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Hello Asia! Live Review: KCON LA 2015 M! Countdown Day 2 - Staples Center (02.08.15)

Another August in Los Angeles, another KCON and MCountdown concert bonanza! Now in its fourth year, the All Things Hallyu event ballooned once again in size, scope, and attendance. This year’s mantra was “Ignite Your Feelz” and the double concerts indeed ignited all kinds of feelz for the 90,000 attendees who took over the Staples Center on August 1st and 2nd. Here’s a brief rundown of the second of the 2-night conflagration of fan emotions.

Everyone’s favorite king/alien/rookie PD-next-door, actor Kim Soo Hyun finally made his highly anticipated KCON cameo as the evening’s introductory MC. He was onstage for less than five minutes and read his English cue cards diligently, but he seemed genuinely bemused and touched by the warm (loud and frenzied) welcome he received.

Red Velvet, SM Entertainment’s rookie girl group, served as the show openers. Soft, fluffy adoration washed over the arena, and the crowd sang along as the five girls sashayed their pleated skirts through a few of their debut tracks, including ‘Ice Cream Cake’ and ‘Happiness.’ Their set also included a fairly flawless cover of Pussycat Dolls’ ballad ‘Stickwitu’ which pleased and impressed.

Block B’s segment was nothing less than the wild rumpus one should expect and the crowd was eager to participate in the revelry. This boisterous boy group’s appearance was heralded by group leader Zico and his 2014 rap single, ‘Tough Cookie’ - next came new subunit Bastarz - who made getting a ‘Zero for Conduct’ look like way more fun that it should. Then all seven members took the stage and treated the crowd to a few of their hits singles, including the ancient (by K-pop clocks) ‘Nillili Mambo.’

Seven member girl group AOA had one of the most memorable entrances - most of the girls walked down through the crowd, but two or three emerged from sponsored Toyota parked at the side of the stage. Their five song set showcased their signature feline choreography and was punctuated at regular intervals with deafening cheers from the audience.

But Zion.T & Crush, two solo artists and BFFs from hip hop label Amoeba Culture, received the biggest welcome of the evening -ladies in house went a little nutso before they could even open their mouths to sing. The duo launched their set with their hit single ‘Just’ and then launched into Primary’s ‘See Through’ (the song that propelled Zion.T into mainstream Korean pop). The crowd managed to quiet itself enough to respectfully take in the poignant ‘Yanghwa BRDG’ - which Zion.T turned into a duet with Wendy from Red Velvet.

A surprise stage interrupted the Amoeba Culture set: Jimin from AOA rose up from a trap in the floor with a DJ and proceeded to lay down a cleaned up version of ‘Puss’ - her chart-slaying solo from the competitive reality music show, Unpretty Rapstar. She was sassy and fierce, and the crowd went from confused to ecstatic as people realized what was happening.

Then Crush reappeared to deliver his latest single ‘Oasis’ with a little help from Zion.T and Zico, who also feature on the studio recording. No one wanted them to leave - they should have had one or two more songs.

But it was time for Shinhwa - the longest running boy band in history of K-pop- to take the stage and close out the concert with a mix of old and new hits, and a whole lot of suave. They moved like a well-oiled machine and they had a cooler-than-cool aura - but they didn’t have quite the same joie de vivre that permeated Super Junior’s performance the night before. It’s impossible not to compare the two closing acts - so, as a grand finale to end the whole 2-night event...Shinhwa’s set felt a little underwhelming. But only a little.

Mad props must also be given to the MCountdown lighting designers! The single-level stage was set “in the round” with the audience surrounding all sides, just as it was last year. This arrangement runs a strong danger of becoming a bit boring for concert performance - there are no levels to influence performers’ movements or create dynamic blocking, and elevator traps are the only real tool available for adding visual drama. However, the lighting and effects matched so well with each song, and they went a long way to keeping each performance visually interesting, even if the performer was simply standing still in the center of the stage. Mad, mad props, lighting guys! Mad props!

That’s it for the concert rundown! But keep your eyes on Hello Asia! for a KCON15LA Convention Report!

Photos courtesy of CJ E&M America