Seoul (AFP) – Tens of thousands of BTS fans gathered in Seoul on Thursday for the K-pop superstars’ first live concert in South Korea since the start of the pandemic – although Covid rules prevent them from dancing or singing .
The chart-topping septet’s three-concert series – dubbed “Permission to Dance on Stage – Seoul” – kicks off Thursday night at the capital’s Olympic Stadium.
Since BTS last performed for domestic fans in 2019, the group has gone from strength to strength, with three Billboard chart-topping singles and two Grammy nominations.
Hours before the show, onlookers — many dressed in purple sweatshirts, the official color of the BTS fandom — thronged the venue and filled the streets outside with banners of the band.
“It feels like a dream and I still can’t believe it’s my place every time I look at my ticket,” said Heo Min-hee, a 25-year-old office worker from Seoul.
Han Aeng-hee, a 53-year-old fan from Gyeonggi Province, added, “I prayed every morning for a ticket and miraculously got tickets for the first and last concerts.”
“I’m so grateful and can’t wait,” she said.
Tickets for the concerts – 45,000 seats in total – sold out within minutes, despite strict social distancing requirements for BTS fans, known as ARMY.
Singing, chanting, shouting or even standing up are all banned, as South Korea battles a spike in Omicron, with more than 300,000 cases reported Thursday.
“Instead, we’re asking for warm applause to show our support for the artists,” Big Hit Music, the band’s agency, said on its social media platform Weverse.
Before the concert, BTS members expressed concern about the rules but asked for fans’ understanding.
“There’s a certain energy that can be felt in a person’s voice, and I wonder if applause can be enough,” said J-Hope, whose real name is Jung Ho-seok.
His bandmate Kim Tae-hyung, whose stage name is V, added, “We also really want to hear the voices of our ARMY fans, but we are grateful and thankful that we can meet and see your faces.”
Fans were disappointed with the rules but acknowledged the changes were inevitable.
“Even though it’s difficult, I think it’s a necessary change under the current circumstances,” said 28-year-old student Lee Chae-rim.
“At least we can see them,” added Darina, a 24-year-old Russian student who lives in South Korea. “We can sing in our hearts.”
A handful of social media posts showed some fans trying to sell their hard-earned tickets after testing positive for the virus.
Many spectators said they took extra precautions, with some even placing themselves in self-quarantine after obtaining a ticket so as not to test positive and risk missing the big event.
“I didn’t go out to not get Covid,” said 16-year-old Choi Jung-yoon, who stayed home for about a week.
Her friend Jung Da-yeon added, “I wore double masks when I had to go to crowded places.”
The floppy-haired musicians, all in their twenties and often wearing earrings and lipstick, cater to a generation comfortable with genre fluidity.
They are credited with generating billions for the South Korean economy, and their label has seen a surge in profits despite holding fewer concerts during the pandemic.
In 2020, BTS was forced to cancel what was supposed to be their biggest international tour, with almost 40 concerts, although they held a few concerts online.
The band’s first in-person show since the pandemic began took place at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles in November, with a four-night run grossing $33.3 million, according to Billboard.
The first and last performances of “Permission to Dance” will be streamed live online, while Saturday’s concert can be watched in real time in cinemas around the world.
© 2022 AFP