The ascent of BTS is impossible to deny. The success of their early albums on the Billboard charts has been well-documented, but as much as those Korean and Japanese language projects set records for non-English music in America, it’s their recent string of singles that has established the boy band as a mainstream phenomenon. When they released their first English-language single, “Dynamite,” back in 2020, the song broke the YouTube record for one-day views and the Billboard chart record for fastest song to ever hit No. 1. For better or worse, follow-up English-language songs like “Butter” and “Permission To Dance” have had similar success, and though their plans for global tours behind their latest album, Map Of The Soul: 7 have been repeatedly delayed due to the ongoing pandemic, the boys made an effort to get some American dates on the books before the end of 2021, completing a four-day stint at SoFi Stadium to close out the year.
Aside from setting a record for ticket sales in the aftermath of Covid-19 — racking up $33.3 million in sales for 214,000 tickets — the band also re-established themselves as architects of a live show that goes above and beyond the standard arena stage set up. Even before the show started on Thursday night, waves of cheers would leak into the concessions area, startling a few diligent fans into checking outside to double-check if the show had started — no, thankfully it was just another beloved video clip. The show hadn’t begun yet, it was still safe to grab snacks. In a crowd of over 70,000, it’s hard not to get caught up in the energy of others, and when it comes to energy, BTS fans bring the heat.
But no one brought more fire that night than the band themselves. Accompanied by many rounds of fireworks and pyrotechnics, a constantly rotating stage set, a full backing band, and hordes of dancers, the seven BTS members managed to make the enormous, brand new stadium feel as small as a living room during their shows last week. A massively oversized couch, roomy enough to accommodate all seven members at once, was a memorable set piece, as was a peek-a-boo panel below their massive video screen that occasionally opened to reveal a backing band and dancers who were having just as much fun performing as the superstars in front of them. Soon, this band won’t just be the biggest K-pop act in the world, they’ll just be the biggest act in the world. Period.
With a setlist that incorporated a good number of their older songs, along with the obvious anchors like “Dynamite” and “Butter” mid-set, the live show illustrated that though American audiences may be just tuning into the group, their discography stretches back almost a decade. Other fan-favorites like “Burning Up” and “Life Goes On” were high points during the two-hour concert, which included lots of moments for the boys to address the audience, or take quick breaks for multiple costume changes. Overall, the spectacle of the show was just as important as the music itself, and the show was a wonderful reminder that live music can mean so much more than just hearing the songs — it’s also about presentation and attention to detail.
No detail was too small for BTS to take extra care about it at SoFi, so that even in a crowd of thousands, it felt like the boy’s pointed, encouraging remarks were specific enough to apply to individual fans as well as the stadium at large. Their love and respect for the audience was a tangible presence, and for anyone who was just getting their sea legs with stadium shows after many months off, this was the kind of welcoming vibe that made even the anxiety of attending a large-scale event alone eventually start to fade. Closing out the evening with their newest single, “Permission To Dance” — which also served as the title for this brief set of shows — the freedom and excitement of that many fans in one place was almost overwhelming. It feels almost unfeasible that the band could get even bigger, but as they continue to release English-language singles — and potentially a whole album in that lane — it seems inevitable that that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
With a full global tour looming in 2022 and recent collaborations with artists such as Megan Thee Stallion, Coldplay, and Ed Sheeran, who had a writing credit on “Permission To Dance,” the ascent of BTS is still happening. And with their mini-tour, Los Angeles was lucky enough to be some of the most recent audiences to witness it happening.