K-pop aces’ ‘Maniac’ tour is anything but ordinary

Want to be weird?asks the fluorescent green police on the screen that spans the back of the Honda Center stage. A few songs later, another video plays and a decisive response pops up: “I want to be weird.” Cries ring out around the room, the mutual feeling for many present this evening (July 19).

To be “oddinary” — a portmanteau of “odd” and “ordinary” is the name of K-pop group Stray Kids’ Billboard 200 chart-topping latest mini album — is about reclaiming your weird qualities and embracing them. as per usual. It’s a message of self-acceptance and typical of the eight-piece JYP Entertainment, a group that encourages its fans to love who they are through their songs, concerts, and off-stage messages.

Stray Kids themselves, however, are anything but ordinary, as the penultimate show on the North American leg of the “Maniac” world tour proves. For nearly three hours, the eight members gave their all in every second of the concert — so much so that the bandage on rapper and vocalist Hyunjin’s right hand looks like it could fly off at any moment, so much the vigor with which he plays. The same goes for the other seven members, who sing, rap and dance like their lives depend on it.

From the start, the concert is of an impressive quality, even the smallest details are linked together. As they open with ‘Maniac’, the band’s outfits are adorned with web-like chains and, minutes later during the quirky EDM of ‘Venom’, they are joined on stage by arachnid legs inflatables, four on each side which are supposed to belong to a gigantic spider. As the sultry “Red Lights” begins, the members are ensnared by the beast, black leather leashes connecting their necks to the circular structure of lights and screens suspended above the main stage.

The band doesn’t just rely on backing tracks as they put on a hypnotic show. After melodies from traditional Korean instruments play over the sound system and illustrations of traditional Korean buildings appear on screen, a live band rises from under the stage. Stray Kids’ performances don’t need any extra bite, but that’s exactly what the extra musicians deliver, turning the already powerful “Thunderous” and “DOMINO” into crunchy rock bangers. There’s a level of absurdity in hearing the different varieties of “CHEESE” over a squeaky guitar riff, but the heavier sound also suits the IDGAF message the song sends to the haters of the band, while the boosted backing serves no purpose. only to make the jerky pump of ‘God’s Menu’ even stronger.

Stray Kids CREDIT: JYP Entertainment

So far, 2022 is the year of the Stray Kids, taking all the hard work they’ve poured into the group since their debut in 2017 and the years before as trainees and rewarding them in spades. ‘Oddinary’ earned them their first US number one was a big moment that seemed to explode out of the blue – their previous album ‘Noeasy’ didn’t even chart on the Billboard 200. This tour, too, feels like a nod to how many the eight pieces have given, marking their first step into arenas around the world. Several dates (including tonight’s) had to be added to meet the huge demand for tickets.

Throughout the show, we are treated to a few reflective moments on the band’s journey so far, especially after fiery versions of ‘YAYAYA’ and ‘ROCK’. Both are songs that have been part of Stray Kids history for many years. “We did this before our pre-debut [release] and did these busking,” says ultra-baritone-voiced rapper Felix. “But instead of playing in the street, we’re here playing in front of thousands of STAY” – the name of the Stray Kids fandom.

The band then split into two to share their unit tracks from “Oddinary”. Bang Chan, Seungmin, Lee Know, and IN perform a heartfelt and powerful version of “Waiting For Us,” which highlights something that often gets lost in “Stray Kids make noise music” talk – that their vocals are as amazing as their appetite because inventiveness is insatiable. Moments later, Felix, Changbin, Han, and Hyunjin replace them for the slamming hip-hop of “Muddy Water,” delivering the message that a new generation is here to weed out the disappointing old one.

In K-pop, the generation that preceded Stray Kids may not have been disappointing, but it’s obvious that this group has no intention of being content with being a footnote in the story of the scene. Instead, they chart their own course and focus on creating their own unmistakable sound and style along the way. As ‘Victory Song’ rang out in the arena, Changbin’s roars of “You don’t know who we are?“bring the goosebumps. Sounds like a battle cry for Stray Kids, who seem ready to level up once again.

After a short interlude, the band returns to the stage to close it all with a final burst of energy. Their “Haven” grand finale offers the perfect final message to share with the crowd. “Do what you want / Break the mold together“, Bang Chan, Han and Seungmin sing on the chorus. That’s exactly what the Stray Kids have done so far in their career, reclaiming their “weird” sides to establish themselves as the next real greats of the K-pop.

Stray Kids played:

‘Red lights’
‘District 9’
‘Back door’
‘Lonely St.’
‘Side effects’
“God’s Menu”
“If the End of the World”
‘Waiting for us’
‘Maknae on top’
‘All I do is win’
‘Muddy water’
‘Song of Victory’
‘My Rhythm’
“Lost Stars”

About Dawn Valle

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