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Review & Recap: EXO Exo’luXion in Vancouver, BC

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Just based on a casual look through social media, I can already tell that Vancouver’s Exo’luXion stop is becoming infamous for all the wrong reasons. Still, I wanted to give my thoughts since I was in attendance last night. Before I start, I have to preface by saying that, while Exo were actually one of the groups to first get me into kpop back in their debut year, they’re not one of my bias groups. So, going in to this show, I had very different expectations and excitement level than, let’s say… Infinite’s show. But I do really like them and their music, and since they were coming to my neck of the woods, I couldn’t miss out on taking the short drive across the border and seeing Korea’s biggest group in person.

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I’ll get the negative over with first, and very little of this has to do with Exo themselves. As some of you might know, the Vancouver stop has quickly become known as the “One Step Back” tour. This is due to the guys’ constant need to chide those in the pit area to stop fighting, fainting and crushing others. Apparently there were injuries and unconsciousness, and the band was even forced to threaten stopping the show early if there were more injuries. This was all incredibly awkward and unnecessarily changed the energy of the night. Thankfully, I was not in the pit section, but the venue as a whole was definitely not suited for a concert.

It’s clear that SM looked at seating capacity rather than layout, and booked a hockey arena that ensured every seat faced the center of the court, rather than the stage itself. This resulted in sideways views of the stage even in the best seats. The acoustics were not great, and it’s clear that the staff had little skill in handling this sort of event.

We lined up shortly after five for a supposed six o’clock opening. The show was scheduled to start at seven thirty, but nobody was let in until about fifteen minutes prior to that. This resulted in the rarest of things for a kpop concert… a delayed start. The show finally kicked off about forty-five minutes later than it was scheduled to. Before that, we enjoyed hours out in the rain, watching the security stand on the other side of the doors doing absolutely nothing. When we finally were let in, security confiscated all umbrellas, saying they weren’t allowed in the venue even though they weren’t on the list of unapproved items. So they basically froze us, drenched us, and then stole from us.

Once inside, the usher next to us quickly became a phone nazi, rushing around from person to person (often obstructing our view), to yell at people for filming or taking pictures. Honestly, I don’t understand the big deal. Are they that scared of grainy photos and video clips from an awkward angle? What’s the worst that could happen? Free publicity? The attitude of the staff felt condescending and unnecessarily rude. I mean, these tickets were not cheap. Let us enjoy the damn show!exo4

Now that that’s out of my system, I should actually talk about the music. Exo were an eight-member group last night, since Lay was not joining this tour. Luckily, Kai got his visa issues resolved (another in a long string of mismanagement issues plaguing this tour). We were close enough to *sort of* see the guys, though the stage could have done with clearer, and better placed, video screens to help with this.

The setlist was strange. We didn’t get singles like Wolf or What is Love, or strong album tracks like Black Pearl or El Dorado, but at one point we got an extended section of holiday songs from their Christmas album… in February. But, at least that gave us the beautiful Miracles In December, which was the highlight of the night for me. It was great to hear the main vocals so clear, with little feedback or production. Chen, in particular, was last night’s MVP. I don’t think I’ve given him the credit in the past for how strong of a singer he is. I was really impressed with his vocal power. It cut through the arena with so much heart and skill.

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The show lasted nearly three hours (though as I mentioned before, a lot of that was “one step back” chastising). For such a long show, the flow could have been better thought out. We got a blitz of singles right off the bat (Overdose, History, and Mama), and then it became album track mania for a LONG time before we got any more singles. Now, it’s not that I don’t know every one of their album tracks, but it seemed a waste not to spread the big crowd pleasers out a bit more. I always find it takes a bit to ease into a concert, and I would have loved to be able to focus more on History and Mama in particular, as they’re two of my absolute favorite songs.

In the interim between hit singles, we had a cutesy subsection (with regrettable styling/staging, but awesome songs), a strange coffee-making elvish video clip (druggy. as. hell.), an EDM/hip-hop rave, lots of pandering to the 13-year-old-girl fanbase and of course that aforementioned Christmas bit. Throughout this, my highlights (and the songs that worked the best in the arena), were Lucky, Machine, Exodus and Run. Exo were definitely best when they focused right up front, delivering a powerful or anthemic performance, rather than ducking behind a cheap-looking paper crawl in a “striptease” bit or heading all the way to the back of the stage so that they were hard to see for most of us. They’ve never released their rockier tracks as singles before, but they worked really well in front of a crowd.

