BTS’ Suga Holds His Own in Moody, Theatrical Concert Debut
For Suga of BTS, D-day arrives with a storm of thunder and lightning amid a purple haze. At the opening of his Agust D tour at New York’s UBS Arena, the rain heralds a bold, and oftentimes fiery, two-hour testament to his artistry and drive.
The tour kicked off on April 26 and will continue across the U.S. through May. Suga’s solo spot is the first tour by an individual member of the history-making South Korean group, and he’ll spend the rest of the spring touring across Asia.
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On the second of his two nights at UBS, April 27, Suga spent his time on stage rapping, singing, and ruminating on the different facets of his career thus far: Suga of BTS, his alternate persona Agust D, and himself, Min Yunki.
The concert unveils itself like a noir musical. Each segment has its own subtitle — Yunki “exists in memory,” while Suga is “lost in memory,” and Agust D is “the Chaser” — and with each set, K-pop star, hip-hop producer and citizen of the earth all come to the forefront, bookended by the incensed opening song “Haegum” and culminating in the very-fitting finale of “The Last,” for which Suga sits on stage and is captured from all angles on nine shots, portrayed as surveillance footage.
The show’s title comes from Suga’s persona as a soloist, and arrives after he has declared the end of his Agust D trilogy with this month’s “D-Day” album, and the multiple aspects of who this individual is, was, and will be is the prevalent theme throughout the night.
Do you face down your past by putting it on-screen and staring it down? Do you sacrifice it on a pyre for your present self to thrive? Do you relive it? Do you forget it? Suga spends the show exploring all these sides, with burning, raging energy and show of his musical and performance skills, honed through a career that began over a decade ago.
The performance is almost an exorcism of sorts of all the tough times and harsh feelings, with the star declaring an end to the rage, even as he showcases it. “As you know, many of my solo songs are quite intense,” he declared to the crowd. “But from now [on], I want to tell my stories with less anger.”
The setlist presents the BTS member off at his fieriest, oftentimes literally with roaring fire and firework pyrotechnics bolstering the most intense moments. Anger has shaped a lot of Agust D’s music, as relayed by the way boisterous, candid aggressiveness of songs shape most of the show, with his “Cyphers” and a run through of “UGH!,” “Ddaeng” and “HuH?!” especially to invigorate the crowd of ARMY. But softer moments include a version of “Seesaw” he performs while strumming a guitar inlaid with traditional Korean mother of pearl patterns and covered with the signatures of the other BTS members, and a poignant memorial to late music icon Ryuichi Sakamoto ahead of “Snooze,” on which the two collaborated along with Woosung of Korean band the Rose.
Ahead of Suga’s performance of “Snooze,” a video plays showing Sakamoto and the rapper with one another, working on music together. It looks like a grandfather with a grandson, a generational torch being passed, and it feels only fitting when considering the Agust D tour is a celebration, a commemoration of all Suga has accomplished since he began pursuing the fraught path of being a professional musician and has now reached such immense heights. This is highlighted during “Amygdala,” a raw reflection from “D-Day” recalling many of the hardships that have brought Suga to where he is, relayed in the concert with on-screen effects showing the star as a shattered individual.
While it has all the technical value of a typical BTS performance, Suga’s Agust D show is a bit different than what people may imagine from the first solo tour by a member of a record-breaking and hit-making boy band: he is in comfortable clothes, barely dances — though is bolstered by a great team of backup dancers — and at times dips below the stage’s view to sit in a lounge area, where he rests in an armchair and plays piano. It has the feel of an intimate dinner-theater performance, but elevated to an arena.
Seeing as this show was his solo debut as a live artist, Suga more than held his own physically, and even told the crowd he was a bit concerned about how his condition would hold up for a second night. “I was quite worried before I came on stage today,” he shared. “But was today okay?”
The crowd’s roar of approval make it clear that Suga was certainly more than okay.
The tour comes as members of BTS pursue solo ventures while individuals fulfill South Korea’s mandatory military draft, and expectations are high that Suga will likely begin his service after the tour, joining already-enlisted members Jin and j-hope.
As the night came towards an end, Suga closed with some comforting parting words to his fans: “I promise, I guarantee, I will come back. So please be there [then] like you’re here with me [now].”
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