KCON returned to Los Angeles for the 11th year with unforgettable show-stopping performances. KCON LA 2023 invited K-Pop’s hottest acts to the Crypto.com Arena for three consecutive nights, showing how remarkable this past year has been with a mix of monster rookies, veterans, and the current hottest groups.
Day 1 started with a bang. While people started to shuffle in, the preshow began with former RaNia member Alex Reid, who introduced the preshow guests. Kevin Woo was the first artist to perform. Woo has been a part of KCON’s activities for years, hosting his own panel and translating for others. He came out in a black and blue leather jacket and performed “Got It” with the energy of a true veteran of nearly 15 years. Next to take the stage was the three-member group LIMELIGHT, who performed the cutesy “MADELEINE,” complete with backup dancers. The members were adorned in sailor outfits and overflowed with adorable charm. With backward pant styles and their newest song, 8TURN closed the preshow with “EXCEL.” The intense choreography, filled with acrobatics and synchronized footwork, shocked the crowd.
After concert attendees finished filling the arena, WayV emerged to perform KCON’s signature song, “POPPIA,” garnering booming cheers from the audience. WayV and NCT’s lightsticks gave the arena a green makeover, reflecting NCT’s popularity.
Soon, Day 1’s MC, the representative 4th generation “it girl” Jang Wonyoung from IVE, graced the stage. Adorned in a light blue dress and a cute white bow, she introduced NMIXX, who performed on the KCON stage at KCON LA 2022. The group descended from the 100s section to the stage, greeting cheering fans as they performed the U.K., garage-infused “Party O’Clock” and urban house-filled pre-release “Roller Coaster.” The group has been K-Pop’s 4th generation darlings since their spectacular debut with “O.O.”
CRAVITY took the stage with an R&B dance break that showcased their charisma and synchronicity before going into “Groovy” and “Baddie.” The group greeted their fans for the first time since their last Masterpiece tour in LA two months ago. Allen also announced that CRAVITY will be making their comeback on September 11, rousing LUVITYs (CRAVITY’s fandom name) to excited whispers.
Emerging from the 100s sections, TAEYONG from NCT introduced his bandmates’ subunit, WayV. As the group ascended the stage, the arena seemed to hold its breath in anticipation of fan-favorite “Love Talk.” The arena vibrated as everyone sang along to the song word-for-word. The group performed the highly theatrical “Phantom,” alternating between sharp and smooth moves in time with the song’s beat. The group also played a game called “CCCV,” where they copied what the fans were doing. Member Xiaojun got ear-piercing screams for cutely imitating a fan wearing an animal hat.
Slowly emerging from the sides of the stage, girl group IVE convened for “Kitsch” from their first studio album. Yujin sported a new bob and delivered her line “O-O-T-D,” which echoed throughout the arena before the crowd sang the chorus with the girls. The word “kitsch” grew louder and more synchronized, and the girls continued to charm the audience with their winks and smiles. After a quick intermission, the girls performed the 2022 Mnet Asian Music Awards’ “Song of the Year” — “Love Dive.” DIVEs (IVE’s fandom name) all screamed the lyrics, “Narcissistic, my God, I love it,” with pride and conviction.
A special stage between TAEYONG and WayV’s Ten began right after, performing “Baby Don’t Stop” from NCT U’s studio album, NCT 2018 Empathy. This marked the first time the group had performed the song since 2020 when they performed as part of SM Entertainment’s supergroup Super M. Fans were ecstatic as they danced along, and the duo executed some slick dance moves in unison. NCTzens (NCT’s fandom name) weren’t shy about joining TAEYONG for his bridge rap or cheering when Ten tickled his bandmate’s chin.
KCON introduced a new segment called “Gen-Z Pop Special Stage,” where the rising artists performed a song that Gen-Zers love. NMIXX returned to the stage with a cover of TWICE’s “The Feels,” and the arena hollered in excitement for TWICE’s younger sister group.
Following the girls’ high-energy performance, Shownu and Hyungwon from MONSTA X graced the stage with their handsome looks and built physiques to perform “Love Me a Little” and the fan-favorite “Who Do You Love?” Monbebes (MONSTA X’s fandom) barked after the first song, which made the boys jump for joy. The group also played a game called “Dance Dance,” in which they had to guess a song by looking at emojis before performing a short cover. The members covered songs like TWICE’s “Alcohol Free” and SEVENTEEN’s “Hot.” Shownu jokingly continued the latter by whipping his arm back and forth comically, which earned laughter and cheers.
Next up was NCT’s center, TAEYONG, adorned with cotton candy hair. Before jumping into his hit title track, “SHALALA,” he called to his fans with a confident “Did you miss me?!” which was met with ear-piercing screams. The crowd followed TAEYONG’s infamous “SHALALA” point choreography, chanting “We got the bounce” with him.
“It’s my first time coming alone like this,” TAEYONG said during his intermission, “but it’s so much fun because of you.” TAEYONG ended his set with the ballad “GWANDO” and its fresh, smooth choreography.
