Underdogs' tip-top show

iKON comprise (from left) Junhoe, Jinhwan, Yunhyeong, B.I., Bobby, Chanwoo and Donghyuk.
iKON comprise (from left) Junhoe, Jinhwan, Yunhyeong, B.I., Bobby, Chanwoo and Donghyuk.PHOTO: YG ENTERTAINMENT



Singapore Indoor Stadium/Sunday

The members of K-pop boy band iKON were once a bunch of "losers". Six of the seven members were on the survival reality television show WIN: Who Is Next (2013), where they did not secure enough public votes and lost the chance to make their debut in show business.

On Sunday night, the underdogs proved to be champions as they rocked a 6,500-strong crowd with a powerful performance at their first full-length concert in Singapore. It is part of their first Asian tour held on the back of their debut chart-topping album, Welcome Back, last year.

They burst onto the stage with a thumping rock rendition of Rhythm Ta and powered through a 22-song setlist, from explosive dance track Dumb And Dumber to melancholic ballad Apology to an impressive cover of K-pop stalwart BigBang's club hit, Bang Bang Bang.

Throughout the two-hour show, lightstick-wielding fans' ear-piercing screams were practically a constant feature.

How did these "losers", aged 18 to 22, become a new K-pop force?

WIN participants B.I., Bobby and Jinhwan were selected to join iKON's line-up by their agency YG Entertainment, whose stable includes big-name acts BigBang and Psy. The remaining trio Junhoe, Yunhyeong and Donghyuk competed for their spots on another survival reality show, Mix & Match (2014). New competitor Chanwoo made the cut on Mix & Match to join the septet.

Rappers Bobby and B.I.'s electrifying stage presence at the concert made it clear why they were the first to be chosen for iKON. The heavily promoted pair performed the rousing duet Anthem, rapping in tandem and with conviction to bring the house down.

Leader B.I. performed his solo rap Be I like a bona fide rebel, a contrast to his clean-cut boyish looks that female K-pop fans normally adore.

The self-deprecating Bobby is not precious about his lack of looks, but he possesses a charisma that keeps audiences' eyes trained on him.

During his solo rap Go, the livewire effortlessly cajoled concertgoers to chant along with him.

He then launched into rapid-fire rapping, performing with a devil- may-care attitude and commanding presence reminiscent of K-pop chameleon G-Dragon. Time will tell if Bobby will become the next G-Dragon and iKON - perhaps - the next BigBang.

But first, there was a rite of passage they, like BigBang before them, had to undergo - cross-dressing.

It seems rookie boy bands love to cross-dress to please their fans. For instance, boy band GOT7 last month parodied a girl group GFriend favourite Me Gustas Tu at their gig here.

On Sunday, iKON pretty boy Jinhwan performed the same breezy hit, blending in with the female back-up dancers as he transformed into a coy girl in a Sailor Moon-like school uniform and flowing wig.

His fellow members later slipped into black dresses, hamming it up for the sultry dance track, Up And Down, by girl group EXID.

Never mind if the casual onlooker may find the cross-dressing act disturbing. Fans love their idols even when they are in drag.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2016, with the headline 'Underdogs' tip-top show'. Print Edition | Subscribe