Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood was abuzz on the night of August 4 as fans lined up to see The Rose perform a sold-out late-night show at The Vic Theatre. The concert, which was part of Lollapalooza’s lineup of official Aftershows, came just a day after the band commemorated their sixth anniversary as a group along with playing their first-ever Lollapalooza set to an overflowing crowd.
Playing for such a wide audience at the iconic music festival’s flagship Chicago event was certainly a huge achievement in itself. But when the clock struck midnight on August 5 and members Woosung, Dojoon, Hajoon, and Jaehyung walked onstage, it was clear that the 1,400 Black Roses (the band’s fanbase) in attendance were in for a truly personal experience. Lacking a formal setlist and instead being driven almost entirely by audience requests, The Rose’s intimate show at The Vic was a love letter to fans – and the start of a new chapter as they enter their sixth year.
Opening the night was breakout alternative pop singer Isabel LaRosa, who was hot on the heels of her own debut Lollapalooza set on Day 1 and a second performance on Day 2 of the festival. Radiated by deep red stage lights, LaRosa, joined by her brother Thomas on the guitar, brought a sultry, moody vibe to The Vic’s stage. She kicked off her set with “HAUNTED,” an otherworldly track from her first EP, i’m watching you. She captivated the audience with her breathy vocals on the angsty song, “Therapy.”
LaRosa’s next songs, “praying” and “HELP,” got the crowd jumping. The eerie yet uptempo dance tracks were complemented by strobe lights that felt like traveling to a different dimension to escape the inner turmoil described by each song’s lyrics. She then slowed things down with “16 Candles,” her debut single which put her powerful voice front and center.
If there was doubt that Isabel LaRosa was on her way to greatness, her cover of “I Kissed a Girl,” by Katy Perry showed that she could command a stage. The audience was enraptured by her raw, passionate vocals on “i don’t forgive you” and “butterflies,” and clapped along to the dark romantic track “eyes don’t lie,” LaRosa’s latest single.
LaRosa had the audience dancing along to “HEARTBEAT” and “HEAVEN.” She was a hit with the crowd, who consistently hyped up her and Thomas as they performed. Many Black Roses even waved their lightsticks in various colors to show their support.
“I feel so incredibly grateful and excited to be here. You guys are genuinely the loudest crowd I’ve ever heard,” LaRosa said as she introduced the last song of her set, getting visibly emotional after the audience responded with more screams. “This is more than I could have ever asked for, so thank you.”
She closed her set with her hit single “i’m yours,” which went viral on TikTok and shot her to prominence in 2022. The sound of the audience singing along reverberated throughout The Vic, and as Isabel and Thomas took a final bow, so did the sound of cheers and applause.
Black Roses were buzzing as the clock ticked closer to midnight, chanting out “The Rose! The Rose!” repeatedly in anticipation. When the stage lights brightened up at twelve and Woosung, Dojoon, Hajoon, and Jaehyung filed onto the stage, the excited screams from the crowd were deafening.
Dressed significantly more casually than their coordinating white Lollapalooza outfits, the band kicked off with the familiar opening piano chords of “Cure,” and Black Roses’ voices chorused loudly throughout the theater as they sang along. The Rose was all smiles as they moved into “Candy (so good)” and “I Don’t Know You,” grinning ear-to-ear when Black Roses continued to sing at the top of their lungs. They kept the joyous energy going with the well-loved track “RED,” and fans turned their lightsticks red and danced along.
During their first break after a lively opening, Woosung took a moment to lightheartedly introduce The Rose’s members and their personality types. He described Jaehyung’s personality as “sexy,” Hajoon’s as “chic,” Dojoon’s as “main character,” and for himself, “lazy” and his side personality as “I don’t give a fuck,” to the crowd’s amusement.
A quick show of hands (and screams) showed that the majority of the audience went to The Rose’s Lollapalooza set the day prior. “This is what we expected, so today, we wanted to make this extra special. So special that we didn’t even make a setlist for today,” Woosung said. “What we’re about to do for this show, we’ve never done for any other shows – we’re going to take your requests.”
It was obvious that this wasn’t going to be like any ordinary The Rose concert, and the audience went crazy at the revelation. To level the audience’s expectations, Woosung tacked on a disclaimer that they didn’t remember everything, so if they had to deny a song, they would sadly have to do so. He also asked that they not request their newest songs, as they would play them at the end of the show. But The Rose had one more “very important” surprise up their sleeve for the night.
“Do you guys remember very early on in The Rose’s stages that Jaehyung and Hajoon sang a lot? Well today, you guys are gonna get versions of songs with Jaehyung’s vocals and Hajoon’s vocals and whatever you want,” Woosung stated to Black Roses’ excited shrieks.
The first fan request of the show was “BABY,” a complex and melodic breakup song off their first mini-album Void. Black Roses danced along to the song’s final instrumental breakdown and cheered for Dojoon’s impressive falsetto. Afterward, the guys took a moment to share more of their thoughts with Black Roses about their journey as a band.
“This kind of reminds us of four or five years ago, around those times, when we came to Chicago. We played ‘BABY’ somewhere around this kind of venue,” said Dojoon.
“When we first came to Chicago, I think we performed in front of what, a thousand people? So it was so beautiful seeing all of you yesterday. Yesterday was so meaningful for us and we’re very, very happy,” Woosung added.
Woosung then called on Jaehyung to say a few words. Jaehyung paused for a second to gather his thoughts, but Black Roses hyped him up by chanting his English name, Jeff, over and over again.
