Concert Review: 2NE1 unleash their girl power onstage

K-pop band 2NE1 at the press conference for their world tour at Square2. -- ST PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
K-pop band 2NE1 at the press conference for their world tour at Square2. -- ST PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
K-pop girl group 2NE1, from left to right Bom (Park Bom), Minzy (Gong Minji), CL (Lee Chaerin), Dara (Sandara Park). -- PHOTO: MARCUS LIN
K-pop girl group 2NE1, from left to right Bom (Park Bom), Minzy (Gong Minji), CL (Lee Chaerin), Dara (Sandara Park). -- PHOTO: MARCUS LIN
K-pop girl group 2NE1, from left to right Bom (Park Bom), Dara (Sandara Park), CL (Lee Chaerin), Minzy (Gong Minji). -- PHOTO: MARCUS LIN
K-pop girl group 2NE1, from left to right Bom (Park Bom), Dara (Sandara Park), CL (Lee Chaerin), Minzy (Gong Minji). -- PHOTO: MARCUS LIN
K-pop girl group 2NE1, from left to right CL (Lee Chaerin); Bom (Park Bom), Dara (Sandara Park), Minzy (Gong Minji). -- PHOTO: MARCUS LIN
K-pop girl group 2NE1, from left to right CL (Lee Chaerin); Bom (Park Bom), Dara (Sandara Park), Minzy (Gong Minji). -- PHOTO: MARCUS LIN
K-pop girl group 2NE1, from left to right CL (Lee Chaerin); Minzy (Gong Minji), Bom (Park Bom); Dara (Sandara Park). -- PHOTO: MARCUS LIN
K-pop girl group 2NE1, from left to right CL (Lee Chaerin); Minzy (Gong Minji), Bom (Park Bom); Dara (Sandara Park). -- PHOTO: MARCUS LIN

Hyped after attending a high octane concert by K-pop girl group 2NE1, my female friend remarked: "These girls make me feel good about myself."

The sassy lasses pride themselves as being fierce, independent women, the antithesis of typical K-pop girl groups, who often pander to male fans by acting cute or turning up their sex appeal.

2NE1 have even earned themselves the nicknames of "scary unnis" (unnis means older sister in Korean) in their home country.

That girl power was reflected in their energetic two-hour performance at their sophomore full-length concert at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Saturday, two years (2012) after their first world tour stop at the same venue.

Powering through a 21-song setlist, the quartet sang about female empowerment in upbeat song Go Away, oozed confidence in catchy dance number I Am The Best and boosted self-esteem among the audience with the heartfelt song Ugly.

Before launching into the fist-pumping track Ugly, member Dara sent out an encouraging message to the audience in English: "Sometimes you might feel ugly -inside and outside. But don't worry we all feel like that sometimes."

As the face of the group, it's hard to imagine when the doe-eyed beauty would feel ugly.

While telling guys to man up in the lyrics of Pretty Boy, the four women - CL (Lee Chaerin), 23; Bom (Park Bom), 30; Dara (Sandara Park), 29; and Minzy (Gong Minji), 20, donned red-sequined military inspired outfits and toted pink guns that shot laser lights.

The girly colour pink was picked as an ironic ode to their fierce image, a concept that had to be explained in a behind-the-scenes video shown later during the show.

A more blatant showcase of their female prowess was displayed in the midst of the hit song I Love You, when four Singaporean men picked from the audience were escorted onstage.

The women took control of their "hostages", sat them on chairs and proceeded to give the awkward men, who sat ramrod straight in their seats, lap dances. The daring moves ranged from Dara straddling the guy to CL hooking her leg onto another fan's shoulder.

Some naysayers argue that the bold, feminist image is a manufactured product straight out of a K-pop star making factory.

But it works and appeals to men and women fans alike. Women fans outnumbered the men in the 7,500-strong crowd at the stadium.

The empowering message aside, the singers do have the vocals, and showcased them during the acoustic rendition Come Back Home and the ballad Missing You.

The vocal prowess of leader CL and powerhouse singer Bom come as no surprise. It was refreshing to hear the low-profile Minzy, who is better known for her dance grooves, belt out in her rich tones.

The pretty member Dara could hold a tune with her saccharine sweet voice, but it's clear she's there to serve as the eye candy.

As there was no guest star, audiences had to be kept entertained with videos projected on the big screen.

One of them was a lengthyvideo that replayed concert scenes from other stops.

But the point of a concert is to see live action onstage. So perhaps the regal queens of K-pop could command their distractingly good-looking all-male dance crew to fill in for them next time.

nggwen@sph.com.sg