[Interview] 130522 B.A.P Shares 2013 Plans at U.S. Tour Wrap
Billboard sat down with the six-member boy band as they toured America with a rare four-date trek.
There were a lot of things atypical about B.A.P’s U.S. tour.
As a K-pop idol group, the six-member boy band would thrive in an environment similar to performing in their native Korea: technologically-advanced flashy concert stages for shows in the biggest cities. This was the arrangement when they performed at KCON 2012 in Los Angeles and that BIGBANG, 2NE1 and SM Entertainment artists had for their arena shows in New York and L.A.
But things were a little different this time around. With Verizon Wireless and Asian entertainment brand Mnet America behind them, B.A.P embarked on a four-date theatre tour for the Verizon Presents APAHM Concert Tour 2013: B.A.P LIVE ON EARTH.
In the matter of 10 days, the boys hit the usual L.A. and N.Y., but also performed for fans in Washington D.C. and San Francisco. Not only were B.A.P fans treated to the live show, but the tour’s sponsors and the group brought fans a private “high touch” event to each stop where 100 fans were selected to give each B.A.P member a high-five—a popular practice in Asia. According to Mnet America, it was the first high touch event in the U.S. open to the public as similar fan interactions needed to be bought with special packages in the past.
If that sounds like too foreign of a concept for Americans to grasp, well, you should talk to the seven fans Billboard spotted crying after high fiving Bang Yong Guk, Him Chan, Dae Hyun, Young Jae, Jong Up and Zelo (aka B.A.P). But if the reaction seems shocking, the boys themselves were just as shocked as the reaction for their tour.
“There’s a lot more energy and noise than we expected,” vocalist Dae Hyun tells Billboard (via translator) a day before the tour’s final concert. “Everybody — even those in the seated areas — would get up and cheer ‘til the end of the show. We were really excited about the response and didn’t expect it.”
That excitement carried over to the Best Buy Theatre for their New York stop — at times, to a dangerous extent as one female concert goer fainted and needed to be carried out of the general admission pit before the show even began. The crowd moved like an unforgiving sea, squeezing those at the front (some of whom were in line the night before).
Danger aside — for B.A.P, the ultra-enthusiasm translated to a deeper connection with their U.S. fans.
“It seemed like fans were really dancing together with us, rather than just cheering for us” reflects singer/dancer/rapper and major B.A.P visual Himchan (via translator). “That was something that brought the American fans to a different level. They were really dancing along to all of it and we really thought there was more of a connection between our fans in America.”
The group continued to feed that connection by performing their biggest hits, like their three Top 5 World Digital Songs hits including show opener “Warrior” (peaked at No. 5), “Rain Sound” (No. 5) and “One Shot” (No. 3). Plus, the fans got some super-special stages including Dae Hyun and Young Jae’s duet for R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly,” Jong Up and Zelo’s hip-hop-themed dance- and rap-off on “Teach Me How to Dougie” and Bang Yong Guk’s DJ set which led into him and Him Chan performing a blazing, unreleased dance track “Sexy Clap.”
At no fault to B.A.P, the Best Buy Theatre’s boring stage has such bare lighting and prop options that it’s difficult for any act to create a visually-impressive live stage like fellow K-poppers BIGBANG and 2NE1 could for their respective arena shows. But this might have worked to the group’s advantage as it became clear how in-synch the group moved as well as how well prepared they were for any type of stage
But after conquering the elements working against them in America, do they even consider it an important territory? Many K-pop groups first move their focus to other Asian territories (usually Japan first), but with just under a year and a half under their belts and seven song promotions, B.A.P has conquered more than some do in three years and have visited the States.
“America is definitely a place we have a lot of ambitions in,” charismatic leader Bang Yong Guk says (via translator). “One of our biggest goals is to be ranked on the Billboard charts in America. So, in order to achieve that goal, if the opportunity comes to work more out here then they’ll definitely be doing it.”
B.A.P — who is currently studying English, Japanese and other languages — recently hit a major accomplishment when they earned their first No. 1 on Billboard’s World Album Chart in March with the “One Shot” EP. It was quite a fete for a group still considered new to the K-pop scene as established acts like TVXQ!, Super Junior, Wonder Girls and Girls’ Generation topped in the past twelve months.
But by seeing different fans in different parts of the country, B.A.P may find their Billboard dreams come true. The group is currently working on new music while performing tour dates in Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Past singles like “One Shot” and “Warrior” combine different elements of rock, hip-hop, pop and cinematic soundtrack elements. While Bang Yong Guk says fans won’t see as many singles from B.A.P in 2013, they will all be of a similar high quality. “B.A.P is trying really hard to create a diverse type of music,” he explains. “So not only just pop artists, but we would love to have the opportunity to work with jazz artists, hip-hop artists, R&B artists so they can diversify their type of music.”
B.A.P must be doing something right to become a standout group in the saturated K-pop idol field. As the group showed different sides of themselves up-close and personal at their New York stop — despite the very un-K-pop set-up — the show made it clear there’s further potential for B.A.P in America.
“Even though we’re only just six Korean guys, we really feel like this opportunity in America was a real dream come true,” Bang Yong Guk concludes. “So, this has been really exciting for us. We’ll definitely be touring and meeting more fans around the world. We hope to come back to America to have more of those opportunities.”
In fact, if the media and fans’ responses align, B.A.P may not only find more opportunities in the States, but also may have made a major step in convincing other K-pop acts to visit. The stop proved that these acts do not need to sell out an arena—nor be the biggest name in the game—to hold a successful, meaningful, faint-inducing show in the notoriously difficult U.S. market.