The following review is based on Blackpink’s concert on Saturday, Nov. 19th at the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles. The group also performed the next night at the same venue.
Now over six years into their run as a quartet, the Korean-pop girl group Blackpink — comprised of members Jisoo, Jennie, the Australian-raised Rosé, and Thailand-native Lisa — continues to ascend astronomical heights with record-setting YouTube views and songs that instantaneously climb the charts. Not lost in the formula of Blackpink’s success is their onstage magnetism, highlighted during their ongoing Born Pink World Tour and most recently on Saturday, November 19th in Los Angeles at the Banc of California Stadium. A capacity crowd of 22,000 frenzied “Blinks” (the moniker given to their fans) filled the venue, magnificently doing their part by pumping their heart-shaped light sticks in the air and singing along to 23 hits, not just on Saturday but over the entire sold-out weekend — a feat duplicated only by Blackpink’s friendly competitors, Twice and their “Once,” this past May.
While there is certainly some overlap between the musical stylings and fanbases of Twice and Blackpink, the latter has a more hardened edge, supplanting some of the cheeky bubble-gum sweetness with a glint of a serious streak, combining catchy electro pop with a bass-heavy, hip-hop punch. The results are just as compelling, if not more so, especially with a more streamlined presentation of only four girls versus nine. Not to mention, Blackpink has considerable bragging rights with a Rolling Stone cover, being the most followed female troupe on Spotify, having more high-profile artistic collaborations, laying claim to an album — their latest, the September-released Born Pink — being the best-selling release for a female K-pop act and, overall, being the vanguard of a worldwide movement (alongside the all-male BTS) that has eclipsed even the hottest stateside popstars.
At the center of Blackpink’s appeal is how effortless they make it appear when they simultaneously sing, dance, and pour out their charming personalities to “Blinks” during intermittent breaks — an endearing skillset that can perhaps be traced to the pop-star academies from which they and their Korean pop contemporaries have graduated from in recent years.
The four superstars’ talents, combined with a multiscreen set design (inclusive of a primary and adjoining “B” stage), expert camerawork, pyrotechnics, streamers, confetti, flame bursts, an adept band, highly underrated dancers, and lush lighting were all conspicuous on Saturday. It was also the group’s first-ever stadium gig (a realization that made the 25-year-old Lisa admittedly nervous), three-and-a-half years after their last L.A. performance and made bittersweet only by the fact that the weekend marks the finale of the North American leg of their tour before travelling to the United Kingdom.
As the stage revealed towering gates that suspensefully opened, the trend-setting Blackpink performers, wearing headset mics, arrived for the first of five acts (including an encore), beginning with “How You Like That,” then “Pretty Savage” — both from The Album (the group’s first full-length release). Accented by blasts of bass, pyro, hypnotizing lights, and sharp beats, the foursome was impeccably in sync with each other. After “Whistle,” the adrenaline-inciting “Don’t Know What to Do,” and “Lovesick Girls” — which emphasized Jennie’s rapping prowess — the girls descended into the stage to the screaming adoration of their “Blinks.”
As an artistically apocalyptic black-and-white video played, it segued into the second act, starting with the dynamic “Kill This Love,” as the group, now holding pink handheld mics, rollicked in tandem with their fans who feverishly moved to the chart-topper. The transition to “Crazy Over You” was a seamless one as it featured the group in flowery garb, swinging their arms and stepping synchronously with their male and female dance crew. An abbreviated rendition of the fun-and-carefree “Playing with Fire” accentuated Lisa’s mastery of punctuated rhymes before the slower tempo of the empowering “Tally,” the first of six songs from Born Pink, underscored especially Jennie and Rosé’s vocals. Closing out this section was “Pink Venom,” the lead single from the recently released record, which had an appropriately aggressive slant to it and an awe-inspiring exhibition from both the spirited dancers and the band members: Chuckie G on guitar, Yung Wurly on keys, Omar Dominick on bass, and Bennie Rodgers on drums, who had been previously introduced by their frontwomen. Suffice it to say, the flourishes provided by the band gave Blackpink’s live arrangements added gusto compared with their studio-recorded counterparts.
The third act celebrated the individual women of Blackpink, who performed solos from their own catalogs. The first of the performances may have been the most memorable, too, as it featured Jisoo, in a mesmerizing red dress, covering Camila Cabello’s “Liar” only for Cabello herself to surprise the audience and join in on the festivities. Thereafter, Jennie moved balletically with a male dancer as she sang the unreleased “You & Me (Moonlight)” with white orbs being projected on the screens. Next, Rosé, whose appearance coincided with fans chanting her name, swaggered in a fur coat as leather-clad male dancers visually accompanied her solo of “Hard to Love.” This preceded the Aussie in a glittery black ensemble as she euphoniously belted her own hit, “On the Ground,” from her single album R. This back-to-back demonstration of virtuosity was matched by Lisa who, clad in a sporty blouse, took the stage to perform her title song from her single album Lalisa before pivoting with the spicy “Money,” which saw the Thai dance sensationally in billows of fog as well as complete a sensual pole routine.
The fourth section took off with “Shut Down,” which was remarkable for its raps and percussiveness, and then “Typa Girl,” which had the girls dance under props that can be best described as moveable canopies that lit up. Subsequently, Lisa taught the sea of Blackpink admirers how to confidently point their fingers during the chorus of, indisputably, one of the group’s most popular numbers: “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du.” As everybody happily joined in, it became clear that part of the group’s relatability can be tied to its suitably simple, sometimes monosyllabic hooks that cross all language barriers; the ease with which such lyrics can be pronounced has been conducive to enthusiasm from all corners of the globe. Wrapping up the main set was “Forever Young,” a tuneful but more laid-back ditty bathed in purple lighting.
Of course, like most concerts, the inevitability of an encore urgently beckoned but not before a loud incantation of “Blackpink” resounded throughout the stadium. As the girls re-manifested to a deafening roar, they seemed relaxed as they donned their own merchandise. Running to and fro the stages, the K-pop icons posed for the cameramen as they invited participation from their “Blinks” for three more songs: “Yeah Yeah Yeah,” “Stay,” and finally, “As If It’s Your Last,” which was noteworthy for Jennie’s encouragement of the spectators to put down their phones and be in the moment. Furthermore, amid the contented commotion, the four world-renowned stars heartwarmingly embraced each other, took a break to take a giant-sized selfie with their ardent supporters, and cheered one another on to playfully twerk as a grand 4th of July-esque display of fireworks painted the overhead night sky.
The nearly two-hour concert exemplified why Blackpink has earned a reputation for not only being forerunners in the K-pop domain, but in all of music. Their internationally friendly songs — a credit to their agency, YG Entertainment — transcend all genres to become recognizable and enjoyed by a wide range of people. Saturday also happened to be a historic occasion for the group — a sentiment best conveyed by Rosé who said, “We’re all a bit speechless tonight and we’ll remember this for a long time.” Needless to say, Blackpink is not only “in your area,” it is ubiquitous. It is a phenomenon that continues to swell, fueled by devotees who feel closely connected to their “biases” (i.e., favorites) in the group.
For more information on Blackpink’s Born Pink World Tour, and to purchase tickets, please visit: blackpinklive.com