The first thing you saw were the lines.
As queues for pop-star stadium shows go, they were orderly and patient. But from the moment the trees parted on the way into Pasadena’s Rose Bowl on Saturday night, and the building-sized banners for K-Pop conquerors BTS emerged, the crowds waiting outside were staggering.
An estimated 52,000 fans — from preteens to bemused dads, many Asian American but also Latino, black, and white — wound along the Rose Bowl grass. Some had camped out for days to save their spots.
In a few hours, BTS would play the first of its two largest shows in America to date, a crowning achievement for a band that sings primarily in its native language. For the genre, it’s a commercial peak that’s been a decade in the making. God forbid you let the occasion pass without a souvenir.
A $60 (Dh220) Bluetooth-synched light stick that linked to your Rose Bowl seat and flickered in time with the music onstage? Of course.
“It’s become huge, there’s now so many K-Pop artists coming to the US in the next few months,” said Amy Davis, 31, who flew in from Detroit for the show. While she waited in one of those lines, she cited acts like Blackpink, the talk of last month’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, as signs that K-Pop — a futuristic, upbeat blend of dance music, spitfire hip-hop and balladry _ is thriving here.
BTS hit new milestones for K-Pop: a trio of US No 1 albums within a year and a sold-out, four-night run at Staples Centre last year.
To judge from the mood outside on Saturday, K-Pop’s rise feels like the peak trembling days of Beatlemania. But the Fab Four didn’t have the most powerful fan legion in all social media (cross them at your Twitter mentions’ peril) and a whole guide about how to behave if you see BTS at the airport (“Please keep BTS at your double arm’s length so that BTS can walk safely”).
One 2018 study, from the South Korean consulting firm Hyundai Research Institute, estimated BTS alone was worth $3.6 billion to the South Korean economy, and that 1 in every 13 tourists to South Korea in 2017 cited BTS as a reason for their trip.
After a performance on ‘Saturday Night Live’ and this sold-out US stadium tour, those numbers must be rising, even in places you might not expect.