Live Review: KCON New York 2017 M! Countdown Day 2 – Prudential Center (24.06.17)

Day two of KCON NY 2017 came swiftly along after everyone had been wowed the night before. They wanted more and they were happy to see it come quick. This time Danny Lim was on hand to guide us into the concerts. Violinist JunCurryAhn and dance crew 1million did an almost too good job of warming up the crowd with their performances. An outsider would think they were the main event given the reaction they got.

CNBlue’s Yonghwa and Jungshin came out to introduce the first proper act of the night and they quickly reminded us why we were really there. In unorthodox fashion, before their own set, the girls of Twice performed a medley of JYP hits. First Momo, Tzuyu, Sana, and Nayeon did miss A’s debut “Bad Girl, Good Girl” before swapping out for the rest of the girls, Jeongyeon, Chaeyoung, Jihyo, Dahyun, and Mina who performed “Nobody” by Wonder Girls. It was a nice reminder of the women who paved the way for Twice to be on this stage, most of all “Nobody” is so easy and fun to dance along too. They finished off, all nine of them back on stage, with JYP’s own classic “Honey.”

Up10tion kept the momentum going with a dance opening before transitioning into their new unreleased single “Runner.” Unfortunately that song is a step in the wrong direction for them. As a group in their third year and still not establishing a strong place in the market, they need something with a bit more personality than this. “Runner” is a typical tropical house dance track, the type that we’ve seen in K-pop all too often since last year. It’s especially disappointing given we have seen what they can do with songs like “Attention and “White Night.”

They did get to them at least, moving through debut single “So Dangerous” first. “Attention” and “White Night” offer a great dichotomy of who Up10tion are. “Attention” is the more fun side, a funk driven track with some of the most interesting choreography work we saw all weekend. The almost kiss and domino effect they create were highlights. “White Night” is darker despite the title, electronics are the primary sound, yet they have a vivid physicality when heard on big speakers.

In true SM fashion, NCT 127, then came along with epic orchestral music and visuals to match. Leader Taeyong started alone with a powerful dance before being joined by his members. They began building a grander atmosphere for themselves, the crowd responded extremely well. Johnny and Doyoung then left the stage as the rest of the members opened with the much maligned “Fire Truck.” It may be divisive but I challenge you not to enjoy this live, everyone there lost that challenge that’s for sure.

Johnny and Doyoung returned to help them through a great trio of tracks, “Good Thing,” “0 Mile,” and “Limitless.” Thanks to the smaller amount of acts this night they could perform a bit more than usual and they took great advantage of it. Getting to see some quality b sides made it feel as if we are at a solo NCT 127 concert. “0 Mile” sounds like it was made for a night like this, its summery vibe has a super comfortable bounce to it. They closed with the hip-hop heavy “Cherry Bomb” and as the crowd chanted “I’m the biggest hit on this stage” it was easy to see NCT 127 were the next big thing in K-pop. That being said it felt like they were going through the motions. They were not singing live which was a bad look alongside a number of smaller boy groups who were at least trying in some or all of their songs. They still have to prove they are ready for the big time.

Unfortunately the same could be said of Twice. I was uplifted by how much the crowd was into them but the effect it had on the girls themselves was not enough. Luckily their songs are so iconic already that there was still moments to enjoy. “Cheer Up” and “TT” back to back is a duo to savour, everyone was overjoyed to shout “Sha Sha Sha” and “I’m like TT” along with Twice.

The exceptions to their general fatigue were Jihyo, Jeongyeon, and Momo. Everyone should have the opportunity to watch Momo dance. Her defined body is an instrument of pure fun, she perfectly walks the line between powerful and feminine. The contrast between her and the other members was glaring.

The other star of the night came out after Twice with his band CNBlue. Since they weren’t playing live, front man Yonghwa was free to roam the stage and focus on his vocals and more importantly the crowd. Even if they were playing, it would have been next to impossible to take your eyes off of him. He wowed the crowd through “Between Us,” “Cinderella,” and “You’re so Fine.” Between tracks he would constantly tell the crowd he loved them, he talked about how weird the weather in New York was, and more in his strong English. It was utterly charming.

He didn’t wow until “Can’t Stop” though. The repetitive energy of that song was infectious and built with pounding emotion. It was clearly a huge moment for the group. Yonghwa belted it into oblivion, his voice somehow staying strong in the longest high note I’ve ever heard live. It was the best way to finish off a solid if not spectacular night. The crowd were the act of the night in the end. Their consistent adoration for the all the groups was so refreshing. Even when the acts are tired the crowd show why events like this are worthwhile.