Apink wrapped up their Pink MEMORY: Apink North American Tour 2016 on January 9th with an intimate “showcase” style concert at Club Nokia in Los Angeles. The six girls gave off a relaxed, happy vibe, and enchanted the crowd with their long legs, “greatest hits” setlist, a few K-variety show-style antics, plenty of aegyo, and a healthy side of confetti.
While Cho Rong, Bo Mi, Eun Ji, Na Eun, Nam Joo, and Ha Young brought their A-game in dance, their vocal performance was respectable, not remarkable. Eunji flexed her voice a few times throughout the night, most notably on ‘My My,’ perhaps in an effort to remind everyone she does indeed have the chops, and she can use them, she just chooses not to lest she overpower her group mates. Lack of displays of significant vocal prowess likely mattered to few in the attendance, however, as devoted fans are usually paying hundreds of dollars simply for the privilege to huddle en mass at the feet of their literal idols. In a music genre built on lipsyncing, proximity to the stage may matter more than caliber of performance to many fans. (This is not to say the girls weren’t singing live – they definitely were! It’s just, come on – this is K-Pop: inspirational vocal talent isn’t top priority for entertainment companies or fans.)
The crowd was smaller than Club Nokia usually sees for K-Pop concerts, and considerably less female-dominated. (Boy group, INFINITE was set to play the following night at another L.A. venue and ticket prices may have forced many local K-Pop fans – lady fans, in particular – to choose between the two events.)
The die-hard Pink Pandas who made it to the show, however, were front and center, and predominantly male. And we’re not talking teen fanboys. These were fully grown 20-30 something fanBROS decked in Apink t-shirts and snap-backs, waving fansigns, shouting fan-chants, and barking I LOVE YOUs at the tops of their lungs. The VIP area was one constant guttural, yet respectful rumble.
One VIP ticket holder confessed he flew from Boston the day before, and had been in line since 8am, though he knew some fans had started lining up around Midnight. If that’s not true fan love, then what is?
Concert promoter/producer KpopMe could have saved a few dollars on their MC expenses, and just let member Eun Ji run the show. She took charge of the crowd the moment she got to speak. As she winked, nodded, and ad libbed her way through each segment and transition with charmingly broken English and great aplomb, she created many true moments of fan engagement. Eun Ji wasn’t on stage performing for the audience, she was playing with the audience – despite the language barriers. Her status as crowd favorite was well deserved, and her hard work no doubt helped to make the Pink Pandas’ night of magic and wonder, all the more magical and wondrous.
The “showcase” concert format is employed frequently for K-Pop concerts in small venues, and typically includes segments designated for structured fanservice and fan-interaction. Apink members answered select questions that fans had submitted via SNS ahead of the concert. Cover contest winner, Christine Espinoza of Victorville, California, performed a dance medley of Apink choreography. And some thought it would be a good idea to split the girls into two teams, Unnies vs Dongsaengs, and make them reach inside mystery boxes and identify their contents by touch alone. For the LA show they were given naked tapioca boba balls, and a live squid, after great deal of cringing and squicking around on stage, the teams were forced to break their tied victory with a half-hearted rock-paper-scissors showdown. Audience concern for the fondled squid ranged from horror to pity, to wistful envy.
All in all, it was a short but sweet show and a rare treat for fans to see a girl group up-close and in-person, outside of Asia. The steady post-2012 rise of K-Pop concerts in the West have been heavily dominated by multi-group festivals, and tour stops by male groups. Apink is only the third girl group to hold solo concerts in the States – after Wonder Girls in 2010, and 2NE1 in 2012. Even the top K-Pop girl group of all time, Girls’ Generation, has only graced U.S. stadiums for SM Town and KCON concerts. The promoter KpopMe must be congratulated for taking the risk with a girl group and tour them around North America for four city stops. Together with labelmates, 4MINUTE – who have embarked on European and Latin American solo tours in recent years – Apink may be forging ahead into a whole new world for girl groups.
Photos by Ricky Lam