Could any galaxy have shone brighter than the sea of lightsticks and glowsticks that populated the Deutsche Bank Park Stadium last night? Forty thousand fans from Europe and beyond congregated to celebrate some of the most popular Korean music artists out right now on the first day of the KPOP.FLEX two-day festival.
Both new and long-term fans of the genre were treated to a star-studded lineup featuring some of the best rookies out there, ENHYPEN and IVE, veteran legends Kai and MAMAMOO, established chart-toppers (G)I-DLE and NCT DREAM and the well-beloved AB61X. The eclectic lineup helped to showcase why many love the genre so much: the diversity of sound, genres and concepts were on display throughout the night, and every artist's three to four song set featured both hits and fan favorites.
Opening the show with their newest title track 'LOVE DIVE', the impressive six-member girl group followed this up with new b-side 'ROYAL' before rounding off with crowd favorite and mega-hit 'ELEVEN'. The girl group performed with a confidence beyond their years, and they take to the stage once more tomorrow, with hopefully an EP incoming from them before the end of the year.
Million-sellers ENHYPEN followed up with their first live performance since their debut in 2020, with their setlist highlighting just how many hits they've already put out in their short career. Viral hit 'FEVER' drew a massive reaction from the entire stadium, with title tracks 'Tamed-Dashed', 'Drunk-Dazed' and setlist finale 'Blessed-Cursed' performed with the slick intensity we're now well used to from the group. ENHYPEN have grown leaps and bounds since they stood together on I-LAND's finale stage, and hopefully the screams of the tens of thousands watching hopefully reminds them truly how far they have come in so little time.
The underrated AB6IX then took to the stage, reminding us of their 18th of May comeback A to B amidst their performances of '감아 (CLOSE)', 'Breathe', 'CHERRY' and 'Do You Remember (그해 여름)'. The group have always sparkled with gentle charisma in their performances, and the soft blue lighting that bathed the entire stadium during their set offset their pristine white costumes beautifully. No doubt the group have won many a new fan today with their glittering performance, and it's perfect timing with that new EP on the way.
Hot of the release of their most successful album thus far, five-member girl group (G)I-DLE were beloved by the crowd, with their performance of hit 'TOMBOY' drawing much adoration. A reminder of the group's consistency on the scene came by way of two of their classics, 'LATATA' and 'Oh My God', before a surprise performance of the badass B-side 'My Bag' had the crowd on their feet. The group are going on a world tour very soon and whilst European dates are yet to be released, surely the response of the audience should encourage their management to sort out some venues this side of the Atlantic very soon.
Nothing but adoration was spared for the veteran girl group MAMAMOO, who took to the stage to perform classics from their huge discography. Hit song 'HIP' was joined by the tracks 'AYA', '고고베베 (gogobebe) ' and '하늘 땅 바다만큼 (mumumumuch)'. With nothing but solo music released by all the members so far this year, their high-energy performance brought home both how much they'll be missed as a four-piece when they disband in 2023, as well as laying down hopes that the group will drop a record together before 2022 rounds out.
NCT Dream set the stage alight with high-octane performance after high-octane performance, with '맛 (Hot Sauce)', 'Ridin'', 'Hello Future' and '버퍼링 (Glitch Mode)' turning the entire stadium into a sea of green. Their performance was chock to the brim full of bold energy and charismatic choreography: a reminder exactly why the group are beloved by millions around the world. They'll be releasing more music very soon on the 30th of May with Beatbox, the repackage of their album Glitch Mode. If the response of the crowd here is anything to go by, it's sure to fly off the shelves.
Fans screamed, sang and fell on the floor when EXO's Kai took to the stage to perform many of his most loved (and recent) tracks. After all, the singer's perfectly precise routines and soulful music has made him beloved to many, with his comments inbetween his luscious performances of 'Peaches', 'Vanilla', 'To Be Honest' and '음 (Mmmh)' purely humble and sincere. He expressed how happy he was to be in Frankfurt after watching many a football game being broadcast in the stadium, and surely many fans will be back to watch him again as part of the festival's Day 2 lineup.
Special moments beyond the artists set lists were wonderful presents to fans during the concert: from MAMAMOO's Solar and AB6IX's Daehwi performing a duet of 'Let It Go' from Frozen, (G)I-DLE serenading the crowd with Justin Bieber's 'Love Yourself', AB6IX taking us behind the scenes of their journey from Seoul to Frankfurt, ENHYPEN doing a special fan segment, and much more. Korean popular music has always thrived on the close relationships developed not just between artists and fans, but also between the various artists themselves and the Western musical output that has been so influential on the genre. Seeing these different aspects reflected during the concert was a reminder of what makes the genre so beloved.
Surely there are not enough words to truly convey the positive energy, excitement and euphoria that radiated throughout the stadium on the first day of the concert. After the many trials and tribulations that so many of us have been through over the past two years, the sheer emotional release and joy to be felt seemed not just to be the expression of fans enthused to see their faves, but a reflection and recognition of how wonderful it was to see so many great artists able to share the stage together, and in turn share their music with so many people that have come from all over the world.
Yesterday night, Frankfurt seemed to be the centre of incandescent and unquenchable happiness: there's one more night to go, and it's no stretch to assume it will be just as brilliant.