“This night is very special. As Sammy [Note: Woosung’s English name] said before, we have no setlist – we’re making a setlist with you guys,” Jaehyung said with a bashful smile. “This is our first time performing like this so I’m excited. So let’s make an amazing night!”
For the next song request of the night, Dojoon decided to ask Black Roses who were seated at the theater’s second level. They requested “Take Me Down,” but Dojoon earnestly asked the other members if they remembered how the song went. When The Rose admitted they couldn’t remember it off the top of their heads, Woosung asked Dojoon to play the short piano version so that they could still fulfill the request.
Dojoon took the lead on the song, and it seemed to jog his members’ memories. Woosung, Hajoon, and Jaehyung all joined in with their respective instruments. Once Woosung had sung up to every lyric he could remember, Black Roses took over to finish out the song themselves while the band continued to play the instrumentals.
Next on the request queue was the fan-favorite, “She’s In The Rain.” This performance of the song was “Version 2,” as Woosung called it, being sung mostly by Hajoon and Jaehyung instead of the usual Woosung and Dojoon. During the final English interlude, Black Roses’ voices echoed throughout the venue as they sang the final interlude of the song by themselves. In one chill-inducing moment after the song ended, Woosung led the crowd in singing the interlude again – this time with only Dojoon’s acoustic guitar accompanying them.
After scanning the crowd for requests (many fans used their phones to write out and display their petitioned songs), Dojoon excitedly chose “Beautiful Girl.” The Rose quickly ran through the chords, Jaehyung took over on the acoustic guitar and they jumped right in. The crowd went crazy for Dojoon as he seamlessly went from keyboardist to rapper when he performed BTOB Peniel’s verse in the song.
The Rose selected “Photographer” as the next track on their build-your-own setlist for the night. The members all took turns trying to remember how the song went by playing the chords and singing the lyrics that they could remember to arrive at a solid springboard.
“I doubt we’re gonna know the words,” Woosung prefaced. “But you guys know the words, right?” The crowd cheered their assent and they launched into the song.
It was a fun and chaotic moment as the members danced around the stage and laughed when they couldn’t remember which lines were theirs. They ended up reducing the song into ad-libs and random syllables, which had Black Roses cracking up.
After attempting to remember a few other fan requests and failing, The Rose threw it back to their beginnings with a short version of the slow jam “Like We Used To.” Fans waved their lightsticks and arms back and forth and picked up the lyrics where Woosung faltered. Keeping with the vibe of ballads, they followed up with an abridged rendition of “I.L.Y.”
“You’re requesting all the hard songs of The Rose,” Dojoon laughed as he looked at the crowd and noticed a request for “Childhood.”
But the band took the request graciously, and fans were treated to a partially acoustic version of the song. Hajoon and Jaehyung once again took over main vocals, and at one point Woosung and Dojoon sat down onstage by the drum set to give them their moment in the spotlight. Black Roses cheered respectfully, sang along, and waved their hands in the air as they crooned.
The band then performed “Shift,” a romantic, heart-wrenching song that added to the magic of the night. Black Roses cheered during Woosung’s guitar solo and when he cheekily changed up the song’s ending lyric from “I love you now,” to “I love you, Chicago.” They followed up with “Time,” and fans once again chorused the words at the top of their lungs.
“Yes,” their collaboration with James Reid, was up next, keeping The Rose in their Heal era. They used the carefree, joyful track as an opportunity to dance around the stage, taking photos with fans’ phones and disposable cameras. For Jaehyung, he visited the attendees at stage left, where he hadn’t been the entire night. Replicating a feature of their Lollapalooza set from the previous night, Dojoon distributed bundles of roses to the members. Once the song ended, the members all threw the flowers into the crowd for lucky fans to catch. Hajoon then returned to the drum set while Jaehyung, Woosung, and Dojoon sat at the front of the stage to be at eye level with Black Roses as they reprised the chorus of “Yes.” Afterward, many fans tossed gifts such as t-shirts and roses of their own to the guys.
“I think it’s time now to play the songs you’ve all been waiting for,” Woosung said, reining the crowd (and his members) back in. The crowd’s cheers were bittersweet since that meant the show was nearing the end.
After getting back into their spots and tuning up their instruments, The Rose started playing “Back To Me,” but Woosung abruptly stopped after the first couple of lines. It was a testament to their dedication to performing the best they could – Woosung and Dojoon worked with the sound and stage techs to adjust the echo and reverbs of each of their mics and to reduce the brightness of the spotlights.
The second time was the charm, though. The Rose restarted “Back To Me” without a hitch and had the entire venue jumping and screaming out the words. They then transitioned into “Alive.” The song’s synth breakdown complemented by the stage’s multicolored flashing lights gave the venue a heavier club feel.
Sadly, Woosung announced that it was time for the final song of the night. “Thank you so much for coming, we had a blast. This,” he paused to gesture towards the crowd, “we will remember forever.”
The band then moved right into “Sour.” Woosung started to sing the first pre-chorus but stepped back in gleeful surprise when Black Roses’ voices began overpowering his own. He took out his in-ear monitor and conducted the crowd, instructing them to sing louder.
The Rose did not hold back for the performance. It seemed like they put every last ounce of their joyful energy into the song as they rocked out on stage. As they closed out the song, Woosung shouted into the mic, “We are The Rose, and WE ROSE YOU!”
It was the perfect ending to an extraordinary night that highlighted how far The Rose has come since their debut. As Black Roses filed out of the venue, many seemed to be in shock that they had been present for that moment in the band’s history. After such an unprecedented show, and with a new album and another tour on the way, it was clear that for The Rose, there is nowhere else to go but up.