The show celebrated BTS’ relationship with ARMY, their bond with South Korea, and their determination to make up for lost time
March 10th, 2022 marked the first time in over two years where pop mega stars BTS got to perform for a live audience in their own home country. Nearly 15,000 fans attended the septet’s ‘Permission To Dance in Stage: Seoul’ concert and got to reunite with the band since 2019’s ‘Love Yourself: Speak Yourself’ concerts. Covid-19 had led to the cancellation of their entire 2020 ‘Map of The Soul’ run and while BTS were able to reconnect with international audiences in 2021 during their sold-out four-night tour in Los Angeles, South Korea was left to wonder when they’d see the group in-person next.
Although the Seoul Olympic Stadium was only filled at a fraction of its usual concert capacity of 70,000 due to social distancing regulations, the septet went all-out to make up for lost time. What followed was a show that looked back at BTS and their fandom’s relationship thus far, the group’s bond with South Korea, and their will to ensure no one leaves the venue feeling bereft. Over the two and a half hours, BTS delivered an expansive range of their discography and interacted with the audience as much as possible–the Covid ‘no screaming’ live show rule be damned– as rapper j-hope declared, “ARMY, since you can’t scream, we will scream for you!”
During their conversations with the fans at the show, the septet explained they decided to keep the set list similar to their LA shows as they did not want the South Korean audience to miss out on the experience. With dashes of older tracks to bring in a kick of nostalgia and new performances for releases post the pandemic, BTS made sure fans from every era had something to look forward to.
‘Permission To Dance on Stage: Seoul’ kicked off with the anthemic 2020 single “ON,” followed by darker, bass-heavy remixes of their 2015 bangers like “Fire” and “Dope,” plus a shot of color with a cheerful performance of 2017’s “DNA.”
The absolute highlight of the show was the second act, which was first seen in Los Angeles in 2021; BTS presented the glorious acoustic arrangement of “Black Swan” accompanied by intricate formation-based choreography, before making smooth transitions into their 2016 hit single “Blood Sweat & Tears” and 2018’s “Fake Love” right after–all done without a single break in the music thanks to instrumental bridges and the core sonic similarity between the tracks. The septet pushed the thematic symbolism and connection between each album in their fictional universe with VCRs that revived imagery from The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Wings and Love Yourself albums.
Other highlights included the endearing performances for “Life Goes On” and the disco-funk remixes for “Boy With Luv” and “Dynamite” which saw BTS’ live band join them onstage to party along. The septet used a dance break to shift from “Dynamite” to “Butter,” keeping the mood light and celebratory while also treating audiences to new takes on each track, vocal ad-libs and hilarious interactions between the members of the group.
The fourth act saw BTS treat fans to performances of older fan-anthems like “Outro: Wings” and “So What” which we haven’t seen live for several years, as well as groovy, endearing takes on 2020’s “Telepathy” and “Stay” before ending with an EDM remix of their mega-hit track “Idol.”
In the fifth and final segment–which also served as the encore–BTS got the audience sentimental by performing more rare numbers like “Home” and “Airplane Pt.2.” The group also unleashed their penchant for vibrant hip-hop, trap and funk with “Bapsae” and “Dis-ease,” getting up-close and personal with the cameras as they ran around the stage and took playful jibes at each other. At this point they seemed completely relaxed and truly at home, making sure to encourage the audience to clap along, experimenting with hilarious dance moves and reading fan banners aloud.
Artists need the energy of a live audience to truly shine and having their fandom right in front of them made a visible difference in BTS’ performance and demeanour at ‘Permission To Dance on Stage: Seoul’ as compared to their untact concerts over the last two years. At points the septet did seem slightly nervous–probably exacerbated by the fact that they weren’t able to hear the fans’ voices– but the nerves gradually melted away to confidence and excitement with generous dashes of their usual sweet onstage tomfoolery.
The end of the show was emotional for everyone involved, not just BTS and the fans present at the stadium, but also the hundreds of thousands watching the livestream worldwide. Each member of the group took the time to express their feelings at being able to perform in South Korea again and there were moments when they seemed to hold back tears while explaining, “home is where ARMY is.” Leader and rapper RM decided to end the conversation on a positive note by stating, “The reason why we included ‘Home’ in the set list was because we felt like we were finally home. I mean, don’t you think that this is our true home? I’m so grateful to see you guys once again.” He added with a smile that someday the group and ARMY will look back at the concept of ‘silent’ concerts and untact shows and laugh fondly at the memory. There was a sense of togetherness and family evident throughout the entire show, felt even while watching it all on a screen via the livestream, and it was that feeling that cements BTS’ status as artists who heal the soul.
After performing the uplifting 2021 single–also the tour’s anthem– “Permission To Dance,” BTS wrapped things up with a smile–albeit with a little dilly-dallying thanks to their reluctance to leave their fans. Knowing that the group will perform one more show in Seoul on Saturday softens the blow of seeing them go, as does the fact that the upcoming concert will be streamed live in theatres across the world–including in India.
‘Permission To Dance on Stage: Seoul’ marks the end of BTS’ official break and is the starting point for a plethora of new activities for 2022. With the conclusion of their shows in South Korea, BTS will return to the U.S. for a four-night leg in Las Vegas this month (April 8, 9, 15 and 16) and, according to Big Hit Music, are currently working on a new album to kick off a brand new artistic era.