GOT7 Fly in USA tour has been winding its way across the U.S. this summer and made a two-night stop in Los Angeles. Hello Asia! was in the house for the first L.A. concert on Sunday, July 10th.
A sold-out house greeted the boys on their first night at the The Novo by Microsoft in downtown L.A. Venue staff reported hearing that the loyalest of the IGOT7s -the fans- began queueing up outside theater around 2am the morning of. The crowd was diverse but skewed young, and Asian female twenty-somethings comprised the lion’s share of the population – though more than one halmoni (할모니) was spotted in the house, proving that JYP Entertainment’s sophomore boy group has wide appeal.
The Novo’s stage is modest in scale and the architects likely never envisioned K-pop dance groups when they built it. Thus, the seven boys and their four backup dancers looked a bit cramped for room, especially in front of their giant flashing LED screen of visual accompaniment. Elbows and knees could have very easily collided! Fortunately the tightness of the space hindered GOT7’s verve in no way, and they even managed to squeeze a handful of their signature acrobatic tricks into the 21-song set without incident.
Mad props to the PD who conceptualized the roulette wheel and video camera Surprise Event that challenged random fans to choreography demonstrations – that has to be one of the best K-pop concert fan-engagement activities yet. But serious side eyes to whomever agreed to let the boys engage in a prolonged round of slow-motion pelvic thrusting – it went on a bit long, and while all in good fun, it was maybe a bit much for anyone noona-aged or older.
Members Mark & Jackson -both fluent English speakers – served as main MCs and guided the crowd effortlessly throughout the show. BamBam assisted on occasion and nearly committed an inadvertent faux pas during the end-of-show selfie when he asked the crowd what kind of sign everyone should make? “LA (hand) sign? No? …Should we do West Side (hand sign)? No??!!! Sorry Sorry I don’t know!! I don’t want to offend!!” Finally BamBam settled on the classic hearts pose — much to relief of everyone in the house. (The West Side sign is actually a notorious L.A. gang sign and comes with a lot of socio-cultural…baggage in the U.S., especially in L.A.) K-pop overseas: affording new opportunities for cultural exchange in multitudinous and unforeseen ways…
Performing in Los Angeles held special significance to GOT7 as L.A. is member Mark’s hometown, and a huge number of family and friends were in the audience that Sunday night, including Mark’s parents and siblings. The center section of the balcony was packed with a boisterous horde of men and women of all ages, most clad in pink shirts -several with Mark’s face printed on them- all proudly showing support for a favorite son. Somewhere in the middle of the six-song encore, Jackson tried to get Mark to shout out his posse, but Mark -a bit verklempt- said simply “there are too many to shout out.”
Truthfully, the boys seemed happy but a little fatigued (they were on a multi-city whirlwind tour, after all). The choreography was more on the loose and casual side than perfectly synchronized, and a few voices seem strained – leader JB especially had trouble with his upper range. But what they lacked in precision, they more than made up for with enthusiasm and playfulness. Fans reveled and much squee abounded, and somehow the seven boys seemed less like unobtainable idols -ethereal and un-human in that magical K-pop way – and more like friends or peers, who happened to be on stage singing and dancing. This is a marketing feat JYP Entertainment should applaud itself for, and provided cultural misunderstandings can be prevented, GOT7 should be welcome to Fly in the U.S.A. anytime.