G-Dragon returned to Australia last week almost two years after BIGBANG‘s world tour first brought him to Sydney, and this time, he came on his own. He proved his influence and popularity even as a solo artist with a packed-out arena filled with V.I.P light-sticks and fans ready to party with BIGBANG’s leader.

Despite Sydney being the 16th stop of a jam-packed tour schedule which has so far seen G-Dragon perform in South Korea, Macau, Singapore, Thailand, the U.S. and Canada, he made sure to give his all for Australian V.I.P. The concert began with a throwback to 2009 with classics like ‘Heartbeat’ and ‘A Boy’ and I was surprised to see him harmonise with his own voice in the back-up recording, showing off powerful adlibs alongside smooth choreography.

The concept of the show became clear quite quickly: it aims to depict the internal struggle in balancing on-stage and offstage personas, and the emotional and mental frustrations with which come hand-in-hand. It is definitely a heavy concept and not one which can be pulled off easily. Production-wise, I felt that the effort that went into each and every artistic decision played a large part in adding a sense of surrealism to the concert. This included the likes of projecting real-time concert footage coloured blue and over-sized while simultaneously projecting what appeared to be scenes from an old music video. The juxtaposition of old and new added to the realisation of just how long Kwon Jiyong has lived as G-Dragon, and how much of an impact he has had on individuals all around the world.

Smoke, harnesses and floating choreography gave aspects of the concert a dream-like feeling while other songs were reinvented with jazz or rock inspirations thanks to the live band playing alongside G-Dragon. Fans sang and danced along to hits including ‘Michigo’, ‘One of a Kind’ and ‘Who You’.

Video interviews with G-Dragon’s friends and family discussed the differences between the on-stage G-Dragon and the off-stage Kwon Jiyong. We were presented with a personal video by the man himself, speaking blatantly – and with a sense of genuine concern – about the persona and what it means to him. He gives an interesting analogy of sparky, fancy clothes. He comments that he always tries to dress in a certain way as ‘G-Dragon’, though there are times when the clothes feel very heavy on his shoulders; nevertheless, he is afraid to take them off. It’s a simple but powerful analogy reflecting the short life-span of the celebrity career. He has made a name and an image for himself, and he has gained the love and admiration of thousands. Yet, acknowledging that popularity can disappear without a moment’s notice, he is afraid to take a step back and live his life as the real Kwon Jiyong. He is worried about the vulnerability that will follow the removal of such a powerful safety blanket. Despite these fears and concerns he expresses his desire to live as Kwon Jiyong from now on, wishing that he can be someone who still shines… even “without all these shiny things on.”

I will repeat myself in saying that this concert has a very heavy and difficult to execute concept, and I will be honest in saying that after the video message ended and G-Dragon returned to the stage, I felt that a lot of the concept was lost. Or was it? There are two ways I interpreted the concert post-video message. The video message ends with G-Dragon saying he wishes to henceforth be Kwon Jiyong – (not necessarily in name, but in personality) – and the final sentence uttered before the screen goes blank is “Who am I?” The reason I initially felt the concept was lost after this video was because when G-Dragon returned to the stage, I was expecting a change of some sort; something to signify that he is taking control of his fears and choosing to be himself. I was consequently disappointed to find the remainder of the concert the same as the start – it was G-Dragon wearing G-Dragon’s clothes, performing as G-Dragon. I was slightly let-down as I (perhaps wrongly) expected to see the real Kwon Jiyong. In retrospect, I wonder if it was a deliberate decision. Could it be that after the final “who am I” rhetorical question, G-Dragon decided that he wasn’t ready to take off his shiny embellishments and reveal his true self? Alternatively, could he have found a healthy balance between G-Dragon and Kwon Jiyong, and is it merely a matter of observers not being able to recognise the difference?

The is one last aspect of this concert I’d like to discuss. At the end of the concert – though soon to be followed by an encore – G-Dragon said his goodbyes to the fans. This in itself is common practice, though what made it interesting was the fact that the farewell speech, right from the blue-sky-and-clouds projected background to the giant door creeping open, was a nod to the final scene of ‘The Truman Show’. “Good afternoon, good evening, and good night.” Those who have watched the hit film will know that the movie revolved around a man whose entire life unknowingly took place in a giant dome created by a TV broadcast station for the entire world to watch his every move; reality TV in the most literal sense. What might this film have to do with the message G-Dragon was trying to express through this concert? I recall one of Truman’s final lines in the films, “I never had a camera in my head.” Perhaps what G-Dragon is suggesting is that his life as ‘G-Dragon’ has had his every move captured by paparazzi and every word criticised by strangers who only know him for what they have seen through a screen. He has finally gathered up the courage to take off his shiny attire and live as Kwon Jiyong, and he is bidding farewell to those who have until then observed G-Dragon’s life from afar. He is stepping out of the dome and into reality. An easy decision? Absolutely not. A good one? I think so.

‘Act III: MOTTE’ is a very personal concert filled to the brim with symbolism. The more I reflect upon it, the more I find myself beginning to view G-Dragon in a different light. While there were certainly aspects of the concert I wasn’t ecstatic about – for example, I’m still confused about the bloodied shirt in the encore – I do believe that a very good portion of what happened were strategic moves aimed towards an artistic purpose. I look forward to what is to come in G-Dragon’s future and I am confident that no matter what happens or what clothes he wears, he will shine.

Photo supplied. Courtesy of YG Entertainment and IME.