June 11, 2017. AsiaWorld-Expo Hall 10, Hong Kong.
It has been two years since Phantasia in Seoul. And since that time it has honestly been a rollercoaster ride for me in real life that I ended up badly needing another chance to get away from it all, and to be with the one thing that makes me happy in so many different ways.
Taeyeon’s 1st Asia Tour. PERSONA in Hong Kong.
It was a little bit special in the sense that I wasn’t able to get tickets the first two rounds of it. And then one day I got mentioned on Twitter that there were additional seats made available. I immediately grabbed the chance, and well, third time was indeed the charm. Next thing I knew, I was furiously planning my trip to a place where, like Bangkok and Seoul, I’ve never been to before. It’s funny how it only takes a Girls’ Generation event to make me travel to new places. I know. It’s insane. It’s crazy. But I still did.
I knew that this was going to be so different from the previous Girls’ Generation concerts that I’ve been to because this was Taeyeon’s own solo concert. She was a singer first and foremost, and the songs that she has released through the two years that she had solo promotions were different from Girls’ Generation in so many different ways. But still, as leader of my beloved girl group, there were still similar vibes and feelings that made this just as special.
Fastforward to the day itself. I arrived at AsiaWorld-Expo not really knowing what to expect. I was initially walking around and seeing mostly people young enough to be my students. I felt really old to be there that for a moment or two I asked myself what was I doing there. But shaking it off, I thought that I needed to be there. I needed to show Taeyeon, at least, that even after so long, she still has my love and support.
That's how close I was seated. Unfortunately, because of my height, that really didn't help much later on when the concert began.
When they started letting us in, I had to pinch myself several times, just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Yes. I was finally inside, and all the feelings that I always had whenever I’m in a Girls’ Generation concert started swelling up inside once again. Yes. This was it. PERSONA was upon all of us.
The lights dimmed, and the famous and fabled Pink Ocean for the umpteenth time flooded the concert hall, echoed by the screams and cheers of thousands of SONEs eager to meet Taeyeon and show all the love that she deserves. And after the opening vignette, she burst into the scene, powerfully starting off with the very short version “U R” that immediately brought tears to my eyes. Not only did her immediate presence shook me to the core, but the song itself is actually one of my favorites. I was screaming my lungs out and singing my throat out, as if I was singing the lyrics back to her.
Well, because she was as she sang it. And until now, as I write this account, I’m still bursting into tears recalling even just that opening moment. The stage where she stood made her look all the more majestic, like the queen that she deserves to be.
She then proceeded to “Feel So Fine”. All of us were singing and fanchanting with her with all the strength and energy that we could muster, and it made for such a very magical start. And as Taeyeon was climbing down the stage, it really dawned on me that she was really there. I could see already how happy she was, feeding off all that energy and electricity that she was seeing and feeling from all of us. And that made me very happy as well, seeing her happy.
And that cycle of love and support only continued with “I” as she started walking to the extended stage. I personally love “I”. And I was actually singing to it for the most part in my days in Hong Kong leading up to this night, building up the excitement and the hype. And she became much more majestic when she was being raised up the platform on the extended stage during “Make Me Love You”. And of course, we were all fanchanting back, asking Taeyeon to make us kiss her, touch her, want her, love her.
The next thing I knew, my throat was already hurting like hell. And we were just getting started.
Fortunately, after that, Taeyeon took some time to talk to us. But that didn’t stop us from cheering her on. It was actually funny to cheer on her on even as simple as her picking up a water bottle and taking a couple of sips. But this was her moment to be all funny and dorky once more, despite how glamorous she looked in that hot white dress with black trimmings. And she couldn’t stop laughing as well whenever a fan or two managed to scream something audible to her. And we loved her for it. What was really contrasting about her at that moment as well was that her face looked so dorky when she was asking us “Are you ready?”, all while rocking that glamorous dress.
“Fire” came in next, ushering the first of our many prepared fan events. Us in the nearer blocks had red lightsticks ready while those in the raised blocks had yellow ones, creating an awesome sea of fire for her to marvel on as she sang.
The next few minutes afforded us some moments of rest as a video of her singing “My Funny Valentine” was being played, bringing the first set to a close and ushering in the next set. I briefly felt the exhaustion already creeping in, but I knew that we still had a long way to go. As always, I couldn’t let myself drop dead. That would be a huge disservice to Taeyeon.
She opened the next set with “I Got Love”. Hot dang, she transformed from a glamorous white angel to a fierce lady all clad in sexy black. Man, she really knew how to soften people up during the first set, and then set them up for the knock down at the start of the second set. At least that’s how I felt. And it was an extended version of “I Got Love” since it included an amazingly hot dance performance with her backup dancers.
