Review: G-Dragon @ The SSE Arena, Wembley (London, 24th September 2017)

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A pop-star concert is not your average gig, even less so when that pop-star is Asia’s biggest singer, rapper, songwriter, producer, and fashion icon, G-Dragon, on his first European tour.

At 5:30pm on Sunday 24th September, the queues stretching all along the sides of the SSE Arena in Wembley were already ridiculously long. So long not only that the American football fans leaving the stadium were baffled, but also the concert attendees themselves. Fans all know that G-Dragon is someone capable of selling 65,000 concert tickets in less than 10 minutes (which is what happened when tickets for the tour’s opening gig in his hometown of Seoul were released back in April), but it is still shocking to see how many followers he has on a continent where he is totally absent from mainstream media. It might be true that London’s performance did not sell out completely, but filling up seven-eighths of the huge venue that is the SSE Arena in one of Europe’s biggest capitals and on his first tour in the old continent is an incredible success.

The most surprising fact for the non-initiated was the diversity of the attendees. One would expect that the audience would be mostly made up of East-Asians, and indeed there were many of them, but the European contingent was also significant. Whites, blacks, girls wearing hijabs, people waving Portuguese, Italian and Spanish flags, plus North and South Americans were present as well. Although women outnumbered men, the number of male fans was higher than what you would see at an average male American pop-star concert.

G-Dragon is the pop-star of the globalized world we live in. A world often unified by the internet, where music circulates well beyond its national borders, reaching to and rooting in places where one would not expect it. G-Dragon sings and raps in Korean, but that has not stopped anyone who does not speak the language falling in love with his music and persona.

The only thing that the audience seemed to have in common was their fashion sense. It was probably the best-dressed crowd one could see at a concert. Almost everyone was sporting pieces from the most coveted cool brands of the moment and/or high-street designers, as well as pieces from G-Dragon’s own fashion line, Peaceminusone. No wonder — well before its consecration in the Western fashion world by Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld, who invited him to sit front row at his fashion show a few seasons ago, G-Dragon has been perhaps the most influential fashion icon from Asia since his debut over a decade ago.

This explains how well every aesthetic detail of the performance was curated. First of all, there was a strict colour palette: everything was black, white or red. Secondly, the outfits were runway material. Third, the light show, the decorations, the props and the pyrotechnics created a proper spectacle that would enchant and excite even the least impressionable people.

In a pop-star concert, the music can sometimes get upstaged. Yet G-Dragon managed to not let this happen. He sang, rapped and danced for two whole hours — no playback, nothing that felt fabricated. He also performed some of his non-hit songs and omitted any ‘Big Bang’ tracks (i.e. those songs from the boy band that brought him to fame), which would have been a successful move strategically, but not true to himself – this is his solo tour, so why would he?

A handful of die-hard fans would have screamed at anything he would have done, regardless — they had already been driven crazy by G-Dragon’s most popular music videos screened to entertain the crowd while waiting for the concert to start — but I am sure, at the end of it all, even the shiest or most reluctant attendee was screaming at the top of their lungs. It was a spectacle: an all-encompassing and immersive experience.

And the best thing of all? The humbleness of Kwon Ji Yong – the man behind G-Dragon – who revealed himself in a long chat to the audience in the middle of the performance, showing his true, unpretentious and indeed even shy self. The world tour was called “Art III : M.O.T.T.E.”, i.e. “Moment of Truth”, and it has been described by G-Dragon as a means to reflect upon himself and the duality of his persona, the K-pop star and Kwon Ji Yong (also the title of his latest EP).

There are two more letters in the acronym M.O.T.T.E., though. T.E. stands for “The End”. What was G-Dragon trying to tell us? We hope it’s not the end of his musical career.

Photo ©: Bora Kim




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