TWICE In Chicago

by Anthony Kuzminski

TWICE Live: Wednesday June 28, 2022 at The United Center - Chicago, IL

The all-female K-pop group TWICE (stylized in all caps) arrived in America as part of their fifth world tour and they set up shop at Chicago's United Center for two nights performing to over 35,000 fans. You may be wondering who they are and why you have not heard of them and why they can sell out arenas across the country with ticket prices and a fandom that rival Taylor Swift's. The group consists of nine members (Nayeon, Jeongyeon, Momo, Sana, Jihyo, Mina, Dahyun, Chaeyoung and Tzuyu) who delivered a spectacular tour de force performance. The show is hewn from decades of pop music spectacle, and yet it is so much more than your standard pop extravaganza, it's the pop spectacle of the moment largely due to the fanaticism of their fans, who didn't just cheer on TWICE but who elevated the show to heights no one will soon forget.

TWICE emerged eight years ago as part of the JYP Entertainment group in South Korea. JYP is one of the largest entertainment companies in South Korea and TWICE has become their most successful act. The band has their roots in a competition show Sixteen which finalized seven of the members, but the decision was later made to expand the group to nine. Since then, TWICE has been a constant presence in the K-pop market, has recorded several songs for the J-pop market and have expanded their presence around the world as one of the most popular female K-pop groups.

Their current tour consists of four acts and an encore where TWICE performed a total of twenty-eight songs stretching 150-minutes. The pop spectacular reached the heights it did partially because of the production. With a screen encompassing the entire back of the stage and a walkway venturing out halfway on the floor, the band devised the stage so even those in the nosebleeds felt closer to the action. After a series of images revealing each member of TWICE, the lights dimmed before a video introduction began before all nine members emerged behind pyrotechnics and a prop that lowered into the stage revealing all nine members in black and white outfits. As they strolled in unison to the front of the stage before launching into "SET ME FREE" and "I CAN'T STOP ME." From there on out, the set was carefully crafted with their biggest hits from their albums and Ep's, including their most recent EP READY TO BE, which the tour was named after. The stage was always lit vibrantly, the lights, screen and widened stage brought the fans closer to the action. I have seen plenty of rock and pop shows from a dozen people in a coffee shop to festival headliners seen by 80,000 people, but TWICE proved to be a distinctive experience eclipsing all the others with their brand of catchy pop songs. TWICE are wildly engaging within the confines of an arena. In a day and age where more acts are touring than ever before and the cost of a show is a stretch for most fans, TWICE delivers above-and-beyond for their fans.

A four-piece band joined TWICE halfway through the show and gave the arrangements a bigger punch. The band colored the songs with an arena-rock approach which served the songs "Queen of Hearts," and it was especially noticeable on the medley "YES or YES / What Is Love? / CHEER UP / LIKEY / KNOCK KNOCK / SCIENTIST / Heart Shaker" where the band pushed the audience to new heights. The intensity of the medley spilled over into the crowd who fervently responded with their shrieks and screams. A key component of the TWICE show are the light sticks they sell, which are synchronized with the performance by the band leading to a sequenced light show for every single song. Coldplay, Taylor Swift, and others give out bracelets to their fans and light sequencing is used here and there for specific performances, but TWICE's fans bring the show to a new level with the sticks serving as a second light show. The only downside is the sticks are impossible to find if you do not already own one. Every merchandise stand did not have them in stock.

Jihyo is the leader of the group and does most of the interacting with the crowd (and for the members who did not speak English, there was an interpreter) but make no mistake, the performance was a team effort. One of the more endearing parts of the show involved a solo segment from each member of the group. Dahyun performed Colbie Caillat's "Try" on a stirring piano arrangement in a beautiful long white dress. Tzuyu performed "Done for Me" by Charlie Puth while Sana had the crowd shaking to Dua Lipa's "New Rules." Momo impressed with "MOVE" by Beyonc� (with a pole dancing performance) and Mina delivered "7 rings" by Ariana Grande. Later in the show Chaeyoung performed "My Guitar" solo on the stage while Jihyo performed "Nightmare" (a song from her forthcoming solo album) while Jeongyeon paid tribute to Lizzo with a spirited cover of "Juice" where she ended it performing a recorder in lieu of a flute and the final solo song "POP!" was performed by Nayeon from her 2002 solo EP IM NAYEON. The solo performances allowed each member a moment to shine while providing their interpretation of a pop classic. TWICE has performed in America before, but this time, it simultaneously felt grander and more intimate as the nine members started a fire early and it was impossible to extinguish.

TWICE ended the show with a spinning wheel of songs that decided which songs would close out the show. For the first night in Chicago, "Candy Pop," a song written specifically for the Japanese market closed out the show. The song does not always get performed but as they drove towards a conclusion at the United Center, the fans carried the song with their shrieks which were impossible to silence. Drunk on the spectacle of it all, I was surrounded by hardcore fans, who just did not sing along to the choruses or songs in English, but the verses and do not think they were going to let the language barrier stop them, they sang along to the Korean songs as well. It's easy to dismiss this music as manufactured or made for unsuspecting masses, but if you had been there to feel the rumble of the floor, the cries and the swelling of your ear drums you would be forced to stand back, take notice and realize that these nine women are checking every box on the list of what makes a great concert. There was non-stop engagement for the entirety of the performance. No one is going to mistake what TWICE does as punk rock or moody, but to see the audience en masse react to their music is an extraordinary sight. I have seen thousands of live performances but this one stood out to me as a symbiotic partnership between the band and their fans.

Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMUSIC Network. His daily writings can be read at The Screen Door. He has seen over 1,000 concerts in his life, has far too many CD's and DVD's. He can be followed on Twitter

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