. Hundreds of fans anticipated Amber Liu’s intimate meet & greet at Gong Cha, one of the many boba shops in Koreatown. It was on this day that Amber said to herself, “One day, I’m gonna perform there.” Fast forward to last Friday, February 21, and two lines formed alongside The Wiltern for Amber Liu 2020 Tour: X in Los Angeles. The night was especially monumental as LA is her hometown and her family and friends were all in attendance. At the tender age of 15, Amber Liu traveled to South Korea and trained rigorously before debuting in SM Entertainment’s record-breaking electro-pop base girl group, f(x). The tour is titled after Amber’s album X, her first solo album since signing with Steel Wool Entertainment and thus jumpstarting her solo career. The album and tour commemorate Amber’s tenth year in the music industry and serve as a starting point of a new chapter of her life.
Justin Park opened up the show with an even mix of his hit songs and exclusive, unreleased tracks from his upcoming EP. Hailing from 5A Label, the R&B singer/songwriter is no stranger to Amber Liu’s fans, having opened and traveled with Amber on her 2018 Gone Rogue Tour. Justin serenaded the crowd with fan favorites “On The Low,” “Like We Used To,” and a cover of Pink Sweat$’ “Honesty.” During one of his unreleased tracks, Justin Park brought up child actress and dancer Sofi Manassyan, whom he introduced to the audience as his “beautiful little sister of mine who’s gonna be the future of this world.” The large Wiltern stage did not deter Sofi as she danced along with Justin throughout the entire song. For the final song, Justin brought out an entire entourage onstage to vibe with him as he performed another unreleased track. The lyrics boasted the recurring line, “bringing bad to the city” and Justin did just that by shredding his shirt and showcasing his abs to the screaming crowd.
Justin’s set was followed by the second and final opening act of the night – Meg & Dia. A household name in the early 2000s indie rock scene, the sister duo’s set was filled with beautifully haunting vocals, lulling harmonies, and memorable guitar riffs, a definite shift from the previous R&B heavy set. The fan favorite of the night was undoubtedly the duo’s 2006 hit track, “Monster.” Prior to their set, Dia admitted that she became extremely nervous, to the point that she asked Meg to hit her (which she gladly obliged). Meg shared her side of the story and expressed her feeling of a sudden, need to smack another person. “[Dia] gave me the opportunity so I was like, ‘Are you sure? Okay, here!’ But look how great she’s doing now, I think it worked!’“ All jokes aside, Meg & Dia’s stage captivated the audience from beginning to end. Their final song of the night was “Koala” accompanied by a sea of swaying lights from the audience, creating a soothing, intimate atmosphere.
Before stepping on stage, headliner Amber Liu opened up with a recorded message that set the tone for the night — “It’s been 10 years,” her voice echoed throughout the venue. “So much has happened. Some good. Some bad. I wanna be me again.”
Amber kicked off her set with “Countdown,” “Other People,” and “Get Myself.” If there was an award for the biggest plot twist onstage, Amber would have taken the cake with her “Other People” performance. Following the second chorus, Amber’s backup dancers ran offstage and a shirtless Mike Bow joined Amber onstage, backed by the shocked squeals and hollers from the crowd. Amber and the actor are known to be longtime friends and the duo nearly broke the internet (and traumatized their mutual friends) earlier this year when they shared a steamy scene in Amber’s “Other People” music video. Bringing that moment to life, the entire venue erupted in banshee screeches as they recreated the scene live onstage. In an act to keep it “family-friendly,” Amber’s backup dancers swooped in just in time to raise a large “CENSORED” sign to block out the act. After ingraining that moment into everyone’s minds, the two were all giggles and laughs and Mike joined along in the choreography for the remainder of the song.
As Amber warmly welcomed everyone to her concert, she shared an important rule for the show – it’s to be a “Be Yourself Zone.” Whether you were the type of attendee to headbang all night to every bop or the type to quietly enjoy a show, it didn’t matter. She encouraged everyone to do whatever they wanted. No judgment. No hate. Just be yourself and have fun. She went on to reiterate the meaning of the tour, “This whole tour is about me restarting and resetting myself and starting off with a clean slate.” She began. “I know a lot of you guys have been fans of me for so many years… And I just want to thank each and every one of you for being part of that journey with me and it means a lot to me.” The next order of business was creating a nickname for the LA leg of Tour X, a tradition that Amber instilled for every show while on tour. She gave the audience five seconds to come up with the LA stop’s official nickname. With the Wiltern stage lined with plushies that Amber collected from the previous stops, it was only befitting that “Sexy Llamas” came out on top. “Pineapple hoes” was a very close second.
