BLACKPINK at Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, June 13, 2019

Let’s be honest, K-Pop has been around for literally decades. I remember listening to K-Pop in high school and having to go to specialty Asian music stores to buy K-Pop CDs. Only in the last ten years has K-Pop become more and more accessible with streaming services, video sharing, social media and K-Pop artists touring internationally. Despite Europe and USA having been exposed to K-Pop for much longer in the tour department, I feel that Australia is only starting to really be exposed to the music genre. And when I say this, I mean people who don’t normally listen to K-Pop having the ability to recognise an artist that they have heard of. BLACKPINK is indeed one of those artists gaining attention in Australia. Having performed at Coachella this year really helped with their exposure (once again, thanks to streaming with many fans watching BLACKPINK’s performance live), so it was no surprise that their headlining show in Melbourne sold out Rod Laver Arena.

On Thursday the 13th of June, BLACKPINK were in my area. Prior to attending the concert, many people contacted me asking if I was attending, knowing that I was a K-Pop fan and hoping that they too could possibly attend with me. What I want to point out is that everyone who contacted me prior to the show had never been to a K-Pop concert before, nor had listened to any K-Pop music prior to their queries. For the most part, people were curious to see BLACKPINK live. So, when I arrived at the venue on the day of the show, I was not surprised to see a lot of confused patrons wandering outside in awe at their first exposure to K-Pop culture. There were even people still going to the box office hoping that tickets would be available even though the show had evidently sold out months ago.

KIA, the major sponsor of BLACKPINK’s world tour had a stage outside the venue where fans would dance along to BLACKPINK’s songs in perfect unison for fun and to try win BLACKPINK tour merch. There were also massive lines not to enter the venue, but to purchase merchandise. However, many of the items had long sold out as merchandise was available for purchase from 12pm to manage demands. This was 5 hours before inner doors to the arena even opened. While I have been to many K-Pop concerts before, this is something that is unheard of in Australia specifically until now (in other countries, opening the merch stores hours earlier before the show for K-Pop is not new). It was quite easy to spot those who ‘knew their shit’ in comparison to attendees that were seeing K-Pop live in concert for the first time. By the time I arrived at the venue, the lightsticks had completely sold out and I kept being approached by puzzled attendees as to where I had purchased mine. I was also surprised that tour merch was decently priced – for K-Pop that is. Lightsticks at the venue going for $45. Thankfully, like many BLINKs with lightsticks, I too planned ahead.

Upon entering the venue, finding my seat and speaking to excited fans seated around me, I noticed that many patrons surrounding me were not from Melbourne. Two fans excitedly chatting to each other like old friends behind me were discussing that one had flown in from interstate (Adelaide) and the other was from New Zealand. A BLINK that was seated next to me who was kind enough to give me cards of my bias (Rosé) had mentioned to me that she had flown in yesterday from Malaysia and was returning the next day, visiting Australia only to attend BLACKPINK’s concert. There were also many attendees that although did not come alone, were not seated with their friends, scattered throughout the area. They obviously got whatever ticket they could get and bought it – because for K-Pop fans, it’s better to attend alone than miss out completely.

Although BLACKPINK were scheduled to come on stage at 8pm, they did not grace the arena with their presence until about 8:30. For what seemed like an eternity, the arena was exposed to BLACKPINK’s entire music video catalog on the big screens continuously, with one song even repeated twice. I personally didn’t enjoy this and would have much rather seen clips from their “BLACKPINK DIARIES” or something new that would show the members interacting and having fun (as other K-Pop artists have done). Playing music videos one after the other is annoying overexposure and it felt like the show wanted me to get sick of the songs before BLACKPINK came on stage. While I believe this was not their intention, it sure felt like it as not only myself but my Korean friend accompanying me started to get restless. The general mood of the arena was the same as the cheers during the music videos quickly shifted into groans.

