Photos by Mai Nguyen
The SMTown Live '10 World Tour marked the first time SM Entertainment would host a concert in LA. The tour began in Korea in August 2010 before coming to LA in September and Tokyo for January 25-26. It will continue in Taipei in April and Bangkok at a future date.
It's not every day that an entire record label performs at a concert, let alone one from overseas. So when American fans learned that SM Entertainment was coming to town all the way from South Korea, they got excited, to say the least. Just standing outside of the Los Angeles Staples Center, you could feel the expectation. Fans flooded the area, waiting to get in -- some carrying signs with messages to their favorite performer, some armed with colored glowsticks depending on which fan club they belonged to. Once inside, the fans made the whole arena buzz with energetic chatter as they got pumped up for the show, cheering loudly every time the jumbo screen flashed the names of their favorite SM artists. Most of the fans sitting in the floor section were wearing pink shirts and holding pink balloons in support of Girl's Generation, while many others were excited to see Yunho and Changmin perform for one of their first times since JYJ left SM Entertainment.
The performance area was set up with three runways branching off from the main stage: the two outer runways only extended halfway across the arena, while the middle one went all the way across to another long stage near the sound booth. The center of the middle walkway also had a small platform on it.
The concert began with several of SM's solo artists, J-Min ("Shine" and "Don't Cry"), Sunday ("Angels") and Dana ("Out of Sight, Out of Mind") from The Grace ("My Everything"), Zhang Li Yin ("I Will" and "Moving On"), and actor Kim Min-jong ("Beautiful Heartache"). Though most of these openers were not as well known, the audience still enjoyed their performances, glad to see another side of SM.
The first of the group performers was f(x) -- minus Amber -- who came out wearing 80's-inspired rocker outfits and performed "LA chA TA," "Mr. Boogie," "Nu ABO," and "Chu~♡" -- with Minho (SHINee) filling in for Amber's rap. f(x)'s Krystal and her sister Jessica from SNSD also sang a cover of Ke$ha's "Tik Tok" together.
Kangta, by far, claimed the most original performance of the night. He came onstage in smart-looking glasses and a black suit with no tie, and he showed the audience how well he can sing a ballad with his performance of "Polaris." Then the stage was set up with two park benches, a mail box and a coat rack, as Kangta introduced Go Ara, who came onstage and sat on one of the benches. Kangta walked over to the mailbox and pulled out a microphone, then sat on the other bench as he started to sing "7989." Ara dug around in her purse and produced a mic herself, before singing part of a verse. Next, Kangta took the jacket off the stand and pulled out another mic from the coat pocket. For Ara's turn, a pizza delivery boy (actually Onew from SHINee) pulled out another mic from his pizza box and gave it to Ara. Finally, Kangta pulled out a rose and knelt in front of Ara, offering her the rose and the two finished the song together.
When SHINee came on stage, each member appeared scattered across the arena, making the crowd on the floor turn their heads wildly, unsure which member to look at. SHINee started off with "Stand By Me" as they walked around the stage and met together in the center of the arena so they could get their dance moves on for "Replay." After the song, SHINee introduced themselves to the crowd, thanking their fans graciously, saying: "Instead of giving life, we've received life." A couple of back-up dancers joined SHINee for performances of "Get Down" and "Juliette," then later SHINee finished up with "Ring Ding Dong," "Up & Down," "Quasimodo," and finally their big hit "Lucifer," with all it's excellent choreography.
TRAX took the stage in the white outfits from their "My Goddess" music video and began with a performance of "Cold Hearted Man." In signature TRAX style, the platinum-haired guitarist Jung Mo shook and swayed while he played, and the singer Jay made good use of the mic stand in front of him. Then they played their freshly released single, "My Goddess," as they ran down the center runway mid-song, giving fans low fives. TRAX later came on stage again in punky red and black outfits to play their old song "Paradox" with Heechul (Super Junior).
Every time Girl's Generation took to the stage, they wore matching outfits according to the theme of the song's music video. They wore sparkling black outfits for "Run Devil Run," then greeted the crowd and took off their jackets to reveal red plaid school girl skirts for "Kissing You" and "Way To Go." With so many members, Girl's Generation was able to make good use of the stage arrangement, spreading out over the stage and giving high fives to lucky fans. The girls wore navy blue sailor outfits for a syncopated version of "Genie," which broke into a rock guitar and drum dance bridge before going back to finish the song. Girls Generation donned white and yellow cheerleader outfits for "Oh!" and finished with jeans and white shirts for "Gee."
Super Junior (minus Han Geng, Kangin & Kibum) started off with the Korean version of "Super Girl," performing the dance from the music video on center stage and finishing at the bottom stage where Zhou Mi and Henry joined them for the group's introductions. Then Super Junior performed "No Other," "Bonamana," "Dancing Out," "A Man In Love," a "Sorry Sorry" remix version, and lastly a rock rendition of "U," showing their strong choreography and covering the stage with their numbers.
