EXO- lent show

All nine mem­bers of K- pop group EXO de­liver plenty of boy­ish charms and sex ap­peal over the week­end.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MUSIC - By CH­EStEr CHIN en­ter­tain­ment@ thes­tar. com. my

UP un­til the eleventh hour, a vague sense of un­cer­tainty loomed over the Kuala Lumpur stop of EXO’s se­cond world tour. One of the mem­bers had sus­tained a back in­jury re­cently – and spec­u­la­tions ran rife among fans that the K- pop phenom would per­form with­out a com­plete line- up.

Al­though, the term “com­plete” does take on a rather loose mean­ing for the South Korean- Chi­nese act. A spate of per­sonal and pro­fes­sional tur­moils – cou­pled with on­go­ing le­gal bat­tles – have re­duced the once 12- mem­ber out­fit to its cur­rent ni­ne­some.

In fact, a look at the group’s bi­og­ra­phy – with its equal mea­sures of splen­dours and set­backs – might have you mis­tak­ing the 20- some­things for gritty scan­dal- laden sea­soned rock­ers.

Yet EXO, the grandiose transna­tional pro­ject from en­ter­tain­ment con­glom­er­ate S. M. En­ter­tain­ment ( its ros­ter in­cludes Girls’ Gen­er­a­tion, Su­per Ju­nior and SHINee), is barely half a decade old.

Pub­lic im­age- wise, the boys are the per­fect boyfriends ma­te­rial: heart- melt­ing smiles, smoul­der­ing gazes, cheeky winks and all.

They were sup­posed to do great things for K- pop ( and to a cer­tain ex­tent Man­dopop). It’s a pre­dic­tion that was in part, spurred by the in­dus­tri­ous con­cept of two sub­groups – EXO- K and EXO- M – per­form­ing in Korean and Man­darin re­spec­tively.

What record ex­ec­u­tives didn’t fore­see, of course, were the im­pend­ing feuds that threat­ened the en­sem­ble’s sta­bil­ity.

On that note, the Exo Planet # 2 - The Exo’luXion show at Sta­dium Merdeka last Satur­day night posed a dou­ble en­ten­dre of sorts – a lav­ish artis­tic show­case and sym­bolic ges­ture of sol­i­dar­ity. It was meant to be a tes­ta­ment of EXO’s pop longevity.

For that to hap­pen, EXO- L – as the group’s ex­tremely ded­i­cated fan­base is known – needed all the re­main­ing mem­bers on stage.

Their prayers were an­swered when Suho, Xi­u­min, Lay, Baekhyun, Chen, Chanyeol, D. O., Kai and Se­hun ap­peared on stage in match­ing out­fits amid loud screams and cheers from the 14,000- strong crowd.

EXO in its en­tirety made it to the show.

“We are happy to be here with you tonight,” the boys de­clared in halt­ing English.

But in hind­sight – with or with­out Lay’s pres­ence – the show was jet set on be­com­ing a bom­bas­tic spec­ta­cle. Af­ter all, that’s what the group is all about – fun, unadul­ter­ated and au­da­cious K- pop.

A huge chunk of EXO’s mu­si­cal vibe is de­rived from call- to- bat­tle cho­ruses and an­themic EDMin­fused hooks. They are all traits that are mag­ni­fied on a live set­ting.

Open­ers Over­dose, His­tory and El Do­rado brought the raves to the scene, com­plete with ex­plo­sions of py­rotech­nics that ac­com­pa­nied drip drops of glo­ri­ous elec­tronic beats.

True to K- pop 101, the boys riled up the crowd with slick boot­camp chore­og­ra­phy. But for a group that rose to fame with bes­tial the­atrics, stage set­ting and props were cu­ri­ously mod­est.

One could ar­gue that this gave more room for the mu­sic to shine. That is, if you could ac­tu­ally hear the mu­sic.

Lack­lus­tre stereos, an open air set­ting and the ca­coph­ony of screams caused the sonic el­e­ments to be drowned out at times.

Of course, that over­sight was sec­ondary next to the larger- than- life pres­ence that EXO ex­uded through­out its close to three- hour set.

Boy­ish charms were aplenty – and so was sex ap­peal.

A drenched Se­hun per­form­ing a solo con­tem­po­rary dance over the crys­talline pi­ano melodies of R& Bflavoured Baby Don’t Cry def­i­nitely raised the tem­per­a­ture fur­ther on that warm evening.

The PG- 13 an­tics didn’t stop there. At one point, the boys even changed their clothes on stage while per­form­ing the teeny- bop­pish Lucky.

The few – al­beit im­pres­sion- dent­ing – risqué mo­ments at the show prob­a­bly had fe­male con­cert- go­ers ap­pre­ci­at­ing ev­ery sin­gle cent they forked out for tick­ets. But on a larger scale, that abil­ity to ef­fort­lessly me­an­der be­tween provoca­tive and pleas­ant was tes­ti­mony of the act’s ver­sa­til­ity.

EXO fur­ther ce­mented their chameleon sta­tus when the mem­bers tra­versed into bal­lad ter­ri­tory. The softer mo­ments pro­vided per­fect can­vases for the boys to dis­play their vo­cal prow­ess. Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, K- pop isn’t all synths and no singing.

Suho and Baekhyun de­liv­ered heart- rend­ing falset­tos on the ten­der My An­swer over smooth har­monies. But D. O. de­serves a spe­cial men­tion for that in­tensely emo­tional belt he car­ried to­wards the end.

Af­ter tam­ing the crowd with a slew of bal­lads, the boys de­cided it was time to crank up the en­ergy.

“Can you get hot­ter than this?” Chen asked the crowd be­fore the group launched into Call Me Baby. Per­formed live, the lead sin­gle from sopho­more al­bum EX­O­DUS had more teeth. The riffs were sharper and the rap- heavy dance verses more pro­nounced.

EXO pulled out all the stops later that night for Growl, the ca­reer- defin­ing smash that pro­pelled it to the top of the hal­lyu wave. Nearly three years ago, all the orig­i­nal mem­bers per­formed that track to­gether on stage at the MTV World Stage Malaysia con­cert here.

It was cer­tainly a bit­ter­sweet mo­ment for fans. But if the united chants of “We are one” that re­ver­ber­ated across the sta­dium were any in­di­ca­tion, EXO will cer­tainly keep on roar­ing.

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