Before heading into her next song, she asked, “Did you guys prepare some biscuits? Because we’re gonna spill some tea!” Without providing names, she shared about the ups and downs while working with people with who she did not meet eye-to-eye. “What I think is really cool about having different opinions and disagreeing with each other is that if we compromise and work together, we can create some really cool stuff,” she started. “Unfortunately some people in this world want to do things out of greed and their own selfish motives. It’s very unfortunate…. But, hopefully those people one day can realize that they don’t need to do things with that intention and we can work together and make cool stuff happen.” Amber then proceeded to perform “Numb,” a song written during one of the lowest points in her career.
“The world will never give you something that you can’t handle.”
-Amber Liu’s mother
The next anecdote she shared was about the backstory behind her emotional track, “Borders,” an ode to her younger self to not give up when faced with adversity. Amber recalled when she was going through her hard times in Korea and sought advice and comfort from her mother. It was then that her mother gave her the best piece of advice: “The world will never give you something that you can’t handle.” It was through her mother’s words that Amber was able to gain the strength to no longer be afraid.
Her next song was inspired by her biggest role model, her older sister Jackie Liu. “She’s just brave and spontaneous,” Amber happily shared. “I learned a lot from my sister and one of the many things she said to me was ‘You can’t control what the world does to you, but you can control how you react to it.’” It was at this moment that Amber came to a revelation that she would stop feeling sorry for herself, embrace the good and bad, and become a better person every day. She then extended the message to everyone in the audience with her song, “Beautiful,” a stripped-down acoustic track evoking self-love and confidence.
The most emotional anecdote of the night was when she touched on the inspiration for her song, “Stay Calm.” Being completely candid with the audience, Amber Liu discussed the frequently unspoken and overlooked topic of mental health. A couple of years ago, the singer began experiencing panic attacks but chose to keep it to herself because she felt embarrassed and did not want to appear “weak.” Driven by her desire to heal and move on, she sought professional help and learned to open up and share her thoughts and feelings with those around her. She then turned to the audience and encouraged them to do the same.
“The reason why I’m telling you this is – it’s okay to have feelings. It’s okay to have emotions, those emotions are there for a reason, it’s for you to feel them. If you’re having a hard time, please don’t feel embarrassed or scared because there are people who love and care for you that will be more than willing to listen to you to help you and support you through hard times.-Amber Liu
Her words really pulled at her fans’ heartstrings. In the midst of the screams and clapping in affirmation were whimpers and tears from those who were able to resonate with Amber’s words.
After performing, “Stay Calm,” Amber switched gears and performed self-empowering tracks, “Ready for The Ride” and “Shake That Brass.” She also briefly touched on the topic of love and that everyone deserved to love whomever he or she loved. “Hopefully those people who hate love can one day realize that they are loved because the way we defeat hate is love, right? And that they can learn to love as well (hopefully).”
Forget what you knew about an encore performance because Amber Liu took that idea and raised it tenfold. The artist and her backup dancers returned to the stage dressed up as Frozen’s Elsa, Anna, and Olaf before jumping into “Let It Go.” After a quick outfit change, Amber traded her Elsa wig and dress for Ash Ketchum’s signature cap and jacket as she proceeded to sing the Pokemon theme song. She was accompanied not only by Justin Park, Meg & Dia, and her friends, but also her beloved dog, JackJack, who made his live stage debut at the Wiltern sporting a small Pikachu onesie. As her final send-off, everyone partied onstage to a high-energy karaoke performance of Hilary Duff’s hit tracks, “Hey Now” and “Coming Clean,” specifically chosen for the hometown show.
In between the comedic performances and dynamic choreography, everyone was able to see a side of Amber Liu that previously only a few had known. Despite being a part of the music industry for quite some time, Amber Liu exuded genuine empathy and compassion for her fans and made the audience feel like they were catching up with an old friend. As Amber begins this new chapter of her life, one can only imagine how much higher she can soar.