BOYZ NITE OUT
Singapore Indoor Stadium
With at least one Korean pop group arriving in Singapore every month, artists and promoters are clearly finding it harder to fire up audiences here.
Last Friday's Boyz Nite Out concert at the Singapore Indoor Stadium was the first time this reviewer saw at least 30 per cent of the crowd straggle in up to 90 minutes after the show started, instead of packing in before the house lights dimmed.
It was also one of the rare times a performer stayed on the stage longer than the audience did. While hundreds in the upper-tier seats dashed for the exit, singer Shin Dong Woo (better known as CNU) of boyband B1A4 reached to the few dozens left in the mosh pit and thanked them for the birthday cake and gift prepared by his local fan club ahead of his 21st birthday the following day.
While each performer on stage gave his best, the programme was a problem. The 135-minute show featured ingenue bands 18.104.22.168, B1A4 and Teen Top along with established names Shinee and rapper Jay Park, former leader of 2PM, so fan support was not evenly extended to all.
Hundreds of ticketholders turned up well after 8pm, hoping to bypass the less well-known boybands. But they were outsmarted by programmers who placed 22.214.171.124 smack in the middle of the show.
The melodious four, who have already recorded a TV drama in Indonesia well before their debut in South Korea, turned out to be one of the highlights of the show.
Their fancy footwork was on a par with the established groups and their stage presence was powerful enough to get the audience enthused over a medley of little-known K-pop songs.
In contrast, Teen Top's opening performance of songs such as No More Perfume On You was enthusiastic but lacked the polish and commanding confidence of the bands that succeeded them, notably B1A4, who brought the house down by singing Happy Birthday in Korean.
Shinee, who should have been the climax of the evening, deserved a special award for fighting against the odds.
Not only were they hampered by the absence of member Minho, apparently because of scheduling conflicts, but the faltering sound system in the stadium failed to register the high and complex harmonies on the hip-busting song Lucifer.
Still, each performer pulled out all the stops to charm with stage banter and smart use of the stage extension to shake reaching hands.
Each artist had a few words to say in English, as befits artists more likely to make a living outside South Korea's saturated pop economy.
A pity, then, that most artists said the same words in English: "It's hot in here. Are you having a good time? I love Singapore."
The exception was Korean-American rapper Jay Park, who excited the audience with stage banter and pelvic thrusts worthy of Elvis Presley, in between soulful renditions of songs such as Girlfriend.
"It's hot in here," he said at one point, proceeding to strip off his shirt and flex muscled arms to show off his tattoos.
As he leapt, sang and gyrated, holding the thin cotton in a death grip, girls leapt to their feet, hands straining and the applause became a deafening wall of sound.
If only he had succumbed to the moment and thrown the shirt to the hungry horde. Now that would have been a memorable night out.