Just over a year since their WILD KARD Tour, co-ed K-Pop group KARD returned to New York City on July 17 to kick off the U.S. leg of the 2023 KARD World Tour: Playground. Members J.seph, BM, Somin, and Jiwoo cured the Monday blues by bringing a party to Hulu Theater, nestled underneath Madison Square Garden. Fans called Hidden KARDs were treated to a show that was undeniably KARD’s style – energetic, funny, carefree, and of course, a little bit sexy.
The venue was buzzing in anticipation in the minutes leading up to the show. Because KARD doesn’t have an official lightstick, many fans prepared by bringing their own glowsticks and light-up accessories in varying colors. Finally, the lights went down and the audience was treated to an opening VCR introducing each member with a highlight reel of KARD’s past music videos. Finally, KARD appeared on stage and launched into their latest single, “ICKY.” Accompanied by neon lasers, the group made it clear that the night was about to be a party. Up next was “Without You,” an EDM-backed, tropical-inspired song that was accentuated by Somin and Jiwoo’s high notes.
The group took a moment to greet Hidden KARDs and were greeted with deafening screams and barking from the audience. BM matched the energy as he declared, “KARD is back in NY!” The crowd’s cheers roared even louder in response. Each member also expressed their excitement to be back in the city.
“Every time I come to New York, it’s always a great city. Every time we came, you guys gave us such great energy,” said Somin.
J.seph echoed the sentiment. “On the way to the hotel after landing at the airport I thought, ‘Gosh, I get to have a show in this beautiful city.’ I’m grateful to meet you guys again and I’m looking forward to it.”
BM then brought the crowd’s attention back to the concert by teasing the title songs, solo, and duo songs that were on deck for the show. “I hope you guys are ready! For the ones that came to our last tour, it was a party, yeah?” he asked, and the crowd cheered. “For the ones that are here for the first time, it’s about to be a party, yeah?”
The venue echoed with screams as KARD then got into position to perform their hit song, “Ring The Alarm.” The summery Moombahton track was the perfect complement to the hot weather outside. The beachy vibes continued with “Hola Hola,” the tropical house-inspired title track from their debut EP of the same name.
Taking a water break, KARD then reflected on the song and their career since “Hola Hola” was released. “When I think of ‘Hola Hola,’ it reminds me of day one fans,” J.seph mused. He then asked Somin what the song reminded her of.
“It reminds me of driving,” she replied. “It feels great when driving and you feel the breeze in the air listening to ‘Hola Hola.’”
BM then chimed in. “Seven years since ‘Hola Hola’…we’re on our seventh year right now!” Jiwoo and J.seph interrupted to ask if their debut was actually six years ago, and they endearingly went back and forth trying to decide which number was accurate. BM joked, “KARD sucks at math.”
The group asked audience members how old they were at the time of their debut and were shocked to find out that some were as young as ten years old when KARD debuted.
“Come to think of it, in two days, it will be KARD’s debut anniversary,” BM said, reaching out to an audience member who brought a sign that read, “Happy KARD Day” and showing it to the audience.
The reminiscing was the perfect lead-up for the next song on the setlist. Throwing it back to their pre-debut days, KARD then jumped into “Oh NaNa,” the group’s first-ever single. The crowd went wild for the song’s suggestive choreography, which involved just the perfect amount of booty-pops and twerking.
Ever the professional, BM brought the conversation back to the music, stating that “Oh NaNa” was a KARD classic. Jiwoo agreed, saying that “Oh NaNa” is like history to them, and that for her, the song brings back vivid memories of when she joined the company, recorded the song, and filmed the music video.
To everyone’s delight, a photo collage of a much-younger KARD appeared on the LCD screen behind the group. The collage included an early promotional photo and a silly sheet mask selfie from BM, Jiwoo, and Somin that led J.seph to teasingly ask why he wasn’t included at the time.