Here’s the thing, since I was so carried away, I honestly didn’t notice the “**** you” moment that people were talking about during “I’m OK”. Going back to the fancams, that’s when I saw it. Well, I was on the other side of the stage from where Taeyeon was during that moment when she even flipped the finger. Oh well, I honestly find it not such a big deal since it was all for pure performance. Anyways, she continued that bad-ass attitude with “Eraser”, accentuated further by those metallic bar-like wall partition-thingies that the backup dancers were rolling around the stage.
“Sweet Love” was next, making things mellow down a bit from the bad-ass-ity of “I’m OK” and “Eraser”. I was amazed. I already knew that Taeyeon was very versatile, but this concert was really showcasing how much versatility she can afford to have. “Sweet Love” was a such a jamming-like song, making me flow with it. But still, how can someone with such a small and fragile-looking body can belt out such powerful tunes with such amazing vocals? Kim Taeyeon was certainly it.
And the jamming session continued with “Gemini” and “Lonely Night”. Holy mother in the high heavens she was making me just flow along, like being carried away quietly and sweetly with such little effort. I think this was the kind of performance that Taeyeon wanted to do. The woman just wants to sing, and this was certainly her comfort zone. This was certainly her own stage. I tell you, “Sweet Love”, “Gemini”, and “Lonely Night” all felt like I was in pub, drink in hand, watching this amazing woman doing a quiet jamming session.
Afterwards came the second talk, making me snap out of my relaxed state. This was probably and arguably one of the biggest highlights of the night. At first, she was asking us what was that thing we did during her performance of “Fire”. We started shouting “Fire”, but she didn’t understand it at first. It took a few minutes for her to finally get it. It was just so funny watching her finally getting it, saying sorry for not getting it along the way. Taeyeon then went on doing some cutesy stuff, doing different heart poses and blowing kisses. Of course, we all went crazy for it. What made it funnier was that she was learning on the spot how to say it all in Cantonese, stumbling along the way.
As she was reading some of the fan signs being held up for her to see, she came across one that floored me. After she read out loud, “You are ****ing awesome”, and cutely reacting to it, she then replied out loud, “Yeah, you guys are ****ing awesome too”. And that made the entire hall explode with cheers and laughter.
There was no “Hwi Jae” in Hong Kong, so she went straight to “Love in Color”. Everything became calm and quiet once more. I was constantly reminded as to how amazing her vocals really was. And that continued on to “Rain”. I really love this version of the song, slowly starting it off with such sweet piano sounds, and then progressing to the original version. Oh, and this also ushered in the second fan event. We broke out our purple lightsticks this time, creating a soft purple ocean for her in which Taeyeon thought we were mimicking soft raindrops. And what made this performance more amazing was that we were all singing along, “Dururururu-doo-doo… Dururururu-roo-roo!” over and over again, prompting her to say “Thank you” and “Good job, SONE” afterwards.
She did a short talk again afterwards, saying that we did an amazing job so far with the fanlights, and then proceeded with “I Blame on You”. The transition to this powerful and dramatic vibe left me in pieces for the bajillionth time that night. I swear, whoever decided on this sequence of songs deserves a medal. I know I said it before, but that night just made me forget everything else. For the first time in two years since Phantasia, I let myself go and just go along with the flow.
After another video segment, “Cover Up” came up next to start the third set. This was actually the most upbeat and energetic set of all. From the get-go, we were again up on our feet, waving our lightsticks like nuts and singing and fanchanting like crazy once again. It was pretty hard for me to keep up to be honest, since I’m a shortie, and I’m an oldie compared to most of the people in the audience. I was getting really tired at that point, but I really tried my hardest to feed off the energy that was being generated.
Oh, and did I mention that Taeyeon looked so cute in those pigtails and denims? And that part with the hula hoops just added to the cuteness. And dang it, making us all go jumping towards the end just upped the energy all the more. And without missing a beat, she quickly proceeded to “Hands on Me”.
If the previous set made me all relaxed and just go jamming, this set was designed to make everyone to simply have fun. And that vibe continued with “Stress”. I found myself with renewed strength, getting my second, third, fourth, wind, especially when Taeyeon took off her denim jacket. So despite me not seeing her clearly on stage because everyone was on their feet, I was enjoying myself with renewed enthusiasm. And darn it, for the nth time, she knocked us dead when she cutely stuck her butt out and then cutely ran backstage.
