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East meets West: K-Pop ignites MSG

Photo Credit: Courtesy SMTown
Photo Credit: Courtesy SMTown
Photo Credit: Courtesy SMTown
Photo Credit: Courtesy SMTown
Photo Credit: Courtesy SMTown

IN TUNE: Fresh off a free outdoor concert that drew tens of thousands to Bergen County’s Overpeck Park, Korean teen superstars TVXQ, SHINee and others brought K-Pop to a sold-out, electrified Madison Square Garden for the first time.

PHOTOS: Courtesy SMTown

It was a grand finale for the SMTown World Tour, following similarly sold-out stops in Paris, Los Angeles and Tokyo.

B2ST, Sistar, and 2PM all shone during a thrilling show that had nearly 20,000 people screaming, lights flashing and “fan cams” recording videos now being shared on YouTube and elsewhere.

Audience members waved glow sticks and handheld lighted fans in support of their favorite acts, the same as in Japan and Korea.

It was a spectacle before the show even began: As soon as the houselights went down, bright red, blue, green and lavender stars seemed to twinkle everywhere. It actually made the nosebleed section a cool place to be.

Fans went wild as members of SHINee – in their colorful leather, gelled heads and Doc Martens — were hoisted in the air and floated above the stage. Pyrotechnics lit up the arena in all kinds of different colors, as fireballs shot up from below the performers. A jumbo screen behind them offered close-ups, high-energy graphics and positive messages between songs.

The sound quality was spot-on. And although there was some lip-synching, fans were too busy screaming to each and every skilled dance move to care. Those fans who knew the moves by heart mimicked their onstage idols.

Lost in translation?  Hardly. BoA sang four songs from her self-titled first English album, while Girls’ Generation did their first English single, “The Boys.”

Yet even when the performers sang in their native tongues, the stage show was so exciting that no one seemed to mind.

Although most of the bands have several members, Girls’ Generation (see photo below) really fills out their sound with nine, with each girl getting a turn in the spotlight. Super Junior, which popped up several times during the concert, has up to 13 members(!). That’s a lot of talented people doing a lot of singing and dancing.

But there was also the duo TVXQ, whose music has a soulful feel; the singer Kangta, whose voice soared; and BoA, who has been performing for 10 years and at times comes close to sounding like Janet Jackson.

South Korean SM Entertainment isn’t only sharp at finding and promoting an enormous roster of teen stars. It also stages collaborations during the concerts that only add to the buzz.

One of the highlights at the Garden was a duet pairing Jessica of Girls’ Generation and Jung Soo-yung of the band f(x) for the song “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha.

The fans roared their approval as the two walked down the long runway in front of the stage, ending up together, after starting out at opposite ends of the main stage (see photo, top).

There was also a great deal of variety in what basically was a New School variety show. What kept the energy level high, besides the power and size of the show, is K-Pop’s amazing number of influences, from rap to hip-hop to trance to house to good old-fashioned love songs.

The show-stopper found all of the performers onstage, singing a song about the power of friendship and never giving up. At the close, confetti poured down as they all took their bows to the strains of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”

K-Pop isn’t exactly mainstream. But tell that to the fans who stormed hotels rooms and camped out overnight for general admission seats. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and a ton of sites have g iven K-Pop enormous momentum here in the States and elsewhere around the globe.

Yet, even with all that hype, Sunday’s show was everything a loyal follower could have wanted — and then some.

Something tells me they’ll be back.

Zanea Loving

Brooklyn native Zanea Loving , 20, is a junior English major specializing in creative w r iting at Lehman College in the Bronx, where she now lives.

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