It was finally time to get back into the main event, so BM introduced the first duo stage consisting of Somin and Jiwoo. The party-like atmosphere then shifted into one more intimate and seductive as the two sat down on loveseats that were brought on stage for “Fxxk you.” Red lights radiated from behind them, leaving them looking like silhouettes on the stage. Somin and Jiwoo captivated the audience with their sensual choreography and lush vocals.
In another vibe shift, BM brought angst to the stage for his solo performances. This time, the stage was bathed in blue light and a galaxy backdrop as he jumped right into “LIE.” He then transitioned into “Broken Me,” a similar trap-rock track that put BM’s skill as both a rapper and singer on display. Speaking to the crowd after the song, BM said, “I wanted my rockstar moment this tour.”
BM then called J.seph to the stage for their own duo performance. The two brought got the audience hyped up with the badass, high-energy rap track, “Been That Boy.” The crowd jumped and put their hands up as BM and J.seph commanded the stage.
They two then ran backstage for an outfit change, and in the meantime, the intermission VCR took Hidden KARDs behind-the-scenes at the writing and production of ICKY, preparation for the Playground tour, and intimate looks at their dynamic as a group. The video showed the members pranking each other, and in one funny moment, yelling, “Fuck you!” at each other as they wrote and recorded the song of the same name.
KARD then returned to the stage to perform “Rumor,” a reggaeton song complemented by their recognizable tropical house sound telling the story of lost love. Next up was “Don’t Recall,” another groovy track in line with the theme of breakups.
During the next ment, the members teased a performance of the fan-favorite song, “Cake.” While they were on the topic of literal cake, Jiwoo pointed out that Somin’s birthday was coming up. Somin clarified that her birthday wasn’t until August 22 but with the tour, they would be celebrating for about a month because of all the well-wishes she was receiving from Hidden KARDs. She joked that while the birthday wishes from fans were gifts enough, she’d be awaiting something “fancy and expensive” from her fellow members. In response, a fan in the audience offered her a necklace, which she graciously wore.
As KARD spoke to attendees, stage assistants brought mic stands onto the stage for “Break Down.” BM introduced the post-breakup empowerment anthem candidly: “This next one is for your stupid ass, dumb ex.”
After the emotional performance that displayed KARD’s vocal talent, they took a break to lighten the mood and talk about their favorite parts of New York. BM talked about how he loved how New Yorkers pretend to be mean when they’re actually nice underneath, to which the crowd laughed. J.seph chimed in to ask why everything in New York was so expensive, which got the audience laughing even more and replying with a chorus of “Same!”
“We love visiting New York, it’s always a good time here. We’re even more blessed that we see old fans and we see new fans. Y’all are so beautiful,” BM continued. “The show might almost be over but the party is starting now – these next songs, we need your highest energy so far.”
Hidden KARDs didn’t disappoint as the group launched into “GUNSHOT,” a powerful song with the message of breaking free from inner paid complete with intense choreography. KARD then transitioned back to a more sensual and clubby vibe with “Bomb Bomb.” Throughout it all, fans sang and danced along and hyped up every member as they performed.
“The ‘Bomb Bomb’ stage we just performed was supposed to be a wild and sexy concept song,” J.seph explained afterward. He then tried to get the members to show off how “wild and sexy” they could be, but suddenly was shy after Jiwoo and Somin made him go first to flex his biceps. Hidden KARDs ate up the display and barked as J.seph showed off his arm.
Jiwoo went next, doing a hip shake and then throwing it back. When it was Somin’s turn, she got on her hands and knees to do a hip-shaking move of her own. Finally, it was BM’s turn. Placing his mic on the ground, he jumped in the air and landed on his hands to essentially grind on the floor. During each member’s display, the audience roared with cheers and barking sounds.
To the audience’s disappointment, BM announced that the show was nearly ending. KARD began gearing up to say their final remarks, with BM going first.
“Playground 2023 – we decided to come up with that name for this tour because we wanted to create a space where there was just no stress, no anxiety, no depression, none of that,” BM shared. “For just one-and-a-half to two hours, we wanted you guys to have a detox from all the bullshit out there.”
