BIGBANG’s Taeyang meets a packed house on both 14 & 15 September shows, at the Vancouver stop of his White Night tour.
Taeyang ends the North American leg of his White Night tour in Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre, not with a whimper, but a bang.
It’s Taeyang’s first time in Vancouver, and he’s greeted by thousands of fans. As the lights dim, cheers build, filling the walls of the former vaudeville house until the sound washes over the music the band is playing. Taeyang makes his way through the split screens mounted atop the elevated set, as fog pours over the stage. He’s a glamorous personification his sunny stage name: he sports platinum blonde hair and an all-white outfit, including a jacket covered in jewels.
It’s a highly-produced and tightly-run spectacle: visual displays of rolling landscapes, the elements, and galaxies colour the titular “white night” concept (a phenomenon in which polar areas of the globe experience 24 hours of sunlight), and almost non-stop performances don’t leave much time for audience members to anticipate what’s coming next.
The BIGBANG vocalist’s high-energy set features songs from his recently-released White Night solo album, in addition to hits that emerged through his 11-year music career. Following his White Night intro, he sets the explosive mood of the concert with his 2013 electronic track Ringa Linga (링가 링가), and goes straight into the poppy Body (아름다워), a song that features vocals of YG labelmate CL, from the now-disbanded K-Pop juggernaut 2NE1.
On multiple instances, Taeyang resembles a rock star over a pop idol. Backed by four instrumentalists, he commands the audience’s attention behind scarf-decorated mic stands (surely an homage to Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler), choosing live music over prepared tracks. However, he makes no compromise about breaking the illusion in favour of his pop idol identity, as he occasionally allows pre-recorded backing vocals to take over while he executes choreography, assisted by a talented group of dancers.
Somehow, it all just works.
His rock star persona is most prominent in the second half of the show with Tonight (오늘밤), a performance musically and visually reminiscent to Michael Jackson’s Earth Song. He plays up this persona further into Love You to Death, before slowing down with a stripped down version of BIGBANG’s Last Dance, in which he accompanies himself on the keyboard. He “ends” with his recent single, Darling, before coming back for a six-song encore that includes BIGBANG hits Bang Bang Bang (뱅뱅뱅) and Fantastic Baby, and finishing with his 2014 chart-topper, 눈,코,입 (Eyes, Nose, Lips).
The 24-song set list is a testament to Taeyang’s impressive stamina and pacing: he mixes up dance tracks with vocally-challenging ballads, maintaining the cohesive R&B-pop sound that sets his music apart from BIGBANG’s edgier, hip hop-influenced style. Audience sing-along favourites include Wedding Dress and I Need A Girl, a reminder of his long-standing international popularity as a solo artist (writer’s note: as a non-kpop fan during my high school years, even I knew of Wedding Dress when it first came out – it was played everywhere).
Taeyang’s 2014 MAMA performance of Eyes, Nose, Lips displayed his team’s creative use of stage lighting, and they follow through with the same level of craftsmanship for this tour. Purposeful use of fog, spot lighting and lasers, on top of grandiose imagery, transforms Taeyang’s performance from a pop show into a visual master class on concert lighting design.
While some K-Pop acts make use of translators when performing overseas, Taeyang prepares his speeches in complete English, making for smoother audience interactions not subject to translation delays. In return, fans respond with enthusiasm, fervently waving their VIP (BIGBANG’s fandom name) light sticks, and filling the venue with cheers and screams of “I love you!”
Overall, Taeyang’s charismatic and passionate performances, in addition to the creative work put into the show, presents a man who takes being an idol to heart, and loves what he does. The White Night tour is well-curated and visually-impressive, and proves to be a pop music spectacle that even non-fans of the K-Pop genre can appreciate.