NewsBLACKPINK Make UK Festival History with Electrifying K-Pop Set in Hyde Park

BLACKPINK Make UK Festival History with Electrifying K-Pop Set in Hyde Park

Blackpink have made history by becoming the first ever Korean band to headline a major UK music festival.

The K-pop girl group played an electrifying set at London’s BST Hyde Park to a sold-out crowd of 65,000 fans, some of whom travelled half way across the world to see them perform.

“We’ve been waiting for this since last year,” said Jeangil Pagunsan, who’d come to the UK from the Philippines.

“No words can explain the joy we feel right now. This night was so insane.”

“We love everything about them,” said her friend Rick Mae Vaporoso. “Everything was so hype.”

“Their songs are great, their personality is great, they’re really energising,” agreed Adrian and Jess Chan, who’d set off from Nottingham at 06:00 to make sure they secured a prime spot in the audience.

Mother and daughter Michelle and Yazmin Glackin had a much trickier journey – their early morning plane from Northern Ireland was cancelled.

After an agonising wait, they finally grabbed the last two seats on the 15:30 flight, arriving at the concert with all of their luggage to make sure they didn’t miss the show.

“It’s been a long day, but it was all worth it. We’d do it all over again,” said Michelle, whose daughter is “absolutely besotted” by the quartet.

“But I seen nothing, ‘cos she was on my shoulders the whole time,” she said.

Blackpink aren’t just one of the biggest K-pop bands in the world – they’re one of the world’s biggest bands full stop.

Formed in an intense, six-year-long bootcamp, they’re comprised of Lisa (real name Lalisa Manobal), 26, from Thailand; Rosé (Roseanne Chaeyoung Park), also 26, who was born in New Zealand and raised in Australia; Jennie Kim, 27, who grew up in South Korea; and Jisoo Kim, 28, from Gunpo, about 20 miles south of Seoul.

Since the release of their debut single Whistle in 2016, they’ve become the most followed act on YouTube and the first K-pop girl band to sell a million albums.

Their most recent record, Born Pink, entered the UK charts at number one, and the group have a combined 356 million Instagram followers.

So while they might have seemed an outlier on the UK festival circuit, where this year’s headliners are largely safe, tried-and-tested acts like Arctic Monkeys, The Killers and The Strokes, Blackpink were a smart choice for the more adventurous BST line-up.

The band are currently in the middle of a world tour, with a finely-tuned show that combines their bombastic, confident pop songs with the sort of choreography that would make Strictly’s professional dancers break into a cold sweat.

They burst onto the stage with two of their hardest-hitting anthems, Pink Venom and How You Like That, bathed in pink lights against a video wall covered in sharp, black thorns.

That’s a dichotomy that’s burned into the band’s identity, from their name to their musical output.

Every sweetly-sung melody and pop hook is juxtaposed with a sinister EDM riff, or a frenetic rap breakdown; and their songs often end in a military style “rum-pa-pum” chant.

All of which works perfectly when you want to send an audience into a complete frenzy on a Sunday night.

The four-piece keep up a frenetic pace for the first 20 minutes, stomping down the catwalk and breaking into Fosse-inspired chair choreography during Pretty Savage.

“London, what a nice breeze you have,” exclaims Rosé during a brief pause, grateful at the chance to stay cool after a recent run of gigs in Australia.

The middle section of the show lets each member show off their solo material, and reveal a bit more of their personality.

Jisoo is all doe-eyed and demure as she plays the sweet-hearted love song Flower; while Rosé, Blackpink’s most gifted writer, shows off her pop nous with a medley of the hit songs Gone and On The Ground.

Jennie, fresh from her co-starring role in the HBO drama Idol, shines through a playful version of Solo; while Lisa, who best embodies the band’s in-your-face attitude, rips through the hip-hop track Money, then starts voguing in the dance breakdown.

The only slight hiccup comes when air cannons shoot thousands of streamers into the air during Rosé’s solo set, only for a gust of wind to blow them backwards into the stage, where they hang off the lighting rig for the rest of the night.

Edgier lyrics

Shrugging off the hitch, the band reunite for a high-octane third act, that includes the summer dance anthem Lovesick Girls and the insistently catchy Shut Down (which samples Paganini’s second violin concerto, La Campanella, to great effect).

But the highlight is Tally, whose strident lyrics – “No one’s keeping tally, I do what I want with who I like” – are an unusual affirmation of sexual liberation in the notoriously buttoned-up world of K-pop.

Rosé introduces the song as being “very special to us”, and the band drop their choreography to perform it side-by-side – like the Spice Girls doing 2 Become 1, only with more f-bombs.

Their undisguised affection suggests there’s still life left in the band; despite speculation over whether they’ll resign their seven-year contract with YG Entertainment, which is thought to expire next month.

Should they take the opportunity to wrestle more control over their career, the edgier lyrical content of Tally feels like a signpost for where they want to go next.

Not that any of those backstage machinations matter to the fans in the field, who holler out every word – even the Korean ones – as the show comes to an explosive finale with the gargantuan hooks of DDU-DU DDU-DU and the euphoric Forever Young.

“We definitely did not expect this much energy,” declares Rosé, as she waves goodbye.

“I can’t put it into words, but thank you so much for everyone who showed up today,” adds Jennie.

It’s worth pointing out that the Hyde Park gig involved a completely revamped setlist from Blackpink’s current world tour, incorporating both new staging and choreography.

Although the band previously delivered a version of the set when they played Coachella in April, they had to relearn all the changes while playing in Australia last week; and squeezed in a final dress rehearsal during soundcheck on Sunday morning, about 24 hours after flying into the UK from Incheon in South Korea.

But rather than letting jetlag get the better of them, onlookers said they were full of energy and perfectly locked in sync, performing as if they had a full audience in front of them.

“On any level, with any comparison, it’s a spectacular, spectacular show,” says Jim King, who booked the band for Hyde Park.

“Playing Hyde Park or Coachella is very demanding on an artist, especially on a pop artist. And the level of detail in that show, combined with all the one-off elements, just shows how professional and talented they are.”

And while Blackpink are the first K-pop band to headline a UK festival, King, who is the head of European festivals for live entertainment giant AEG, says they won’t be the last.

“This genre of music is only going to get bigger,” he says. “You’ve seen it today. There’s great passion out there, even though many of these bands have never been to a greenfield festival before.

“I think that any resistance we may have felt before has been blown away by Blackpink – and that opens the door for many of their contemporaries to come through as well. “

cr. BBC

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