I’ve made it no secret that I’m a huge K-pop fan after having got into it in January 2017. But given the fact that it isn’t mainstream popular in the UK, I never thought I’d get to see the artists or groups I like perform live. Luckily, I was wrong.
A few months ago, I saw Hyolyn, formerly of SISTAR, post on Twitter about a European tour and quickly found out she actually had a London date. Tickets were cheap, just £30 for the standard ones, and it was just a few away. I don’t have many – if any – friends that are fans of K-pop, but I was determined to go, even if it meant going alone. But I bought two tickets anyway, deciding I’d just give the other to any friend that was free that night.
The night came and I was excited, but not as excited as I could or should have been. Given the two-hour set time, I was worried it would drag. I only actually knew four of Hyolyn’s songs and a few from SISTAR. But the songs of hers I do know I love. I listed SEE SEA on my Top 10 K-pop releases of 2018, with Dally as a notable mention. It’s safe to say I was going just to see Dally performed live and I was completely fine with paying the £30 just for that.
But the entire concert was incredible. It didn’t drag. In fact it got halfway through and I couldn’t believe how quickly the time had gone. We’d got in around half an hour after doors opened and were fairly close to the stage. Those who had VIP or early entry tickets were obviously closer, but the view was still fine. I couldn’t see the split section in the Dally routine, but so many people were recording on their phones I could use them as screens to see what was happening.
Hyolyn interacted with the UK crowd as best as she could, though used a translator for some of it. It didn’t take away from the experience, in fact it made it more personable and made Hyolyn more endearing. The crowd ate every bit of her up. My friend commented that she’d never been to a concert with so much cheering. Given the language barrier, there wasn’t a lot of singing along – apart from with Dally, SEE SEA, BAE etc. There wasn’t a lot of movement or dancing either, the crowd were just taking everything in. The thing I found stranger than anything though, was that so many people spent the vast majority of the time recording the gig on their phones. I definitely took a few photos and videos, but so many people just stood with their phones up filming everything. It didn’t take away from the atmosphere though.
The set list featured new and old songs, including an as-yet unreleased track that I forget the name of now. But the crowd was definitely the most excited for SEE SEA, Dally, BAE and the SISTAR medley. Hyolyn took requests from the crowd for short a capella performances, which included my favourite SISTAR song, I Like That. The venue, Electric Ballroom in Camden, London, was big enough but not too big. It still felt quite intimate.
Hyolyn had a DJ and two dancers on stage with her. And those dancers never stopped. They got their moments just as much as Hyolyn and they really added to the experience. There were a few outfit changes between very short intervals. And the encore included a second performance of SEE SEA. And then it was over.
Afterwards, my mood was electric. I couldn’t – and still can’t – believe I’d got to see a K-pop artist I love perform live without having to go to South Korea. My friend was a convert too, seriously impressed by Hyolyn and her vocals, stage presence, everything.
My favourite K-pop group BLACKPINK announced UK dates earlier this year too, and knowing how much I enjoyed Hyolyn, I’m not sure my body will be able to take seeing BP live.
Below is the rough set list from TRUE, Hyolyn’s 1st Solo Concert.