Concert review: Strong line-up of artists on second night of K-pop music festival HallyuPopFest

Their first time performing as a complete group of five in almost two years, Exid proved to be the highlight act of the night

SINGAPORE - HallyuPopFest, a K-pop music festival spread out across three days at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, gathered eight acts for the Saturday night (Sept 8) concert alone.

This was why the concert, instead of having a cohesive, overriding concept, was a series of mini-stages for each act.

The second night of the festival, which I attended, was particularly high-energy with all the acts wanting to impress with their dance moves.

Younger and less well-known groups like ONF and Snuper, who were both performing in Singapore for the first time, opened the show.

Most memorable moments of HallyuPopFest 2018 in Singapore

  • The Queen was back in Singapore. This time round, she performed solo, impressing the crowd with her vocal acrobats. Despite having no backup dancers or fancy stage set-up, the Girls' Generation leader and vocalist captivated the crowd with her performances of "I" and "Rain", among other tracks. The petite vocal powerhouse matched her red-and-pink outfit with glittery hair extensions, which made us want to copy the look.
  • Besides performing songs in Korean, Eric Nam effortlessly performed in English for the audience too. As if that wasn't impressive enough, he showed that he had steely pipes and managed to hit all the high notes in "Float", his song that'll be featured on the soundtrack of animated movie Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation.
  • The vocal powerhouse put up a magnificent performance that was only marred by subpar sound system. While singing "Star", the singer-rapper requested for fans to switch on their flashlight to fill the arena with white lights. After the performance, she thanked the audience for participating, saying, "Thank you so much for being the brightest stars today." Despite her chic image, Heize showed her adorableness when she got excited seeing fans carrying placards with her name on them.
  • With tracks such as "Boomerang", "Light" and "I Promise You", Wanna One is known to be a super energetic group with powerful choreography. But over their two days of performances, they brought out their softer side by treating fans to performances of ballads like "Always" and "I'll Remember".
  • With the official return of EXID's leader and main vocalist Solji, the girl group sounded more powerful than ever while performing top hits like "Up&Down" and "L.I.E". Fans were ecstatic over Solji's recovery (she had taken a break due to health issues) and cheered especially loudly during her solo parts.
  • After powering through their set, Gugudan interacted with their fans by fulfilling a 'Pose' mission. They were hardly given any preparation time after being given themes like 'cute' or 'chic' - they had to strike poses on the count of three. Being the pros that they are, the girl group nailed it.
  • Victon marked their first time performing in Singapore with high-energy tracks such as "What Time Is It Now" and 'Time Of Sorrow'. The group then surprised the crowd by showing off their fun-loving and goofy side, through a cover dance of "Go Go", originally sung by BTS.
  • Despite it only being their first time performing in Singapore, SNUPER was definitely not shy with the crowd as the members came off the stage to dole out lots of fan service! The audience were thrilled to wave at, high-five, and even hug the members, as they enthusiastically raced outside the stadium's moshpit area.
  • The boy group who performed at the afternoon showcase were tasked with completing a "random play dance" mission, where they had to do impromptu dances whenever music was played. The group nailed the choreography of Infinite's "Be Mine", BTS's "Blood Sweat Tears" and more.
  • In between songs and showing off the English phrases he had picked up prior to the show, Yu Seungwoo took time to interact with the crowd. The singer had to carry out a random mission for a "Lucky Draw" game segment, and was assigned the mission of "Proposal". To fulfil this, he serenaded fans while playing guitar. The crowd was certainly charmed!
  • It would be understandable if Soyou was nervous for the night's performance, as it was her first time performing in Singapore as a soloist instead of a member of Sistar. However, the vocalist flawlessly performed crowd favourites like Goblin's soundtrack "I Miss You", and even surprised the crowd with a duet of "Some" with Jung Sewoon.
  • After filling the stadium with his powerful vocals with songs like "Hello" and soundtracks like "My Last Love", Huh Gak introduced his special guest, APink's Eunji, as his duet partner. The duo didn't break a sweat as they performed a rendition of"'Short Hair".
  • The group might be missing their leader, Eunkwang, but that didn't mean their performance wasn't perfect. The group proved their vocal prowess through a live performance of "Missing You". They also showed off their playful side by cracking jokes and goofing around with each other. Youngest member Sungjae hilariously started his introduction with, "I'm 24 years old!", much to the discontentment of the older members. Hyunsik showed off his impressive Mandarin skills, leading our colleague to ask, "Is he Chinese?" No, but he studied in Shanghai for two years.
  • The girl group, who performed at both the afternoon showcase and evening concert, tried their best to interact with fans in English. During the afternoon showcase, they even gave out bags containing their personal items to lucky fans.
  • If you watched reality TV competition The Unit, you'd probably be familiar with UNB, which comprises nine previously-debuted singers and trainees who survived the gruelling competition to debut in this temporary group. The boy band proved why they were worthy of debuting through songs such as "Black Heart", as well as "Stay" by Zedd and Alessia Cara, which a few of the members performed for one of the qualifying rounds during the show. The performances were further highlighted by Jun and Chan's high notes, as well as Feeldog's sharp dance moves.
  • The group might not have turned up in full force with the other NCT members, but NCT 127 still put up a performance that's worthy of their status as one of the rising acts of Hallyu wave. Opening their set with "Fire Truck", the group awed with their power-packed choreography and vocals. Our only gripe? They didn't sing their latest track, "Chain".

