Considered veterans on the Korean music scene, Sydney was treated to a very special night on Friday with the one and only EPIK HIGH, as they embarked on the Australian leg of their Sleepless in ____ tour.
After completing a very successful stop in Melbourne, the trio headed to Sydney to perform their final leg of the tour, before heading back to Seoul.
The night started off suspenseful and quiet, much different from recent concerts which would be filled with fan-chants as songs from the artists would play in the background. Instead, a hauntingly beautiful piano melody played as the hall quickly filled, with friends talking amongst each other, all in anticipation for what was to come.
Not long after 7pm, the lights dimmed and cheers got louder as EPIK HIGH made their way to the stage, first performing their most recent hit ‘In Seoul’, before moving to their more high energy songs ‘NO THANXXX’ and ‘BURJ KHALIFA’.
A quick and playful introduction followed before the trio continued straight into their next few songs, showcasing their diverse range, from straight rap to lo-fi beats; high energy to old school hits.
Although a lot of their songs often feature a female singer, EPIK HIGH were able to effortlessly perform these songs without feeling like there was a gap needing to be filled, instead rallying the support of their fans and own artistic talents. Before long, the night was coming to an end, and with one last reiteration from Tablo that the group would not come out no matter how loud the crowd screamed for an encore. EPIK HIGH did eventually make their way out for an encore though, performing their classic hits ‘Born Hater’ and ‘Don’t Hate Me’, a song that just invited you to let loose and dance around (you know this girl did).
After watching the night’s show, it’s evident why EPIK HIGH has managed to stay strong as a group for over 15 years. The group itself has been one of the strongest Korean music groups I have seen, managing to endure through some of the industry’s toughest challenges together- facing almost certain disbandment, scandals surrounding members (although these were later proven false), moving agencies multiple times, marriage and having children, all while remaining together as a team.
It is nice to see groups show these bonds on stage, but its even more amazing when much of the audience would have experienced these hardships together with EPIK HIGH. The group itself also appear very comfortable on stage, joking jovially with each other and dancing around on stage. EPIK HIGH also weren’t afraid to get up close and personal with their audience, giving the audience at the back a treat when they came around to the barrier separating the VIP from the Gold standing section and allowing fans to get up close and personal with each member.
The overall stage and production value was quite amazing for a group that does not base their fanbase and success on costumes or dance routines, choosing to simplify their stage down to a DJ desk at the back and simple videos and light show in the background. But what stood out to me above all was the timing of their show. The show didn’t run for any longer than 1.5 hours, much shorter than the length of a general K-Pop show, and EPIK HIGH only sang around fifteen songs, but each song they performed was as if it had been carefully hand-picked for this night. Each song performed was well-known from a certain era of their career, and as evidenced by the audience around me, each song performed had touched the audience at a certain point of their life in a certain way.
If EPIK HIGH’s show was part of a fine-dining menu, it would be the degustation course – providing the audience with a taste of their most successful and familiar songs, and leaving the audience satisfied, yet wanting more of the night. The success in their simplicity can also be mirrored in their success of the Australian leg of their tour – their Melbourne show had sold out, with Sydney being very close to selling out. For a group that has been quite established on the scene for some time and is not your conventional K-Pop group, to penetrate a market that is only recently opening itself up to the international music scene is quite a feat in itself, but an amazing testament to the powerful work of EPIK HIGH.
In all honesty, the night was filled with wonder and amazement at all aspects of EPIK HIGH’s performance. The trio did a spectacular job of keeping their audience engaged, and taking us through all moments in their career, not just the recent songs.
Here’s hoping that they’ll be back again soon – Australia can’t wait!