IVE made their triumphant return for their “Dream Stage” performance. The segment offers winners of KCON’s dance competition an opportunity to perform on the concert stage alongside one of the performing artists. IVE and about 20 lucky winners performed “I AM” and hyped up the crowd.
Day 1 ended with SHINee’s Taemin, who earned the loudest applause and cheers of the night. The crowd repeatedly screamed “Oh my God!” for the highly successful soloist as the dancers got into formation for “Advice” and “Criminal.” Taemin greeted Shawols (SHINee’s fandom name) right after, beaming with a shy smile as he took in the moment as his eyes slowly scanned the arena with feeling. It was Taemin’s first overseas performance since he was discharged from the military, which made it even more special.
Taemin ended the night with the fan-favorite song, “Move.” The crowd was left speechless during the first few notes as they intently watched Taemin sway his hips during the point choreography of the song. The song ended Day 1 with much anticipation for the following days as the show was spectacularly programmed with a fantastic lineup.
Day 2’s preshow opened with the seven-member group VERIVERY performing “UNDERCOVER,” the lead single from their first full-length album, Series ‘O’ Round 3: Whole. The intense choreography hyped up the crowd as the members’ charisma showered the arena. CRAXY ignited the audience with their thunderous title track, “NUGUDOM,” in white techwear. The performance enraptured the crowd as the members delivered solid vocals and intense choreography.
The show began with a compilation stage between XG, xikers, and ATEEZ. XG opened with a cover of global hit K-Pop group 2NE1’s “I AM THE BEST,” as the crowd roared “I am the best” in Korean back to the group. The members also spun their own raps for the verses.
xikers got the entire arena hollering as they performed 2016 hit BTS’ “FIRE,” creating smoldering heat with their onstage charisma. Their seniors, ATEEZ, performed their song “WONDERLAND.” Member Mingi commanded the stage with a military cap as he obliterated his rap.
After the bombastic and fiery performance, Day 2 host RAIN introduced INI to the crowd. The energy was a tad awkward as fans didn’t know how to react to the veteran soloist attending this year’s KCON. Nonetheless, the show went on spectacularly, with INI performing a rock-infused “FANFARE” and “DROP.” The latter song got the crowd energetic and grooving around. The group was formed via the competition show Produce 101 Japan in 2021.
Girls Planet 999’s Kep1er came out right after, performing “Giddy” and “Back to the City.” Member Bahiyyih got the loudest screams each time she appeared on the jumbotron with her unbelievable charm and charisma. Kep1ians (Kep1er’s fandom name) were stunned by the group’s beauty, yelling, “You’re so beautiful” and “I love you.”
Rising global girl group XG then began a special stage. The Korea-based Japanese septet rose in popularity this past year and plans to release a new album on September 27. As the crowd cheered, the members performed their latest hit, “TGIF,” and a fan-favorite, “GIRL GVNG.” XG remained a highlight from the weekend, as new fans during and after the concert praised the group for their veteran-like professionalism and magnetic aura.
ATEEZ’s brother group xikers took the stage as the rap line members performed “Gulliver.” The members also performed “HOMEBOY” and “DO or DIE,” with the latter featuring jumps, bounces, and other dynamic moves that impressed the audience.
Another group from the Mnet show Boys’ Planet, ZEROBASEONE, dazzled the stage with their handsome charms and cool ambiance with “In Bloom” and “New Kidz on the Block.” The members were shown individually on the jumbotron and captured the hearts of Zeroses (ZEROBASEONE’s fandom name) and new fans alike. The group also played the “Dance Dance” game, covering songs like BTS’ Jungkook’s summer hit, “Seven,” and NewJeans’ “Super Shy.”
The Gen-Z Pop Special Stage returned with Kep1er covering Girls’ Generation’s “Mr.Mr,” showcasing their sensual and sexy sides through the song.
Next was RAIN, who performed the highly covered “RAINISM.” Wearing nothing but a jean bomber jacket and washed-out jeans, the soloist showed his abs to muted applause as some boycotted the soloist by turning off their lightsticks. Some even Googled his name during his performance. This came after mixed opinions online emerged about the alleged mistreatment of his groups under his management. In addition, it was unclear if he resonated with 4th generation fans as an early 2nd generation act. RAIN earned screeching cheers as he pulled off his jacket during “Domestic,” stating he was naked on stage during the intermission with a smile. He ended with “LA SONG” to get fans screaming by going down to the barricade and interacting with the audience, which was received with awkward silence.
ZEROBASEONE reignited the audience as they returned on stage and introduced their “Dream Stage” segment. Together with the luckily selected Zeroses, they performed “Here I Am” to roars of approval.
ATEEZ closed the night spectacularly, performing “BOUNCY (K-HOT CHILI PEPPERS),” “Pirate King,” “FROM,” and “Guerilla.” During “FROM,” the members toured the arena and greeted their fans, while some jumped with the crowd and interacted with ATINY (ATEEZ’s fandom name). The night’s highlight was the entire arena chanting, “BREAK THE WALL!” during the climax of “Guerilla,” which shook the arena. With that, Day 2 ended on a high note, leaving fans ready for the final day of performances.
