On Thursday, June 15, Bang Yongguk continued his long-awaited The Colors Of Bang Yongguk solo tour in the gritty, live music venue Echoplex in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA. The tour receives its name from Yongguk’s recently released third album The Colors of Love and marks his first time back to the United States in over seven years.
For long-time K-Pop fans, Bang Yongguk has had a prolific career. He started in the underground hip-hop scene under the name of “Jepp Blackman” and entered mainstream K-Pop in 2011 as a featured artist on senior labelmate Song Jieun’s “Going Crazy.” He quickly won the public over with his deep husky voice and intricate self-written lyrics so in response, he released his first solo song “I Remember” featuring Yang Yoseob from Highlight (formerly BEAST). In the same year, he also debuted with his future groupmate Zelo in the hip-hop duo Bang&Zelo with “Never Give Up” and successfully raised awareness and anticipation for their upcoming group debut.
In 2012, he debuted as the main rapper and leader of the six-membered B.A.P with the powerful, dynamic song “Warrior.” The group went on to release numerous hit songs like “No Mercy,” “One Shot,” and “1004 (Angel).” However, due to disputes with their company, Yongguk and the rest of the members left upon their contract expirations and have pursued respective solo activities ever since. His solo return to the international stage united BABYs (B.A.P’s fandom) who dusted off their neon green, bunny-shaped Matoki lightsticks alongside newer fans who knew him mainly from his recent solo activities.
To begin the night, Samuel Ku took his spot on stage as the tour’s designated DJ and occasional translator. Ku is part of the Korean publishing house PAPERMAKER which is responsible for producing and writing songs for artists like Park Jihoon and Kep1er. He also has contributed to the composition & lyrics for three out of the six songs on Yongguk’s The Colors of Love album. After Ku finished his set featuring songs like Dvsn’s “If I Get Caught” and Tyga’s “West Coast Weekend,” he introduced the concert tour and teased fans on whether he should bring Bang Yongguk out yet.
Full of impatience and energy, the crowd shouted for Yongguk and he emerged onto the stage to the thunderous screams and epic intro of “G.M.T.” from his sophomore album 2. Despite the fast lyrics, Yongguk demonstrated his performance skills by rapping with virtually no back track and concluded his opening stage with a triumphant “I’m back.” He followed with “Up” which showed off his comfortable flow and stage mannerisms and smiled when fans loudly sang along to the outro.
He greeted the audience and shyly remarked in English, “It’s been a long time, LA,” contrasting with his strong stage persona. He then performed the hyped anthem “Race” and the crowd barked in delight upon the conclusion of the song. Yongguk responded, “All the sexy ladies, put your hands up!” to transition to the fan-favorite “Rain On Me” and drove the crowd wild as he danced around and licked his hand suggestively. The next stage of “UFO” showed off his raspy vocals and bad boy energy as he threw his middle fingers up for the “fuck you” part that built up to the song’s beat drop.
Yongguk reflected on how although it has been over seven years since he last saw his U.S. fans, he was touched and amazed by the love and support he has been receiving. To show his appreciation, he told fans that he would like to dedicate the upcoming stage of “Hikikomori” to everyone in attendance. The song addresses the feelings of isolation and desperation resulting from experiencing Hikikomori, a form of severe social withdrawal. He released the song in 2019 and it became even more relevant and poignant after the Covid-19 pandemic as the entire world had to quarantine and socially distance, with many people suffering from loneliness and depression as a result.
Paying homage to his pre-debut days, Yongguk sent everyone down memory lane with “I Remember” which originally featured Yoseob from Highlight (formerly BEAST) but was re-released featuring his B.A.P. group member, Daehyun. Because Daehyun was sadly not present, BABYs took it upon themselves to sing extra loud during the chorus parts and made the song into a duet between BABYs and Yongguk.
Chatting with fans, Yongguk confessed that he still has not had an In-N-Out burger yet, eliciting invites from multiple fans to go eat it together after the show. Yongguk requested that fans put their phones down and focus on him so they can fully enjoy his sensual and chill stage of “Screwed Up.” After he finished the song, he leaned into the audience and asked to borrow a fan’s Matoki lightstick and asked “What is this color?” The crowd eagerly answered with “Green!” and Yongguk smoothly led us into “Green,” the pre-release single from The Colors of Love. He was radiating happiness as he vibed and sang his song with his fans.
He apologized for taking over a year to release a new album but fans vehemently reassured him that it was okay. After shamelessly plugging his merch, Yongguk flirtingly said to his fans, “Thank you for giving me inspiration. BABYs, you’re my ride or die” to lead into The Colors of Love‘s title track, “Ride or Die.”
Switching from flirty to straight-up seduction, he performed “Ya” where the lyrics “ya hae” first just sound like an interjection but is actually a clever wordplay on the Korean phrase for “erotic” or “racy.” Yongguk danced all around the stage, providing endless fan service and body rolls. The show then entered the territory of R-Rated content as he seductively poured water all over himself.
Yongguk sang the intro of “Off” without any musical accompaniment to showcase his deep, resonant voice. Then at the beat drop, he sprayed the audience with water, flipped his wet hair, and danced freely around the stage.
He shushed the crowd and shouted into the silence without his mic, “Ayo YAMAZAKI” with fans quickly chanting along to the intro of “YAMAZAKI.” The entire venue became electric with energy when Yongguk again poured water on himself and on the crowd.
For the last song, Yongguk reminded the crowd to love themselves as much as they love him and dedicated the last song “Orange Drive” to the audience and his grandfather in heaven. He exited the stage and fans quickly began chanting for an encore.
Yongguk reentered with only his mesh shirt, showing off his arms and tattoos, to perform “Xie Xie.” After taking a group video with the audience, fans managed to pass along a large blanket with Yongguk’s logo that was covered in fans’ writings and messages. He thanked fans and remarked that he was very touched by this gesture and happily kept the blanket over his shoulder. In his encore performance of “Green,” he completed fans’ half-hearts and sang right into people’s phone cameras.
He appropriately closed out the show by performing “See you later” which left fans optimistic for a reunion in the near future and some lucky fans receiving high fives from him before leaving the stage.
After not being able to see international fans for over seven years, Bang Yongguk demonstrated a hunger for performing and proved that despite the challenges he has faced, he will continue to evolve as an artist. It was a nostalgic night at Echoplex for BABYs who came out to support their favorite main rapper and leader. Yongguk truly demonstrated how much he enjoys music and performing in the short but jam-packed evening.