SM's queen, BoA, started her performance in a glittery black outfit and gloves with six back-up dancers for "My Name," then greeted the crowd, saying she was happy to be back in LA again and to perform at the Staples Center. She performed several songs from her US album, including "I Did It For Love" with SHINee's Key singing Sean Garrett's part. Later, BoA returned to the stage wearing a giraffe print top and tight black leather jeans backed up by four dancers wearing sparkling black outfits. Unfortunately there was a technical problem when BoA was ready to start "Dangerous" but the music for "Energetic" started playing. BoA looked confused, saying "I can't hear my voice in my ear monitor." But she kept her cool and the problem was soon fixed, as BoA continued on with "Dangerous." A stool was then brought out for her as she talked about her 10th anniversary as an artist and releasing her first Korean album in five years with Hurricane Venus. BoA told the crowd that the next song was one of her favorite ballads -- "Stand By" off of Hurricane Venus. With this song, she showed a more tender side, as the crowd swayed their lights, moved by BoA's emotion-filled vocal performance. "Energetic" worked correctly the second time around, as BoA showed off her incredible dancing ability and finished with "Hurricane Venus."
When the lights dimmed and a voice announced over the loudspeaker "We are Dong Bang Shin Ki," the crowd started going crazy. Changmin and Yunho appeared on stage in a white suit and white/black geometric design suit respectively with white gloves. As a "We Will Rock You"-esque beat pounded across the arena, HoMin (Max ChangMin and U-Know YunHo) were raised up in the air by harnesses, their arms held out and spotlights illuminating them. Once they were set down, back-up dancers in black outfits joined them on the main stage as they performed a medley of popular songs, "The Way You Are," "Rising Song," "Mirotic," for which Yesung (Super Junior) and Onew (SHINee) contributed vocals, and "Purple Line." Changmin then performed "Big Time" on his own, followed by Yunho's solo of "왜Why (Keep Your Head Down)." A drum set was placed in the center of the middle walkway, and Super Junior performed "Don't Don," which became a heavy rock remix featuring TRAX and Changmin, who ripped his shirt to show off his sculpted front to the screaming fan girls. HoMin then finished up "Maximum," accompanied by masked dancers.
The SMTown show had a good variety of performances, including not only the major groups, but mixing it up with a slew of duets and collaborations between SM artists: Super Junior's Heechul sang a cover of Ivy's "Sonata of Temptation" with Super Junior-M's Henry on violin. During the song, Heechul "kissed" Henry, making the fan girls go wild, then Jay from TRAX came out in his white suit for a "confrontation" before Heechul finished the song with an evil cackle, showing he's as much a rock star as a pop star. Actress Lee Yeon Hee sang a cover of Karina Pasian's "Slow Motion" with SHINee's Taemin showing his skills on piano; SHINee's Onew and Super Junior's Ryeowook sung a duet for the ballad "The Name I Loved;" Super Junior's Eunhyuk and Shindong along with SHINee's Key and Minho rapped to Jinusean's "A-Yo;" Super Junior M's Zhou Mi and f(x)'s Luna (wearing a pink evening dress) sang Leehom Wang and Jane Zhang's "Another Heaven;" Kyuhyun (Super Junior) and Seohyun (Girl's Generation) sang "Call With All My Heart;" Yesung (Super Junior) and Jonghyun (SHINee) sang a cover of Fly to the Sky's "Sea of Love" accompanied by several back-up dancers. There was also a dance battle tribute to Michael Jackson with some of SM's best dancers: SNSD's Hyoyeon, Yuri, Yoona, Sooyoung, and Super Junior's Eunhyuk, Shindong, Donghae, SHINee's Taemin and Minho, and f(x)'s Luna and Victoria.
To finish the concert off, all the SM artists gathered on stage wearing white SMTown t-shirts and sang HOT's "Hope," walking down the center walkway in pairs as paper airplanes and confetti rained down from the ceiling. They all bowed and thanked their fans for sharing the night with them. The crowd waved and cheered, reluctant to leave even after all the artists had left the stage.
Although SMTown was a great chance to see all the SM artists perform at the same event, it almost felt like too much, too fast, at times -- as the songs rolled out one right after the other in an endless barrage, without giving fans more than two seconds to breathe in between songs. (It wouldn't have been surprising if more than a few fan girls lost their voices from screaming for hours on end.) The main groups performed almost every one of their popular singles, alternating performers after a couple songs to allow time for outfit changes and to keep fans guessing who would come out next. The collaborations between artists provided a unique flavor to the concert, but there was still a very mechanical feel about most of the performances -- SM was doing their thing and trying to keep to their time schedule. With very minimal fan interaction and only very brief artist introductions (the rare few that there were), the SM artists remained idols on platforms rather than reaching out and connecting with their fans more deeply. The concert ended up being a little over four hours long, so perhaps taking the time to speak with fans would have made the concert way too long, but surely there were at least one or two of the almost 60 songs performed that night that could have been sacrificed for a little more time spent connecting with the fans -- something that would further SM's chances at success in their US promotions.
Search YouTube for "SMTown LA" to find tons of fancams of all of the night's performances, and visit SM Entertainment's official site for more information on their artists. Click here for allkpop's footage of the night.