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The group closed with Call Me Baby, Love Me Right, Growl and Unfair, which were all a blast to see live. I’ve had my own criticisms of Exo in the past, but they impressed me as a vocal group — particularly the main vocals. Baekhyun’s piano-playing during The Answer (I think?) was also a bit of a revelation. I was less impressed by the dancing. The formations often felt sloppy and out of sync, especially during the first few songs. This could have been partially because of my vantage point, but I’ve always felt this way about Exo. I think they have a couple incredible dancers that absolutely nail a solo performance, but as a group they sometimes have trouble becoming one unit. Given their difficult history, this is more than understandable!

All in all, it was kind of a strange night. Enjoyable, yes, but the venue, setlist and staging didn’t really befit Korea’s “biggest group.” Of course, that label is nearly impossible to live up to, and I don’t want to be unfair in expectation. Even though the show as a whole felt uneven and a bit thrown together at times, there were definitely highs and I’m very glad that I went and had a chance to see Exo so close to home! (And sorry for the grainy photos… I had to zoom in and avoid the phone nazi when taking them…)

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4 thoughts on “Review & Recap: EXO Exo’luXion in Vancouver, BC

  1. After reading your review I wanted to share my thoughts.

    I didn’t went to the concert but I saw many EXO’s concert preview on SNS. The reason you felt little strange is because EXO didn’t get their usual stage. They have a stage design, which they been using for past 40 concerts they had in all over the countries. But for Dallas and Vancouver (I don’t know why) EXO didn’t get their usual extend stage with a pentagon or EXO’s logo? Their mind and body is use to big stage. So for them to perform on those tiny stages, I would say they were being very professional.

    Now coming to their set list, you were expecting them to sing “Black Pearl,” or “Wolf.” They performed those songs during their first solo concert “The Lost Planet.” Just because they are coming to North America, they can’t change their entire set list?
    You should consider yourself lucky that you got to see MAMA, as EXO don’t perform that song anymore either. Since they didn’t get usual extend stage, they performed MAMA, instead of EL DORADO. Which I think is very disappointing. Just because of Dallas and Vancouver, Los Angeles and New York is not going to get EL DORADO either. Because LA and NY is the only cities whr EXO will have an extend stage. I am sure they are going to perform MAMA in LA and NY as well. I love MAMA too but EL DORADO………that stage is magnificent. I think EL DORADO is one of EXO’s best stage in their concert. Sad that you didn’t get to see that.

    That “rockier tracks,” EXO have that in Japanese version. They also have that in Korean version too but they didn’t release that song yet.

    Even though you are not much of an EXO’s fan but still went their concert. As an EXO-L I really appreciate that, thanks for going and showing support to our boys. Every one has their like/dislike and I love EXO but don’t take my comment in a negative way. I am just pointing out some reason why you felt little strange about this concert. Thanks for your review. Thanks again for going to the concert. Thanks for having fun with them. Thanks for your support. Thank you.

    **Sorry for the long reply.

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    • Thanks for the information! That makes sense about the stage. Honestly, I don’t know how the guys do it with the changing setlist, stage arrangement, and number of members present. It must be very confusing for them! I’ll have to check out their Japanese stop on dvd and see what the show looks like with its full potential.
      I didn’t know about Mama. I feel lucky that we got to see it, since it’s one of my favorite kpop songs. As much as I love El Dorado, if I had to choose between the two I’d want to see Mama.

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  2. Thanks for your review!

    To be honest, I was also surprised they didn’t get the extended stage unllike in their past tours. *_* I don’t know what happened but it could’ve been better if they got that kind of stage, especially for songs like El Dorado, Don’t Go, Miracles of December and Drop That.

    I think you’d get your money’s worth with the extended stage. In the Manila leg of their tour, wherein it was said that the tickets here were the most expensive ones (VIP slots cost around $280), it actually worth it because of the extended stage. You could see every member up close. I didn’t have to use the binoculars I brought.

    If I were to choose, I’d love to see El Dorado more than MAMA. Basically because MAMA gives me bittersweet OT12 memories. ;_; But hey, you’re still lucky you got to see it live! ^^ I only got to see it performed by EXO-K back in 2013.

    Anyhow, I hope you still enjoyed it eventhough it was a “One Step Back” kind of concert. ^^

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