2017 has been the year of Bigbang members’ solo tours, organized as farewell victory laps as military conscription looms in the near future. After G-Dragon visited Seattle back in July, I was happy to see that band mate Taeyang would be coming even closer to my corner of the world — landing in Vancouver, BC for two back-to-back shows. And while his new album didn’t excite me as much as his previous ones, there was no way I could miss seeing one of k-pop’s most charismatic vocalists.
Back in 2015 during Bigbang’s MADE tour, Taeyang’s Eyes, Nose, Lips was my standout performance. But as a member of the group, he doesn’t always get the opportunity to display the effortless sense of showmanship that rightfully earns him comparisons to artists as luminary as Michael Jackson and Prince.
For the White Night Tour, Taeyang was at his best during upbeat, performance-based numbers. Surrounded by little more than a pair of standard LED screens, a blisteringly tight live band and a dozen or so back-up dancers, he blitzed his way through the potent opening trio of Ringa Linga, Body and Superstar. I forgot how chill-inducing that trumpeting instrumental of Superstar can be. Taeyang is most well-known for a modern r&b style, but his music really soars when he takes influence from more diverse genres like rock and funk.
Speaking of rock, my favorite moment during the setlist was the back-to-back bombast of Tonight and Love You To Death — two of his more guitar-driven tracks. Tonight is probably my favorite song off his new album, and Love You To Death has long been a personal standout. His commanding voice really soars during moments of drama like these, and the scarf-tied microphone stand he hoisted was a nice, retro touch.
But none of this would be as impressive without a healthy dose of charisma. Taeyang is a fireball on stage, more than capable of holding attention on his own. During the two-hour run time, he never stopped moving — whether that be in the form of a barely noticeable affectation or an excited series of spins and thrusts and fancy footwork. In this way he reminded me very much of Michael Jackson. Some singers interpret their music solely through emotion and a sort of vocal storytelling. Taeyang really becomes the music, expressing each little bit of rhythm through every fiber of his physical and vocal performance. In the highly choreographed world of k-pop, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes I wish that his solo work would embrace this style even further, going full on funk rather than retreating to the safer r&b ballad template that overtakes much of his new album.
Every k-pop concert has at least one encore, and I’ve begun to find the teasing process a little exhausting and cliché. But those final few performances are usually worth the wait. Taeyang gave us an incredible six songs for his extended send-off, performing two fan-favorite duets (Good Boy and Stay With Me) and even Bang Bang Bang and Fantastic Baby from his work with Bigbang (he also performed a solo version of Last Dance earlier in the night). And of course, it all concluded with Eyes, Nose, Lips — his most iconic solo moment. Ending on a ballad reminded me of GD’s Untitled, 2014 finale during MOTTE earlier in the year. It’s a bittersweet moment, made all the more emotional by the impending hiatus for both Bigbang and its members. Thankfully, White Night left every one in attendance hyped for more.