BTS in Saudi Arabia — four words the average person might not associate with each other. But on October 11, both BTS and Saudi Arabia showed their relationship isn’t so unusual.
Bringing their "Love Yourself: Speak Yourself" world tour to around 60,000 people at King Fahd International Stadium, the seven-member South Korean band made history as the first foreign act to perform a solo concert in the Kingdom.
Doing so, they made the dreams of many fans in the region come true, especially so for Saudi ARMY (term for BTS fans), who pulled out all the stops for their fellow BTS admirers.
They even arranged for free shuttle buses to transport fans from the city to the stadium.
The boys kicked off their show in style — and right on time — with the high energy ‘Dionysus’.
Dressed in crisp white, which did little to offset the evening heat in the city, RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook bashed their way through their first song — sweat dripping from their foreheads — and swiftly jumped into "Not Today", another upbeat track with the choreography to match.
The first solo of the night — ‘Just Dance’ — showcased just how good a dancer J-Hope is (if there was any doubt). Fresh off the success of his solo single featuring Becky G, ‘Chicken Noodle Soup’, J-Hope was in high spirits as he worked the crowd and the cameras, which were shooting for the concert’s live stream.
The youngest member Jungkook (now with longer hair that is the talk of the fandom) took to the air to serenade the audience with his airy, boy band-perfect voice on ‘Euphoria’, not a hint of fear at being suspended from a flying platform the size of a dinner plate and flung over the stadium.
Jimin, shone during his solo ‘Serendipity’ — his sugar sweet vocals complementing the fluid artistic choreography that he performed with the control of a ballet dancer, while V’s mesmerising ‘Singularity’ has apparently gone viral on Saudi social media.
One of the biggest moments of the night for me was Jin’s magnificent performance of ‘Epiphany’, his emotional, soaring ode to loving oneself. The oldest member of the group put his vocal control to the test, belting out the song and hitting every note no matter how high.
The two songs I had been looking forward to the entire night — both rap-focused tracks — didn’t quite get the crowd reaction I was expecting. Maybe the audience was more interested in the vocal line?
It didn’t matter because RM, Suga and J-Hope crushed ‘Outro: Tear’ with their hard-hitting lyric delivery and beats, with the rest of the group joining for ‘Mic Drop’.
There were plenty of funny moments that are a signature part of the BTS concert experience — Jin laughing about the unusually short translations of their speeches by the Korean to Arabic translator, V trying to explain to the audience how to do a Mexican wave, and the audience failing miserably to understand, Suga’s meme-worthy reactions.
Combined with the mastery of the performances and the from-the-heart charm that the boys exude, it was enough to make sure a smile was plastered on every single person’s face that night.
While the boys did their best to entertain the audience — there was no sign of jet lag or tiredness — there were definite missteps that let the concert down.
Better organisation and crowd control was sorely missed at this gig. The venue lacked proper signage and instructions, and staff — no matter how polite and well-meaning — didn’t always have the information needed to guide fans.
At the pitch level seating, some audience members in order to get a better view of the central stage stood on the folding chairs provided, thus blocking the view of those who preferred to stand on the ground.
Staff members could have reprimanded those people, but this did not happen, leading to many people watching the boys on the screen despite paying a premium for floor seats.
There were also issues with the sound in some parts — noticeably during a portion of the concert when the members were attempting to talk to the audience, but were faced with loud static multiple times.
Despite that, the members proved not only why they’re one of the biggest music acts in the world right now, but also one of the most humble, thanking ARMY profusely at the end and hoping to come back to the region soon (I’m sure ARMY in the UAE will have lots to say about that).
One thing’s for sure, this fan can’t wait to see them again.