K-pop group BTS set Chicago on fire earlier this month at the United Center with their “Love Yourself” tour. The world tour, named after their album trilogy (Love Yourself: Her, Tear and Answer), is a continuum of their message urging fans to love themselves.
One thing was certain all throughout the concert: If BTS fans (also known as the ARMY) didn’t love themselves, they most certainly loved BTS.
Two hours before the concert started, screams and fan chants already filled the hall. Some of BTS’ most popular music videos were playing on the two big screens on each side of the stage, and Army Bombs were glowing and moving up and down to the beat — Army Bombs are what BTS call their Bluetooth-controlled light sticks which are typical of K-pop groups. Fans waited desperately to see the boys, but they were perfectly content sitting and enjoying the music with fellow ARMY members.
The crowd went wild with anticipation as the clock struck eight, and the last music video played before BTS took the stage. In the center of the stage, BTS’ logo — a shield — began to glow and split apart down the middle. The shield continued to split and became smaller as dramatic music played, teasing the audience. The final shield split apart and the seven boys were finally revealed, their appearance marked by fire effects bursting from either side of the stage.
BTS members RM, Suga, Jin, Jhope, Jungkook, V and Jimin all stood in a straight line, letting the audience scream and soak in their presence before jumping into choreography. They started with their newest song “IDOL” from their most recent album Love Yourself: Answer.
The crowd’s already-intense energy was further egged on by the rapidly changing background design behind the boys, the occasional bursting of flames and the big screen showing one of the boys perfectly executing a dance. The Army Bomb’s color changed to involve the audience in their performance.
BTS sang some of their older songs, including “Save Me,” “I Need U” and “Run,” striking a nostalgic chord in the audience while also showing how far they have come with newer tracks such as the Latin-inspired “Airplane PT.2” and choreo-filled “Mic Drop.”
It’s obvious these boys are talented: They do intense choreography while singing and rapping live and sound great doing it. The vocal line shined during “The Truth Untold,” the rap line hyped up the crowd with “Outro: Tear” and their dance skills were on full display while performing “FAKE LOVE.”
The setlist included a total of 27 songs, seven of which were solos for each member. Each solo had a different feeling: Jhope’s solo “Just Dance” brought an energy and brightness to the crowd that characterizes the member, while V’s “Singularity” was a seductive and aesthetic performance featuring mysterious choreography with props like a coat rack, masks and a flower.
While all the solos brought each member’s special charm, one of the night’s most beautiful moments was thanks to Jin’s solo “Epiphany.” With a building tempo that had the crowd fully engaged, this is one of the group’s many songs that encourage fans to love themselves. Although the song — like all of BTS’ music — is mostly in Korean, the crowd sang along the entire time. When Jin reached the chorus, fans made their collective voices roar with the line “I’m the one I should love in this world.” Nearly 24,000 people of all age, race, ethnicity and gender were brought together by BTS to sing about self-love.
The concert concluded with “Answer: Love Myself,” an uplifting song where BTS finds that the answer is to love themselves. After the track ended, BTS gave their final speeches. RM, the group’s leader, highlighted the diversity of the fans, comparing it to his visit to the Shedd Aquarium.
“I saw a lot of various big, small, beautiful fish in the same [tank] and you know it made me think of us," he said. "There was a shark, there was Nemo, there was some fish I don’t know, but they were swimming together in the same [tank] and you know now I can see a father and a son, I can see mother and daughter, I can see grandfather, I see grandmother… I see many various kinds of faces of ARMY in Chicago… we’re in the same aquarium which is filled with love.”
It was a sweet ending to a great concert put on by talented people who encouraged everyone — no matter who they were — to love themselves.