Concert review: BTS opens international stadium tour at the Rose Bowl

Seven-member K-pop group BTS opened its Love Yourself: Speak Yourself world tour at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California on May 4 and 5. The concerts marked the beginning of an exciting extension to the Love Yourself World Tour, which began in 2018.

BTS has rapidly risen from their humble beginnings in Korea to international popularity that can be evidenced by the sold-out shows they will be performing during the remaining parts of the tour. The group has also become the first Asian artist to sell out the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena, which seats about 90,000.

The Love Yourself: Speak Yourself tour was announced following the conclusion of BTS’s Love Yourself tour and before the release of their chart-topping album, Map of the Soul: Persona. Persona evolved Love Yourself’s themes of self-acceptance and introspection into topics of identity and belonging, wrapped up in a mix of pop and hip-hop sounds between the album’s seven songs.

Anticipation brewed in the air as fans lined up in the early hours of the morning for tour merchandise on May 5. Through the LA heat, fans remained eager to purchase clothing branded with the Speak Yourself logo, high-definition photos of the BTS members, and the group’s signature light stick (called the Army Bomb) which connect by Bluetooth to the stadium to create the ocean of colors throughout the night of the concert.

Fans were signaled that the show would soon start as the group’s older music videos playing on the large LED screens at the Rose Bowl transitioned into pre-recorded clips of all the members. As the background track to BTS’s “Dionysus” began, two large, silver statues of panthers (paying homage to the Greek god the song is named after) rose onto the stage. Between them, the K-pop group entered and were met with deafening cheers from the crowd.

After an energetic performance of the song and its intense choreography, the hard-hitting “Dionysus” evolved into “Not Today,” a 2017 track which was met with just as much, if not more, enthusiasm from the fans. The group then took a few moments between “Not Today” and their next performance of “Outro: Wings” to introduce themselves to the crowd and thank them for coming to the show.

BTS greets fans at the beginning of the show. (Photo by Meghan Lee)

Following this beginning segment to the concert, BTS performed a mix of their solo songs from the Love Yourself albums, which highlighted each member’s individual strengths and charisma on stage. The solo stages have become easily recognizable by fans over the last year as the group performed them while on the BTS World Tour: Love Yourself, but on this opening night, they surprised fans with stunts and additions that were not in the original performances; from Jungkook’s flight across the venue during the second half of “Euphoria,” to the large bubble in which Jimin began “Serendipity,” to the colorful effects on the LED screen that RM coordinated with as he rapped and sang “Trivia : Love,” fans were equally shocked and excited.

V, real name Kim Taehyung, performs “Singularity.” (Photo by Meghan Lee)

The concert’s set list followed the stages of loving oneself, according to the Love Yourself releases: Wonder, Her, Tear, and Answer. Each of their solo songs fit into one of the four stages, but throughout all the solos, they also came together to perform songs as sub-units and as a whole group. Together, they performed “Boy With Luv,” “Idol,” “Best of Me,” a medley of their popular tracks from previous years (“Dope,” “Baepsae” and “Fire”) and many more. As sub-units, the vocalists sang the tear-jerking “The Truth Untold,” and immediately afterwards, the rappers lit up the stage with “Outro: Tear.”

“Mic Drop” concluded the concert before the group’s encore stage. For their encore, fans were entertained by the group’s more relaxed and candid sides as they had fun climbing on the inflated bouncy house on stage during “Anpanman.” The last few songs, “So What” and “Make it Right,” were performed with great energy by the boys despite the full set list they had already performed that night.

Following the traditional order of their concerts, the members stood on stage to give their final speeches to the fans in the crowd before their final song. The members primarily spoke in Korean, and an English translation was provided for fans immediately after.

It is these moments when the the special relationship the group shares with its fans, ARMY, is most pronounced. RM’s speech, in which he spoke English, had fans listening intently as he “You guys were our wings… You guys were our most beautiful moment in life,” referencing themes of previous albums, Wings and The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, while Jimin told fans, “You are the reason in my life that keeps me going.”

The group closed the show with “Mikrokosmos,” a song illustrating the deep connection between BTS and ARMY. A mesmerizing display of fireworks illuminated the night sky as the members and backup dancers took their final bows.

An impressive display of fireworks goes off as BTS exited. (Photo by Meghan Lee)

As a long-time fan of BTS, I found the show to be both extremely entertaining and memorable, not just because of the members’ dynamic performances, but also the heartfelt messages they communicated to the fans. As the group has gone on to perform at Soldier Field in Chicago, Good Morning America and The Late Night Show with Stephen Colbert, it is clear that while this show was the largest audience BTS has performed for in the United States, their success and K-pop as a whole are continuing to rise.

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