Shinee are one of the big ones. Not only are they a part of my top three k-pop groups of all time, but they’re just one of those groups that instantly come to mind when I think the word “k-pop.” They’ve covered so much ground during their career, and really pushed the genre’s boundaries while always adhering to their inimitable sound.
And my god, they’re talented.
I first saw Shinee last summer during KCON, and as much as their performance stole the show, I was disappointed that they only sang a couple of songs. But like fate, their North American SHINee World V tour dates were announced early this year and it turned out that they would be performing a mere hour away from me.
When it comes to Shinee, I felt the same way I did last year when I got to see Infinite. To watch these legends, these worldwide superstars, put on a full-length concert in such a small, intimate theater felt like an incredible honor. Vancouver’s Orpheum concert hall seats just under 3,000 — a far cry from the mega-stadium tours the group gives overseas. Seventeen rows from the stage, we had an impeccable view.
As SM shows are wont to do, photography and video were strictly banned. This was being enforced pretty stringently, so I wasn’t able to take any shots to accompany this write-up. I thought that would annoy me, but it was actually the best thing that could have happened. Too many concerts nowadays become a struggle to see through a barrier of phones held up in front of you. It was refreshing to just be there, without distraction.
Though the lack of both Married to the Music and newest single Tell Me What to Do (both due to logistical challenges) was definitely felt, the set-list was otherwise as good as it gets. Shinee opened with the rousing double-header of Hitchhiking and Why So Serious, coming out full force with vocals to die for and intense choreography.
The night’s highlights came exactly where I expected them to. The showstopper (and the performance I was most hoping to see) was Sherlock. It’s just a monster of a song, and all the more powerful when performed live. Lucifer was a close second, and another song I couldn’t believe I was actually witnessing live.
We also got to see Taemin dance his way through solo track Goodbye (though the stage lighting and fog obscured most of it), and marvel at the near-operatic beauty of Jonghyun and Onew’s duet, Please Don’t Go. Interspersed with a handful of songs from their latest album (which worked very well on stage), and some awesome, trippy video interstitials, we were treated to hits like Replay, Dream Girl, and Juliette. So yeah… pretty perfect.
Towards the end of the night, the guys blitzed through a very rave-inspired set including View, Ready or Not, Savior and Everybody. This was nearly two hours in, and at that point it was impossible not to marvel at their sheer stamina. Many of us in the audience were likely getting tired just from standing that long. Meanwhile, these guys — jet-lagged as they were — belted it out, danced their asses off, and took brief breaks only when it was time for one of their many costume changes. To a certain extent, it was like watching some superhuman feat. I’ve always understood why they are so respected by fans and non-fans alike, but seeing it play out right before your eyes inspired a whole new level of admiration. They’re an incredible team, with a near-psychic ability to feed off each other’s energy for a dynamite, in-sync stage.
During one high-octane moment, a technical malfunction cut the music to Ring Ding Dong, unexpectedly ending the song early. Though visibly confused, Shinee didn’t miss a beat, instantly transforming the track’s final refrain into a group sing-along. I’m sure they’re trained well for any manner of disruption or malfunction, but their on-the-spot improvisation was totally commendable.
And speaking of improvisation, the short audience chats in between segments felt about as improvised as any k-pop show I’ve been to. It helps that Key speaks near-fluent English (though Minho tried his best!), but I loved how rambling their conversations felt. The keyword of the concert was definitely “passion.” Vancouver had passion, they kept saying. Damn right we did. How could you not, when a group like Shinee is standing right in front of you, giving it every ounce of energy they have?