They’ve become musical gods in Korea, broken records in Japan, vacationed in Paris, and toured China, Thailand, Malaysia, and Japan. Their foray into the global market was launched last month with the debut album “The Beginning“, which surpassed the half million mark in pre-orders with the luxury edition easily selling out in less than a week. So it should come as no surprise that the ever-grandeur Hammerstein Ballroom was bursting at the seams tonight as JYJ took the stage in the heart of New York City, launching the JYJ World Tour, their first American showcase tour in front of 3,400 ecstatic fans.
Jaejoong, Yoochun, and Junsu are no strangers when it comes to pleasing a crowd; after all, they’ve been on the music scene for over seven years and have been part of seven tours. And it’s definitely paid off – the turnout for JYJ’s first flesh-and-blood appearance in New York City was overwhelming. It would be an understatement to label the wait outside of the venue to simply be a “line around the block.” Imagine a crowd of human sardines that takes up ten feet of sidewalk in width, barricaded by metal fences on the verge of tipping over in certain places. Extend that image by a few avenue blocks and you get the idea. Some hardcore Cassiopeians reportedly camped out the night before (they were eventually turned away… then eventually returned around 6AM); others traveled from all over the East Coast just to see these three stars in person. And hello, after the hack job by Tinsel PR and Entitled Entertainment, the concert became free and “first come first serve” – who could pass up an opportunity like that?
Unfortunately, the venue reached its maximum capacity before the entire line was let in, so many disappointed fans were left in the cold and turned away at the entrance. Those that were lucky enough to get in began to flood the floor and balcony levels as fans scrambled to get a good view of the stage. With a vibrant pink pattern titillating on the LCD screen onstage, excited chatter mixed with a chorus of Cassiopeians singing along to the background hum of “Ayyy Girl” as the stage crew played with light and sound tests. Finally, the lights clicked on and MC Shane Yoon dramatically introduced the show, only to be humorously interrupted by fellow MC Julie Chang who got the show officially started. allkpop had previously reported that Arden Cho would be the female MC for the show, but the earlier disorganization and mess caused her to miss the New York stop, though she will apparently be at the Las Vegas and Los Angeles shows. Anyway, with no opening acts to prolong the wait, fans were immediately quenched with the live spectacle of three drippingly sexy Korean men slowly rising out of the stage floor onto elevated platforms. Cue the deafening screams of fangirls in blissful vertigo.
With the extreme levels of energy pulsating within the ballroom, “Empty” was the perfect song to kick-start the show: the boys casually walked down the steps from the platform to the slow beginning and suddenly came to life with fast-paced choreography as the percussion beat thrummed from the speakers into the crowd. A few arm pumps and mesmerizing pelvic thrusts later, the music transitioned into the fun, electro-dance beat of “Be The One“, with fanchants ringing loud and clear from beginning to end. I absolutely love the heavy, robotic dance moves that come in after the first chorus, and getting to see it live unquestionably amplified the sex factor tenfold. As the song came to an end, the fog machines at the base of the stage began to pump their goods toward the crowd, casting a complete veil over our vision. While the haze might’ve produced a cool effect for the audience, I couldn’t see anyone around me or even the stage which was less than a foot away from my eyes for the next few minutes. From what I could tell though, the young men had taken their positions on stools near the front of the stage. Their voices pierced the fog, so to speak, with the third song of the night, “Be My Girl“, a slow-paced track composed by Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins. It was nice to see both JYJ’s sexy and sensitive sides in the span of ten minutes!
With half the show already over, the MCs returned to the stage for a special Q&A session with the trio based on questions drawn from the audience before the show. Shane and Julie first began by talking about the sheer volume and power of Cassiopeians around the world. “On Twitter, you guys have been crazy. Who reads allkpop?” Shane asked and, amidst cheers, continued, “allkpop put my Twitter account on their site, and I started getting JYJ-Twitter-bombed, and it was crazy. You guys are crazy!“ After each member adorably introduced himself in a few sparse English words, the MCs got straight to the questions. JYJ has spent the past few days in the Big Apple, and it seems like they’re loving it; when asked what their favorite aspects of NYC were, Junsu admired the endless skyline of buildings, Jaejoong said he favored being on stage performing for their fans, and Yoochun was in awe of the number of taxis in the city. At one point, Yoochun recited a few lines of traditional Korean from his latest drama, “SungKyunKwan Scandal.” Another fan asked whether the members read all the tweets posted to them on Twitter. Yoochun estimated that he read around 50% of his Twitter replies, and Junsu said, “I won’t lie and say I’ve read all of them, but I really do try.”
After the break, the stools were briskly whisked away and the threesome performed a Korean song from Yoochun’s drama “SungKyunKwan Scandal” titled “Chajatta (Found)”, an optimistic track about someone finally meeting the love of his life. JYJ returned to the pop ambiance afterwards with their big Kanye West collab track “Ayyy Girl”; just as they did earlier that night, the audience sang along to the lyrics, word for word. Finally, JYJ wrapped up the night with a remixed version of “Empty”, which added a layer of electronica pop to the original track. With the members shouting at the audience to jump, it felt like the entire venue was experiencing a mini earthquake. As the song climaxed and neared its end, Jaejoong, Yoochun, and Junsu stepped back onto the platform they started on and disappeared for a dramatic close to the night.
White confetti cannons exploded into the air and the ”Ayyy Girl” music video was broadcast on the LCD screen as if to console any members of the audience who were already experiencing JYJ withdrawal symptoms. Dazed fans filtered out of the entrance doors, with little cliques dotting the lobby as friends took final photos together and others reminisced about the highlights of the concert. Many fans also ended up lingering in the area, hoping to catch a glimpse of the trio leaving the venue for their hotel which was located just down the block.
This was my first time seeing JYJ perform live, and the trio ultimately lived up to the hype that they’ve constructed over the past seven years. One of the keys to TVXQ’s international success lay in the members’ exceptional vocal ability, and it was delightful to discover firsthand that they were just as talented live as in studio. Furthermore, the members put on a great show despite the logistical mess that has recently plagued the tour.
Later this week, JYJ’s schedule includes two more tour stops in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. For those of you that are planning to attend, you’re in for a hell of a concert!
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Photography: Jenny Tszeng & Matt Marasigan
Videography: Matt Marasigan
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