No TWICE, no life: TWICE magnificently cheer up Oakland Arena

Photo of TWICE at their concert
JYP Entertainment/Courtesy

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Girls, gays and deodorant-ignoring fanboys united at Oakland Arena to bark the night away during TWICE’s Feb. 18 show. Security guards clutched their pearls as the K-pop group’s ecstatic fans, or ONCEs — adorned in everything from sparkly cowboy hats and flamboyant pink bootcut pants — sweatily ran their way to their seats. The effort wasn’t in vain; for the next few hours, fans were deluged with exquisite performances that served as a vessel to immeasurable comfort.

It wasn’t until the release of gay anthem “Fancy,” and Donald Trump dierre-kicking “Feel Special,” did they perfect their acute ability to grow as artists and have fun all at once. Maturing their sound came with the group’s insistence on upholding boundaries, taking breaks for their mental health and radically celebrating themselves. To hell with the greasy-gooched, chronically-online antagonists who made the mistake of underestimating them — TWICE refused to diminish themselves and put their peace at risk for anyone.

On the surface, TWICE’s evolution throughout the K-pop milieu completely embraced the glossy sheen that comes with pop sensibilities. TWICE’s “III” World Tour displayed the nine members coming into their own, boldly singing and, perhaps most remarkably, taking up space. Their music speaks to the hearts oversaturated with love, aortas at risk with every new crush. Opening with buoyant “The Feels,” the group exemplified its keen capability to transform even the most mundane matters of the heart into a sublime journey.

For the group, love manifests perhaps most potently in the love they have for fans, each other and themselves. During intermissions, they delivered speeches in both English and Korean celebrating their fans and the fact they could finally reunite as nine members. Jeongyeon, who took a mental health break during the group’s promotions for their album Eyes Wide Open, was the main star in the triumphant track “I Can’t Stop Me.” ONCEs lost their minds, waving their light sticks or Candy Bongs erratically every time she was the center of their meticulous formations.

The show wasn’t an elaborate production, which helped serve as a testament to the strength of TWICE’s stage presence. Members Nayeon, Momo and Chaeyoung stormed the stage in Y2K tracksuits as they performed exultant “Hello.” “I’m the baddest!” they shouted, stomping their Timberlands into the stage with finality. Ballad “Cactus” served as an exemplary vehicle for TWICE to explore how difficult yet divine deliberately loving yourself can be. While the other members sat, Jihyo leaped to her feet toward the end of the track, resoundingly belting out, “Save me!”

Their choreographies were perfected — nearly to a fault. If it weren’t for the easily recognizable violent hip thrusts of “More & More” or the cameltoe crab walk of “Alcohol-Free” that fans happily replicated, the trite and tight performances could have easily become a miss. If anything, the very few backup dancers allowed fans to fill in the spaces as they forcefully followed along to every dance move.

The group allotted time for fans to dance along to hit tracks such as “Cheer Up” and be randomly featured on the jumbotron screens in the arena. During “TT,” they cut the music and let audience members sing along — and even lied that they sounded good. ONCEs even coordinated a complex, synchronized light show with their light sticks to match up with the beats of each song.

Closing out the night with randomly chosen encore songs, the members dedicated the show to the people who “dance with them through everything.” There were no complicated dances to follow along to onstage, no critics’ chatter, no note to overthink: It was calm in the midst of a vivacious night and a sold-out audience.

The nine girls were laughing at each other, their glittering cheek sequins blinding the audience as they tried shoving their faces into the jumbotron’s cameras. As the show came to a close, TWICE wasn’t too concerned about the worries of fame, life or love. For a few fleeting moments, there was nothing to figure out.

Contact Kelly Nguyen at [email protected].