Earworm melodies, meaningful lyrics and impressive stage presence are just a sampling of the elements that have allowed the 7-member group BTS — whose stage names are RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook — to earn its title as worldwide music sensations. Its global fanbase will also tell you that the group’s music transcends cultural and language barriers.
The postponement of the South Korean group’s “Map of the Soul” tour in 2020 was anything but detrimental to their insane career trajectory, as demonstrated by its latest chart-topping hit “Butter.” As its discography continues to expand, it is no surprise that fans are eagerly awaiting for BTS to continue doing what it does best: igniting the stage with charisma and energy. From June 13 to 14, BTS did just that with “Sowoozoo” — a special virtual concert hosted in real time at the Seoul Olympic Stadium.
June 13, the first day of the concert, is a date with symbolic meaning for BTS and its fans — it marks the anniversary of the group’s 2013 debut when it released its first single “No More Dream.” As a tradition between BTS and its fans, special concerts are held on this date each year, 2020 being the exception. For their 8th anniversary, BTS continued this tradition with a larger-than-life virtual event that captured the magic of live music performance.
The set list for both concerts included 15 songs that span the range of BTS’s artistic oeuvre with slight variations between each day. Opening with the chill “Life Goes On” from their 2020 album BE, the members of BTS made their entrance to the massive pastel-colored stage inside a custom space rover vehicle, alluding to “Sowoozoo”’s galactic theme. The stage, shaped like an infinity sign, was built large enough to overwhelm the scale of Seoul Olympic Stadium’s 70,000 seat capacity.
On top of the set included multiple giant screens, a heart-shaped planetary figure and an arrangement of eight smaller planets lined up at the very top of the sky-scraping structure. Each of the 15 songs revealed its matching set design throughout “Sowoozoo”, highlighting the diversity of BTS’s discography. The stage’s extravagance contributed to the otherworldly experience of BTS’s high production performances, but it also felt like the empty venue almost struggled to contain the members’ efforts to revive the stadium they once sold out.
Following this mellow, melodic entrance, BTS quickly moved into formation for its summer anthem “Butter” and a tropical remix version of “Dynamite.” The sharp choreography elicited cheering from the virtual audience, some of whom appeared inside the venue via rows of screens planted where audience members would usually be. Including the audience in this way allowed fans to be physically and audibly present, filling the concerts with a palpable energy that would normally be found at live events.
Usually, these anniversary events are filled with lighthearted chatter and variety show games, but this year, BTS acknowledged the difficulties of the past year. Between sets, the members reacted to fans’ social media posts, discussed their hopes for the coming year together and interacted with the audience, which made both events feel intimate.
Throughout the concerts, BTS’s passionate energy permeated the air. The members danced across the stage with precision and fluidity for choreography-heavy songs “Idol,” “Fire” and “Not Today.” Across the two days, fans were surprised with exclusive performances of Suga and J-Hope’s solo songs. On day one, all seven members joined together for Suga’s “Daechwita” on a stage depicting Joseon-era Korea. Day two once again included all members in J-Hope’s “Chicken Noodle Soup,” which had Jimin and RM performing their verses in Spanish to honor collaborator Becky G. To end each day, BTS sang a heartfelt rendition of “Mikrokosmos.” The uplifting track was mixed with a chorus of fan-submitted recordings, with which BTS’s own voices blended in harmony.
After one year of virtual concerts, “Sowoozoo” is a manifestation of BTS’s efforts to continue defying boundaries despite unexpected circumstances. The two-day event spared no expense as an extravagant celebration of BTS’s boundary-breaking career. As BTS exited their galactic stage, the camera panned to the fireworks that filled the skies over Seoul, leaving fans in anticipation of the group’s next magical event.