Day 3 started off strong with JUST B performing “ME = NANEUN.” The sensual song got the crowd riled up as the boys, wearing all-black, body rolled into their hearts. The most anticipated group to perform during the preshow followed as SM Entertainment’s upcoming boy group RIIZE performed one of their prologue singles, “Memories” ahead of their official debut. NCTzens who had been following Shotaro and Sungchan’s journey into becoming NCT members prior to their departure screamed along to the predebut song.
A girl group collaboration stage with EVERGLOW and Lapillus fearlessly opened Day 3’s main show. The groups covered BoA’s “Girls on Top” with effortless cool and swagger, matching Queen of K-Pop’s energy.
Then, Stray Kids’ leader, Bang Chan, emerged to deafening screams and excitement that lasted for several minutes. Bang Chan had the entire audience under his control as he hushed the crowd. The arena became so silent that one could hear a pin drop. He beamed as he said hello to the crowd and hyped them up for the next act, JO1. The Produce 101 Japan group performed the groovy hits “RadioVision” and “Trigger,” igniting the audience’s interest in the group.
Lapillus returned to the stage soon after and pumped up the crowd with “Who’s Next” and “HIT YA!” Shock eddied through the crowd as the members did complex dance moves like standing on top of each other. The bombastic songs drew new fans as some whispered to each other to check out the new group later or bopped their heads to the beat.
(G)I-DLE‘s Miyeon, Shuhua, and Yuqi then came onstage to proudly introduce the next special performer, someone who they cheekily said shared something in common with them. American singer Destiny Rogers came out for her own performance of her hit song, “Tomboy,” which shares the same name as (G)I-DLE’s title track. The song grew immensely popular as BLACKPINK’s Lisa did a dance cover of it. Rogers also announced a new single that would drop on September 22 to much surprise and applause.
THE BOYZ also performed “Passion Fruit” for their special stage with a subunit called YH, HJ, JY, O, and SW. Their sleek dance moves excited the crowd as fans screamed the members’ names and waved their respective lightsticks vigorously to the beat.
EVERGLOW was next, performing their most recent song, “SLAY” for the first time. Despite only dropping a few days prior, the audience grew used to the beat and screamed “SLAY!” while bumping to the new track. The group also performed shortened versions of their previous hits, “DUN DUN” and “LA DI DA.” During the latter’s dance break, fellow fans did a bit of voguing in their seats while others screamed in excitement.
Girl group 4th generation leader ITZY took the stage after, performing their new hit song, “CAKE.” Midzys (ITZY’s fandom name) excitedly sang word for word while barking in between intermissions. ITZY seemed quite fond of the barks because the members were used to them from their last tour. The members also performed “None of My Business” and a fan-favorite, “SNEAKERS.” Barking erupted during their ending fairy moments as member Ryujin had the loudest barks. She smiled widely at the camera in response, waving back in gratitude.
THE BOYZ returned to the stage with “LIP GLOSS” and “THRILL RIDE,” with the whole group wearing sporty, pink ensembles. The refreshing, upbeat, and poppy sounds played as the group spread across the stage to interact with their fans.
Next was the weekend’s last Gen-Z Pop Special Stage, and JO1 had the pleasure of performing a fantastic cover of SEVENTEEN’s “SUPER.” The group aptly performed in black techwear as the crowd cheered on, miming the point choreography dance while standing in front of their seats. It felt like a JO1 concert for a minute as everyone grooved to the song and screamed the lyrics back to the performers.
One of the main highlights followed as another representative 4th generation girl group, (G)I-DLE, took the stage. To the members ‘ surprise, the group performed with a sleek, cool demeanor as the audience sang the chorus of “Queencard,” word for word. The quintet also performed fan-favorite “MY BAG” as member Minnie garnered excited screams from her alluring and sexy rap verse. The set ended with “Tomboy,” which was also littered with fans singing “Yeah, I’m (fucking) Tomboy!” back to the members.
The last “Dream Stage” took place with ITZY making their return to the stage. This time, about 20 winners performed “WANNABE” with the members. Member Ryujin’s signature shoulder-shaking dance had fellow MIDZYs imitating in the crowd. When the dance break happened, the audience boomed with applause and jumped up from their seats.
Stray Kids performed bombastically per usual, delivering their latest hit song, “S-Class.” The group also performed “District 9” for the first time since their debut and “Super Bowl.” Both songs got the entire arena on their feet, dancing to the hard-hitting beats. A major fan-favorite, “God’s Menu,” also had the whole place jumping in excitement as Stays (Stray Kids’ fandom name) mimicked member Felix’s “Looking like a chef, I’m a 5-star Michelin” line to near perfection and accuracy. The group ended the night with “TOPLINE” as the members made their way down to the barricade and the 100s sections to interact with Stays.
As expected, KCON treated LA fans with three full nights of non-stop fun and excitement. With packed preshows with rising acts and even more breathtaking collaboration stages, it is no wonder why KCON continues to be one of the top K-Pop festivals in North America. KCON reported that 140,000 KCONers attended the convention and concerts over the weekend, showing their dominance in K-Pop live music. We shall see each other in 2024, KCON!