The arena erupted and cheered, adorned with pink lightsticks when BLACKPINK finally came on stage and opened with “DDU-DU DDU-DU”. It only took 4 songs before each member performed their solos. Rosé originally from Melbourne decided to sing a cover of Skyler Grey’s “I’m Coming Home” as a gift to BLINKS to acknowledge her homecoming. She then sung snippets of The Beatles’ “Let It Be”, 2NE1 Park Bom’s “You & I” and BIGBANG member Taeyang’s hit “Only Look At Me”. BIGBANG is one of my favourite K-Pop bands and Taeyang is my bias of BIGBANG, so when I heard Rosé sing “Only Look At Me”, needless to say, I was very excited. The other solo performances consisted of an impressive dance number by Lisa, a joyful Jisoo covering Zedd’s “Clarity” accompanied by a ton of confetti and Jennie fiercely commanding the stage dancing and singing to her original song “Solo”. Out of all the individual performances, while I do enjoy Jennie’s song, I felt Rosé’s solo performance was the strongest. The only fault I have to comment on, through no fault of her own, is that the girl had no original song of her own to sing which is a complete waste of a segment and her talents, considering she is the lead vocalist of the group.

With a number of outfit changes, the audience familiarising with BLACKPINK’s live band longer than desired and an extensive Kia ad that is practically a short film, BLACKPINK owned the stage with their hits “Kill This Love”, “Boombayah”, “As If It’s Your Last” and impressive B-sides such as “Don’t Know What To Do”, “Forever Young” and “Kick It”. With most songs, the girls were accompanied by massive screens, confetti, streamers, smoke machines, dancers, fireworks and massive balls of fire. The show was entertaining, overstimulating and a lot of fun. I particularly loved the clever use of platforms and staging when the group performed “Kiss and Make Up”. I even surprised myself with how well I knew the lyrics to the songs, as I normally struggle memorising Korean lyrics a lot. I was also really happy for Rosé that out of all of the BLACKPINK members, she got the biggest cheer and had the most handmade posters in her name. But one would expect her to get the most love, considering Melbourne is her hometown! I would have been disappointed if she didn’t. While Jennie, Jisoo, Lisa and Melbourne’s Rosé gave an impressive performance overall, addressed the audience frequently, had great stage presence and seemed very comfortable and confident on-stage, no pyrotechnics can hide the fact that this band need more songs. In comparison to other K-Pop groups that also debuted in 2016, I don’t understand why BLACKPINK have so few tunes up their sleeves and wonder what exactly YG Entertainment are doing.

As a fan, I am so grateful that BLACKPINK have finally come to Melbourne. I love all their songs and they’re so dynamic, entertaining and fun live. But as a paying patron, I am relieved that they arrived after the release of their “Kill This Love” comeback album which added 4 new tracks to their underwhelming catalog. I can’t even begin to imagine how short their show was prior to the release of these songs.

While I am not doubting their talents, I do doubt about BLACKPINK being a ‘revolution’ as their famed tag advises and would label their impact in the music industry as more of a phenomenon. BLACKPINK are by no means pioneers in the K-Pop industry regarding pushing the boundaries, but they’re the right group in the right place at the right time. It helps that Lisa, Jennie and Rosé have all hailed at one stage from different countries respectively; Thailand, New Zealand and Australia. It is clear YG Entertainment brought these four girls (including Jisoo who is from South Korea) together with conquering the international market in mind. And although I have every faith in the abilities of these girls both individually and together, I fear BLACKPINK are being underutilised and are unable to rise to their true potential due to the lack of content YG Entertainment have provided for them.

So, are BLACKPINK a ‘revolution’? Sadly, no. For now, they’re a global phenomenon and I am happy that female K-Pop vocals are getting time to shine in Australia with their exposure. If anything, I am hoping that the success of BLACKPINK selling out Rod Laver Arena will encourage more K-Pop girl groups to tour Australia. But BLACKPINK’s phenomenon won’t last if YG Entertainment don’t manage them properly. And if they aren’t managed properly by their company, they can’t really be a ‘revolution’. For now, they’re killing it. But for how long? I can’t say. Let’s hope that the best is yet to come.

Photography by me and is not to be used without my permission.

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