Even before Seventeen took the stage during their ‘Be the Sun’ World Tour stop at UBS Arena in Elmont, New York, on Thursday, September 1, you could hear their fans from outside the venue. In the 10 minutes before Seventeen came out, the arena was filled with screams and Carat Bongs, lightsticks named after the group’s fandom that were programmed to light up in sync with the concert’s lasers and production. No one was yet on stage, but the feeling the group could appear at any moment was imminent. Then Seventeen came out, and the screams went from loud to deafening.
If you aren’t a Carat (Seventeen’s fandom name inspired by their 2015 song “Shining Diamonds”), here’s a refresher on the group: Seventeen is a South Korean boy band that debuted in 2015. They don’t have 17 members. Instead, the group is made up of 13 members and three units—smaller groups specialized in certain members’ strengths: Hoshi, The8, Jun and Dino are in the Performance unit; Woozi, Seungkwan, DK, Jeonghan and Joshua are in the Vocal unit; and S.Coups, Vernon, Mingyu and Wonwoo are in the Hip-Hop unit. The members perform in both units and in the group as a whole. Thirteen members plus three units plus one group equals Seventeen—hence the name.
The concert on Thursday—which came days after Seventeen won their first MTV Video Music Award for Push Performance of the Year—also marked the return of two members: Hoshi and Joshua, who missed Seventeen’s Washington D.C. and Atlanta stops after testing positive for COVID-19. “Who’s back! Hoshi is back!” Hoshi told the crowd of more than 10,000 after Seventeen’s heartracing, lightstick-pumping performances of “Hot” and “March,” which opened the show. The songs are from Seventeen’s fourth studio album, Face the Sun, which their ‘Be the Sun’ World Tour supports. Joshua also celebrated his return to the tour by asking the audience who’s back. “Joshua!” the crowd shouted, to which Joshua responded with a cool and casual, “Remember that.” Later in the show, the other members also remarked how complete it felt to have all 13 members back on stage. Dino and Mingyu also missed earlier tour stops due to COVID-19.
But back to the concert: After their opening speeches, Seventeen continued the high energy with performances of “Hit” and “Rock With You” (two former singles that saw the members move to intricate choreography with military-like precision) before transitioning to unit performances. First were Joshua and Vernon—Seventeen’s English-speaking members (Joshua is from Los Angeles, while Vernon is from New York, a fact the other members made sure to remind him of during their Long Island show)—who performed “2 Minus 1,” an all-English pop-punk-inspired banger that saw the two rock out in leather jackets and mic stands. Next was the Performance unit (Hoshi, The8 Jun and Dino), who performed “Moonwalker” and “Wave,” two smooth dance tracks that made use of the members’ seductive choreography and breathy vocals. The Vocal unit (Woozi, Seungkwan, DK, Jeonghan and Joshua) followed with powerhouse performances of “Come to Me” and “Imperfect Love,” complete with confetti and a subtitled sing-along moment for fans. The Hip-Hop unit (S.Coups, Vernon, Mingyu and Wonwoo) closed out the Unit performances with arena-shaking renditions of “GAM3 BOI” and “Back It Up,” highlighting the members’ fast rap spits and stage presence.
After the unit performances, all 13 members returned to the stage for performances of crowd pleasers “Mansae,” “Left & Right” and “Very Nice.” The stage was part skit, part performance with the band giving a look at their personalities and relationships with improvised jokes, piggyback rides and even a bicycle. The concert continued with darker tracks like “Shadow and “Crush” before the members gave their final speeches before their encore. Hoshi reminded the audience that the first time Seventeen was in New York was for KCON, an annual K-pop convention, where they were one of the opening acts. Now they’re on their own solo tour. The speeches also saw the members perform acapella parts of their songs, proving that, behind the special effects of their production (which included fire, lasers and a sea of flashing lightsticks), the core of Seventeen is raw, real talent.
After a charming performance of “_WORLD” and a brief intermission (during which the camera panned to fans and flags from Mexico, Brazil and other countries around the arena), Seventeen returned to the stage for encore performances of “Our Dawn Is Hotter Than Day” and “Snap Shoot.” The latter of the tracks saw the members select audience members around the theater to dance on screen to the energy-packed chorus. The fan service continued with Seventeen’s final performance, an encore of “Very Nice,” where they came down to floor level to have fans finish the lyrics and dance along to the song’s jumping chorus. After hyping the crowd one last time, the 13 members lined up at the back of the stage and took their final bow. “This is Seventeen,” they said in unison as the stage went down and the lights came up.
Just over two-and-a-half-hours long, Seventeen’s New York concert went by fast. There wasn’t a dull moment. The breaks (which saw artistic videos of the members play as the band changed outfits) were few and far between, and some of the most entertaining and authentic moments came when the group wasn’t even performing but just talking to each other on stage, teasing one another and proving that, beyond the costumes and complex choreography, Seventeen are just 13 best friends who happen to be international pop stars. The unit stages gave every member (each of whom commanded the stage in the precious solo moments they were on screen) a chance to shine, but the magic of the group came when all 13 members were together, moving in sync with one another to their choreography and the small moments between them as they sang. It’s hard to explain the power of Seventeen, but perhaps DK said it best earlier in the concert: “When all 13 of us are together, I feel more powerful. Seventeen has to be 13.”
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