Somin echoed the sentiment after thanking New York Hidden KARDs for supporting them. “For today, I wanted you guys to be stress-free at this moment. Always be healthy, both mentally and physically,” she said. “Thank you for filling up the seats, and I want you to enjoy until the end.” She closed her ment by blowing a kiss to the crowd.
“Every time we come to tour, it’s because of you guys and we feel that it’s a real one. It was kind of surreal since we are a co-ed group and lasting for this long is impossible,” Jiwoo said when it was her turn. “Thank you so much – because of you guys, we’re able to go on a tour every year.” She then revealed that her brother was actually in the crowd and that she only gets to see him when KARD is on tour, which made the tour extra meaningful to her.
When it was J.seph’s turn, he revealed that he actually woke up not feeling well. “My head hurt and I was very, very worried about the show today. But as soon as we performed ‘ICKY,’ all the worries were thrown away,” he shared. “Honestly, before, I was half-dead. But you guys saved me. Every one of you who came to the concert today – you guys are so precious.”
For the final portion of the show, KARD introduced “Cake,” one of their most anticipated songs for the tour. Jiwoo teased it earlier in the night, saying, “So far we’ve performed ‘ICKY,’ ‘Without You,’ ‘Fxxk you,’ and ‘Been That Boy’ from our new album. But we still haven’t shown you one last song.”
The crowd then began to chant, “Cake! Cake! Cake!” over and over again.
“Did y’all come hungry or something?” BM joked. “I think some of you guys came specifically for that stage.”
The stage lights burned with hues of red and orange as KARD got right into the song. Fans in the crowd went crazy for the song’s provocative choreography and innuendo-laced lyrics. BM had teased the performance earlier this year on Twitter, describing the song as “freaky af.”
KARD piggybacked off the crowd’s high energy for the fan-favorite dance club hit, “Dumb Litty.” Quite literally – as soon as “Cake” finished, Somin jumped onto BM’s back to get in position for the song. The heavy, hip-hop/EDM blend track had the entire venue jumping and shouting along to the lyrics. The second part of the song allowed KARD to dance and interact with the audience from all sides. BM sprayed the audience with water during the song’s final chorus, leaving Hidden KARDs excited for the encore as KARD ran backstage at the song’s end.
The venue went dark and fans eagerly awaited what was next. Suddenly, BM’s disembodied voice rang through the venue. “New York City, do y’all want some more?” he teased, and the audience cheered.
When the crowd cheered, the LCD screen on stage literally displayed the word “encore” in various fonts and animations for three straight minutes, and fans chanted along to coax KARD back to the stage. Finally, KARD returned wearing tour merch and carrying what they called the “Spin-to-Win Wheel of Encore Songs.” BM spun the wheel and it landed on “Ride on the Wind,” but Hidden KARDs shouted in favor of hearing “Red Moon” instead. KARD conducted a vote by a show of screams, but it seemed that the results were neck and neck. Finally, BM asked the crowd if they could perform both songs, to which the audience eagerly agreed. Throughout both songs, KARD’s members took time to greet fans in the front rows and take the phones offered to them for selfies.
For the last song of the night, KARD brought the show full circle with a reprise performance of “ICKY.” This time though, the song would be led by the audience doing the TikTok-viral “ICKY” dance challenge. The members quickly taught a refresher on the moves, and from there, Hidden KARDs didn’t disappoint as they danced along.
After one last bow and a round of thanks, KARD said their goodbyes. They took their time leaving, waving, and taking a few more pictures with fans. Just when the audience thought the show was actually done, BM briefly ran back from stage left to take off his shirt and toss it into the crowd for a lucky fan. Overall, the encore’s cheerful and jovial vibe was the perfect end to a fun show that was a welcome reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the city outside. As KARD celebrates their anniversary and embarks on the next stage of their careers, New York Hidden KARDs will be eagerly awaiting their return.