Bang Yongguk: 2024 Australia Tour, Trak, Melbourne, March 15th 2024 – K-Pop Live Review

Bang Yongguk: a name that has been synonymous with the K-Pop music industry long before he joined second generation K-Pop boy group B.A.P in 2012. Having previously toured Australia with his group back in 2014 and 2016, Bang Yongguk appeared stoked to be performing in Australia again 8 years later on his own tour thanks to Box Live and YY Entertainment, with the first of his two-city 2024 Australia Tour stops at Melbourne’s Trak.

In a dimly lit and intimate setting, Bang Yongguk provided lucky VIP fans with a soundcheck, casually stepping onto the stage wearing a black long sleeved zipped top with matching sunglasses. The fans that lined up early happily nabbed front row and were met with a bashful Yongguk that shyly asked VIP fans, “How are you feeling today?”. This question was received with supportive and affectionate cheers from Melbourne VIP patrons collectively stating, “We missed you!” to which Yongguk instantly replied, “I missed you too.” – a very raw and sweet moment between the artist and his fans.

I had almost forgotten we were at a soundcheck because of how lively the fans became during the session. Particularly to the song ‘Rain On Me’ where VIP patrons were jumping up and down, happily dancing, and were passionately waving their well-preserved Matokibong B.A.P lightsticks in the air, a rare collector’s item in K-Pop these days. It wasn’t long before the soundcheck was over and Yongguk softly said, “See you soon.”, leaving the stage as swiftly as he came. After this, VIP patrons had their group photos with the artist, collected their signed posters, complimentary photocards, and went back to the concert area to reclaim their spots in the venue.

Time sped past quickly and before long, early entry and general admission ticketholders were also let into the Trak venue. Prior to Bang Yongguk taking to the stage for the night, a friendly DJ Samuel Ku played some beats before booming an appropriate and energetic introduction to the man we had all come to see.

Stepping out in a matching white and grey styled outfit, Bang Yongguk looked cool and modestly chuffed to be reunited with his Melbourne fans. Frequently thanking the Melbourne audience, Yongguk was consistently engaging, telling fans to put their hands up in the air, make some noise, scream, and kindly checked if patrons were having fun. At the same time, fans warmly shouted compliments to Yongguk throughout the night. It was an equal, endearing and wholesome exchange between Bang Yongguk and his Melbourne fans.

While it was evident that there were many big fans in the audience that have long supported Yongguk for years, some even before he joined B.A.P, I was one of the few in the crowd that had never seen Yongguk perform live before. Despite being a bit camera shy, Bang Yongguk thoroughly impressed with his charisma, finesse and his undeniable stage presence. The more Yongguk performed, the happier and more confident he seemed. When he wasn’t stunning the audience with his musical talents and fast rap lines, Yongguk took the time to lovingly address the audience in Korean while DJ Samuel Ku translated.

Yongguk shared that it had been a long time since he had been in Australia, thanked fans for the warm welcome, that he initially wanted to swing past Australia during his last tour but he’s “here now”, and that Melbourne is beautiful. Yongguk also humbly stated that he was surprised a lot of patrons showed up and thanked everyone in the room, “Because of every one of you here, I can still make music.”

Highlights of the night included the dynamic ‘Race’, ‘Hikkomori’ which had fans swaying their phone lights and lightsticks in the air to the beat, ‘Yamazaki’ which had Yongguk acing a fast rap sequence and turning up the energy in the venue, ‘Green’ which had the venue appropriate lit in a gorgeous green hue, ‘Xie Xie’ which had the whole venue moving and echoing with fans jumping and chanting along to the lyrics, and the anthem ‘I Remember’ which had patrons elated, high on nostalgia and singing along to every word at the top of their lungs.

However, the greatest surprise of the night, after some clever fans screamed for a “Spoiler!”, was when Yongguk spoke about his upcoming album ‘3’ that’s dropping on his birthday later this month and that the best birthday gift for him would be for fans to listen to his new album when it’s released. As a surprise for Melbourne fans, Yongguk shared that this was the first time he was letting anyone listen to his new music, not only playing Track 5‘Buss It Down’, but performing it live. After this special moment, Yongguk thanked fans for embracing the unreleased song and that he loved performing it live for us.

What I love about Bang Yongguk (among other things) is how he champions different Asian cultures with his music. This is evident in his songs ‘Yamazaki’ and ‘Hikkomori’ that are infused with Japanese culture and inspirations, not only with their lyrics but with the instruments used as well. There is also his song ‘Xie Xie’ that heartfully embraces the Chinese language. Yongguk even says “I love you” in Mandarin in the song!

The choice to lean into other Asian cultures and give them some love with his music is an incredibly ambitious, creative, and smart decision that defines Yongguk’s talents while also setting him apart from his industry peers. The reception from this decision was also very clear from the attendance of some Japanese and Chinese fans that travelled to attend Bang Yongguk’s Melbourne concert.

Thankful once more, Bang Yongguk stated that he was having so much fun that he didn’t realise we were onto the last track. The ‘last track’ really being a couple of songs prior to the encore. Yongguk energetically performed ‘Xie Xie’ again and pointed his microphone to fans in the front row to sing into it.

For the true final song of the night, Bang Yongguk appropriately performed ‘See you later’ which is something that I, like many in the room, hoped would come to fruition. Yongguk shared (loosely translated by DJ Samuel Ku) that “Because of your love, I am able to make music and come back to the stage.” He also shared that he’d love to come back to Melbourne again. Reminding fans to “Love yourself too”, Yongguk warmly and sincerely stated, “I love you, Melbourne.” before disappearing.

After the concert, lucky patrons that purchased snapshots had the opportunity to have one-on-one photos with the artist before leaving the venue. I found this a lovely final optional event to end the night.

One thing’s for certain, as shy as Bang Yongguk is – he was born to be a musician, and we are so lucky that he’s remained in the industry after all these years and is still making music. While I’m hopeful that he does return to Melbourne sooner than later, I know that I’ll be tuning in to listen to Bang Yongguk’s new album ‘3’ when it’s released later this month on March 31st. Hopefully we can all help to give this mighty talented and humble human being the best birthday gift ever.

Proudly presented by Box Live and YY Entertainment, Bang Yongguk performed in Melbourne at Trak as part of his 2024 Australia Tour on Friday the 15th of March. He also performed in Sydney on Sunday March 17th at Home The Venue.

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Photography by Grant Alexander.

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