Most concert reviews will typically begin with an introduction of the show, a description of the artist, or maybe a few small observations of the venue. However, to truly articulate the incredible power of Stray Kids and their blockbuster three-hour performance on Friday night, I am compelled to start right at the end.
The electric encore stages were still a vividly fresh memory, the lights of Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena had turned back on, and teams of Stays were grouped around the venue, lengths of red and silver streamers wrapped around shoulders and strewn across the floor. With a ringing in my ears, and the refrain from “MIROH” threatening to never leave my head, I felt invigorated – ready to take on the world!
This same energy could only be rivalled by the pre-show buzz as fans of all ages and backgrounds streamed into the arena, holding signs and carrying lightsticks. For some, this was their second time seeing the group, after Stray Kids performed in Melbourne four years ago. For most of those in attendance, though, this was their first real-life K-Pop experience – an amazing adventure in and of itself. There is nothing like the pure, ecstatic, overwhelming joy of thousands of fans experiencing the thrill of live performance, united in their genuine love for their favourite artists. What I was about to witness was nothing short of exhilarating.
This tour marked Bang Chan and Felix’s long-awaited return home to Australia. The Sydney locals eagerly shared how happy they were to be back in the country with their team after four years, and expressed their love for Melbourne. Making the most of their familiar audience, the pair also used this as an opportunity to teach the rest of the team some Australian slang. The remaining members found plenty of joy in practising their newly acquired linguistic capabilities at every opportunity, and the feeling was clearly mutual, with every “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!” met with a resounding and delighted “Oi Oi Oi!”
This energy remained consistent right until the end of the show; agents of chaos, Stray Kids’ cheerful anarchy was tempered by their artistic expression and professional precision.
Stray Kids’ music is a journey of distinctive genres that keep to their signature style. Gritty, bass-heavy EDM songs and spit-fire raps, tender ballads, and bright and flashy pop and dance tracks filled their three-hour setlist, resulting in a carefully constructed blend of their diverse and wildly loved discography. Appropriately performing “MANIAC” to open up the show, the group alternated between more recent smash-hits including “God’s Menu”, “Back Door”, and “Thunderous”, as well as fan-favourites “DOMINO”, “ROCK”, and “ALL IN”.
Conspicuous by his absence, Han was not present towards the end of the show, with the remaining seven members covering for him masterfully until he re-joined the group during the encore. Emphatically apologising to his team and their fans for his absence, he acknowledged that he had become overwhelmed and needed some time to recollect himself. Met with encouraging words from his members and cheers from the audience, his candour was not an isolated incident. In fact, the whole show was underscored by tremendous sincerity. Yes, it was big, brash, and bombastic – the grand stage, multiple screens, rising platforms, giant props, confetti cannons, the live band, the thousands of screaming fans – but there was also immense humility and heartfelt honesty throughout the show, creating an environment that was comforting and colossal all at once.
And yet, there was no sense of melancholy as the show drew to a close. Rather, there was an atmosphere of immense elation and community; a connection was emphasised throughout the show. It was truly a testament to the universal impact of Stray Kids – their music was made for nights like this.
FOUR STARS AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Stray Kids will be in Sydney on March 21st and 22nd. For more information, visit LiveNation.
Photo Credits: Michelle Pitiris.