If Vincent Van Gogh were alive, he’d have approved of the CN Blue concert at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Saturday night. More than a few thousand blue lights turned Big Dome ‘s inky interior into a starry, starry night, providing the perfect backdrop for the light-and-sound spectacle of the two-hour-plus concert.
CN Blue, a South Korean pop rock band that has its roots in the Japanese indie scene, was recently brought to the Philippines by Pulp Live World, a group that’s made a name for itself as one of the purveyors of KPop entertainment. Manila is the eighth stop on the band’s first world tour, dubbed the “CN Blue Blue Moon World Tour.”
The concert was the Big Dome’s big ticket event of the month—upper box premiere tickets were more expensive than patron tickets to Fall Out Boy—and well worth the price of admission.
CN Blue is led by main vocalist and rhythm guitarist Jung Yong Hwa. Sharing lead vocal duties is lead guitarist Lee Jong Hyun. Bass guitarist Lee Jung Shin and drummer Kang Min Hyuk share backing vocals.
For a group that relies more on the strength of its music than choreography (a staple of KPop groups), the band acquitted itself well, performing favorites like “Love Light,” “Love,” “Y, Why,” “L.O.V.E. Girl,” “I’m Sorry” (the lead single from their latest Korean mini album Re:Blue) and about a dozen more songs from their catalogue.
It was no hardship enjoying the concert. The songs were engaging, even to non-CN Blue fans (or those who couldn’t understand Korean), and are ladened with catchy hooks, raising the risk of LSS (last song syndrome) aftershocks. Their music, which for some strange reason reminds us of British mod band The Jam, has global appeal and sounds like something you would hear on Western radio stations.
It was also fascinating to watch the boys onstage, injecting their performances with a kinetic energy that carried them throughout the entire length of the show. No dialed-in performances for this group.
The star of the CN Blue show is leader Yong Hwa. Whether he’s giving an intimate performance like “Feeling,” or frenetically asking the crowd to “Wake Up,” he cuts a compelling figure onstage.
A self-professed “Number One Dancer,” he also impressed us by rapping, beat boxing and hamming it up with the fans. All this, and serious vocal chops to boot easily make him one of the most charismatic performers on the Korean scene--even without choreography.
With his dimpled good looks, Jong Hyun could easily pass for a matinee idol, but it’s his shy (read: cool and mysterious) demeanor, not to mention the plaintive note in his voice, that had fans swooning in their seats. That he plays a mean lead guitar is simply gravy.
Min Hyuk is every teenybopper’s dream. He’s cute, tall and looks real friendly. He also plays the drums like a dynamo. It’s no wonder the screams of the Filipino Boices (as CN Blue fans call themselves) reverberated like an electromagnetic pulse throughout the arena every time he crinkled his eyes.
Jung Shin is easily the most affable one in the tightly-knit group. And the funniest too. He and Yong Hwa make a terrific comedy tandem. He had the most interaction with the fans, eliciting lots of screams whenever he’d say “Philippines daebak (amazing)!” In between, he also rapped and played really cool bass riffs.
More than good looks, catchy songs, and vocal prowess however, what made the band more appealing was the fan service. CN Blue won the hearts of the fans by speaking in Filipino, instantly whipping them into a frenzy when they greeted them with “Magandang gabi, kami ang CN Blue.”
This continued throughout the concert, with Jung Shin periodically asking “Masaya ba kayo?,” Yong Hwa saying “Sigaw sigaw na,” and Jong Hyun saying “Salamat” every so often. Min Hyuk, who, at some point, confessed he was “gutom na,” asked for “lechon, lechon,” sending fans into overdrive spazzing.
Yong Hwa, who was so discombobulated when he mistakenly sang Singapore instead of Philippines before the band played “You’ve Fallen For Me, tried to make up for the faux pas by saying “I love Philippines” every chance he got.
Needless to say, the audience lapped it up, we could hardly hear ourselves think with all the screaming going on. (It got so loud, a friend thought he was having an out-of-body experience.)
Fans were quick to reciprocate the love, singing the songs, which they obviously knew by heart, and shaking their glow sticks in unison. Some fan groups like YongSeo PH (a fan base for Yong Hwa and SeoHyun of Girls Generation) and Boice PH went the extra mile, providing food and cakes for the boys, distributing glow stick bracelets for everyone to wear and organizing “events” within the concert like putting up paper banners that said “1248 days of waiting is over” in Korean when the band played “I’m A Loner” (the band’s first hit), indicating the waiting period before CN Blue finally came to Manila.
One of the high points of the show was the fan-organized celebration of Yong Hwa’s birthday two-thirds into the concert. The CN Blue leader turns 24 on June 22 (25 if you use the Korean system) and fans made sure it was unforgettable. Aside from presenting a cake that depicted him and Min Hyuk (who also celebrates his birthday on the 28th) and wearing made-to-order party hats, they also convinced the other band members to recite a Filipino script before singing Happy Birthday.
“Wag niyo sabihin ang pangalan,” Min Hyuk teased the crowd, while Jung Shin urged them, “Kantahin natin siya!” The clueless Yong Hwa ping ponged his head among the three, wondering what they were talking about. It was only when Jong Hyun told the crowd to sing “Sabay sabay,” and they started singing “Happy Birthday” that it dawned on him they were talking about him.
“I(‘m) surprised!” he responded, visibly moved.
But perhaps the most impressive effort of all was the mic stand that Yong Hwa used during the concert, a gift from the YongSeo PH fans. The personalized mic stand glows with a blue light and is marked with CN Blue’s logo. Its base, designed by one of the fans, depicts a guitar with a dragon and Yong Hwa’s signature. It’s reportedly made by the same company that does 1 Direction’s mic stands.
Yong Hwa was reportedly so enamored with it that he even included it (like a fifth member) in the customary selca (the Korean version of a selfie) of the band at the end of the concert.
As gifts go, this HAS to make a big and lasting impression and we’re pretty sure this is one birthday treat Yong Hwa won’t forget. (He could hardly keep the smile off his face.)
By the time the band came down to its last song (“Try Again, Smile Again”), it was two and a half hours later—longer than your average concert—yet the fans still could not seem to get enough of CN Blue. It was only with great reluctance—and solemn promises from the band to come back—that fans finally bade goodbye to the boys.
It took CN Blue 1248 days to get here. Obviously the question after the concert was, was it worth the wait? Gauging from the happy chatter we heard as the fans streamed out of the coliseum, it was.
(Follow Gianna Maniego on Twitter @soulwarden)