Over the past few years, I’ve been to quite a few k-pop concerts. And despite being a genre that might seem a little uniform on the surface, each show has had its own personality. As a group, B1A4 are quite different from other idols. Some acts focus on their hard hitting image, or precise, detailed choreography. But for me, B1A4 have always been about the songs. They veer much more strongly toward pop than many of their peers, drawing influences from rock, r&b and dance music. So it makes sense that their show wouldn’t be built around heavy dance centerpieces or a variety of costume changes. Instead, Four Nights in the US was a relatively stripped down affair — just the five guys and a stage.
The show was held at the small, historic Warfield Theatre in downtown San Francisco. The venue is located on a somewhat iffy side street, right next to a “gentlemen’s club” and series of boarded up buildings. The setting was at odds with B1A4’s squeaky clean, all-ages image and felt like kind of a funny culture clash.
In contrast to the lavish stage shows the group has given in Korea, the stage at the Warfield was bare. Apart from the B1A4 banner hanging in the back, there was no indication that we were about to watch one of k-pop’s most successful acts. The budget for this show was obviously small (I’m sure it costs a lot to book these types of venues, after all), but I would have loved the addition of a live band. The backing tracks were perfectly fine, but B1A4’s music has always thrived on its lush, perfectly realized instrumentation. A band would have fit right in with the intimate setting and given the arrangements less of a canned feel.
The guys opened the show with the brilliant one-two punch of Melancholy and In The Air, the latter slightly remixed for an even more anthemic effect. All five members’ voices were in perfect form, with Sandeul reliably bringing down the house with every power note.
The setlist was built around the group’s newest album, which was performed nearly in its entirety. If I had one complaint, it’s that this focus on new material came at the expense of most of the group’s singles. Ok, Beautiful Target, Baby I’m Sorry, Baby Good Night, Tried To Walk, What’s Happening and Solo Day were all performed, but strung together in an extended “flashback” medley, meaning each was relegated to a verse and a chorus rather than the entire track. For a group with so many hits, it would have made more sense to spread them out among the new material rather than lump them all together. Not performing What’s Happening in its entirety was a crime against nature, as far as I’m concerned!
Luckily, two of the night’s biggest highlights were singles Lonely and A Lie. The latter absolutely explodes during a live show, and was rivaled only by the enormous Glass Of Water paired with a bombastic EDM remix of How Many Times.
Speaking of water, the most memorable aspect of the show was B1A4’s determination to give their audience a “shower.” During the aforementioned segment, the guys brought out a bin of water bottles and basically chucked gallons of water on the standing general admission area. It fit with the theme of the music and created a surprisingly chaotic, rock show atmosphere. Of course, this is sweet B1A4 we’re talking about here, so it felt more like what a bunch of elementary school kids would consider “badass” than any sense of actual concertgoer anarchy. But then, during the group’s endlessly repeating encore of Good Timing, they continued to haul out bins of water, hurling it in the air with wild abandon. Then came the confetti, sticking like feathers on tar. It was a hilarious mess, and probably elicited more than a few groans from whoever had to clean it all up. In the picture below, you’ll see that security was not amused!
Though the group had a translator, almost all of the spoken segments were delivered in English by Baro. I’m always so impressed when k-pop idols attempt anything beyond basic English during concerts abroad, and Baro’s was incredibly endearing. I had to chuckle when he continually asked the audience if we were ready to get “lit,” especially before launching into a pop song as benign as Sweet Girl. B1A4 are one of my top three k-pop groups. I love them to death. But I would never describe them or their music as being “lit.” It’s just so funny how that word has been co-opted by so many in the k-pop community. He also described fans as prettier than the crab he ate last night at Fisherman’s Wharf. So like I said… endearing.
But when it comes down to it, the ability to see these idols perform right in front of you is such a high. And even if I had some quibbles about their set list, it was a great night filled with great music. The fact that B1A4 could blitz through two hours of tracks without video pieces or breaks was a testament to k-pop acts’ incredible work ethic and stamina. Talent is undeniable. It doesn’t need tricks or distractions to stand out. And Four Nights in the US was a showcase of tremendous talent and a remarkably strong discography.