ONF (pronounced on and off), a rookie septet that debuted last year, and Snuper both belted out four uptempo songs while dancing perfectly in-sync. They both gave off an eager-to-please vibe which actually came off quite endearing but their songs were not particularly memorable.

Eric Nam, who was also the emcee for the event, was probably the most comfortable as he was fluent in English. Nam, who was born in the United States, cracked jokes and amped up the crowd effortlessly with both his spoken and singing voice, and his natural wit and humour.

But the true highlight of the concert were the women. Saturday's concert featured seasoned and popular female acts - girl groups AOA, Exid and soloist Soyou, formerly of Sistar, which broke up last year.

Although it was a tough fight among the three, Exid was my favourite act of the night. It was their first time performing as a complete group of five in almost two years - member Solji pulled out of performances and promotions in December 2016 due to a serious thyroid disease - but they showed no signs of ever being a member down.

The group, with their lively, bold personalities, also had the edge of a truly solid rapper in LE. They confidently busted out their signature gyrating moves with Up and Down and Ah Yeah and did not have one boring moment in their performance.

AOA, meanwhile, leaned into and played up their image as the sexy girl group. Few groups are as blatantly seductive and girly as AOA with their risque and suggestive moves in songs like Heart Attack and Miniskirt, which they performed.

AOA embracing their image as the sexy girl group through risque and suggestive moves when performing. Photo: H.A.H.ENTERTAINMENT

Soyou, on the other hand, showcased her range as a competent vocalist.

Although the sound system made her high notes sound almost jarring during certain songs, I enjoyed myself when she sang one of the rare, slow ballads of the night - I Miss You - part of the soundtrack to the hit drama Goblin. She also showcased her range as an artist by breaking out her former group, Sistar's dance numbers.

Wanna One, an 11-man group that was just in town for a solo concert in July, closed the show. The group, which has an ardent fanbase and attracted the loudest screams of the night, entertained with their high-energy and recognisable dance numbers. Fans snapped numerous videos and photos of the group as there was no decree that photos and videos on mobile phones were not allowed, a marked departure from the last time Wanna One performed. Then, fans and security staff clashed over photo-taking activities.

Despite being hugely successful and very talented, the 11-man group Wannaone's performance lacked spontaneity. Photo: H.A.H.ENTERTAINMENT

While they are hugely successful and very talented, Wanna One's performance lacked spontaneity - at one point during a ballad, the members spread out to designated spots, equidistant from each other, and barely moved away. The overtly rehearsed feel of Wanna One made them seem less relaxed and less interesting than they could be.

Overall, the three-hour concert had a great line-up. There were strong and high-energy performers in both groups and soloists, with a healthy mix of newer songs and well-known hits.

Although I couldn't help but feel that since each group, regardless of popularity, performed for less than 45 minutes, it would take a multi-fandom K-pop enthusiast to truly enjoy the concert.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.