Fortunately, she let us rest and recover at the start of the fourth set. Dressed in a sexy knitted white top and white pants, she opened with “When I Was Young”, and then followed with “Secret”. Personally, these two songs touched me a lot, since I could relate so much to the lyrics and the messages these two songs convey, amplified by how the stage lighting made Taeyeon look and sound so angelic. I ended up in pieces and in tears once more. At that point, I was reminded as to how much I can relate to her. Out of all the members of Girls’ Generation, it is actually Taeyeon with whom I share the most similarities with. And seeing her perform these two songs in particular made me end up with such a huge lump in my throat and an indescribable feeling in my heart that made me cry once more.
And then Taeyeon talked with us some more. I can understand some, but it was still unfortunate that my Hangeul wasn’t really up to par enough to keep up with what she was saying. And my Cantonese was actually down to zero. There were some awkward moments, but it was still a very enjoyable talk segment.
“11:11” and “Why” came up next. People were talking raves about how these combined together produced a beautiful performance. And yes, they were right. I absolutely loved how Taeyeon and her live band was able to seamlessly combine the two. She started softly and calmly with “11:11”, but that didn’t stop us from singing along, especially on the “Nanananana-nanana…” part. That guitar accompaniment was really a nice touch. I’m happy that decided to do a live band accompaniment for this concert. It’s actually a very refreshing feeling compared to the other KPop concerts I’ve been to. And “Why” was such an overwhelming feeling for me, especially during the parts where we sang along, and then towards the end when I was screaming my tired lungs and ravaged throat out “Kim Taeyeon! Kim Taeyeon! Kim Taeyeon!” over and over again. I actually love “Why” as well. To be honest, I remember loving it so much that I was practicing the choreography to it several times, trying to get it right.
The encore set opened with “Fine”. Dressed glamorously yet again, this time in gold, she belted out “Fine” with as much emotion as she could. If anyone has any doubts as to Taeyeon’s vocals, they can go shove those doubts down the drain once they witness her performing “Fine” live. And after a short talk, she continued on with “Time Lapse”. I’ve seen previous fancams of it before, and it had such a chilling effect on me. Seeing it live amplified that feeling. It was such a beautiful and, for the nth time, an overwhelming experience witnessing the magic unfold in front of my eyes as she performed “Time Lapse”. At that point, words failed me. I couldn’t describe it. I couldn’t think of the words to describe what I felt, letting myself get lost once again in the song. The only thing I was conscious about was me crying again. The rest was really abstract to me I couldn’t really describe it.
And Taeyeon was really laying it all out on that stage in front of us.
The concert came to its conclusion with “Curtain Call”. Man, time just went by, and we were at the end of it. And we did our final fan event for the night for her, raising our purple banners that showed, “너는 나의 후회없는 청춘이다”, which meant “You Are My Regretless Youth”. Indeed, Taeyeon has become our regretless youth. Getting to know Kim Taeyeon made me realize how much she is the embodiment of a fountain of youth. Despite her growing old through the years, she kept herself young, and kept me young as well. All the antics, all the dorkiness, all the cuteness, all that energy, all the love, all the enthusiasm, all coming from our inspiring Kid Leader, our adorable House Fairy, our lovable Paper Human.
And honestly, me emulating her? I never regretted it. Not a single moment. I learned so much from her. Like I said, out of the members of Girls’ Generation, it’s Kim Taeyeon who I can relate to the most. And that video at the end, showing the different sides to Taeyeon, that made PERSONA all the more meaningful. Tonight was the night where I bore witness to the different personas of Kim Taeyeon that she longed to show to the world. And I was grateful for it.
But of course, the concert was over, but the night wasn’t. We waited for several long minutes, even singing and fanchanting to “Lion Heart” being played over the speakers of the hall. I honestly wasn’t sure if there was still something else at that point, so imagine my thankfulness and gratitude when she appeared once more, looking so adorably cute in that black PERSONA shirt and denim shorts studded with even cuter pin badges. She spent like five more minutes, thanking everyone and giving all of us SONEs hope that a Girls’ Generation comeback was near.
That second encore, just spending the time just talking to us, was so precious. I was so thankful I got to experience it, even if I didn’t understand half of it. I knew she was tired as well, but she going out and spending just a bit more time talking to us was a really, really, really precious thing. And ending it by saying, “Goodbye, I love you, and please take care going home” made it all the more precious.
As always, at the end of it all, I feel a little bit conflicted. A little over three hours still felt short, but at the same time, I didn't want to be too greedy. I wanted her to take her much-deserved rest after all that touring, as this was the last stop for PERSONA.
And as always, after the concert, I was all drained out. It has always been like that. That was when all the aches and pains started the come to me. And after the concert was another one hour bus ride to get home. At the end of it all, I was exhausted and all worn out from the concert, leaving everything on the stage for her.
I also felt very thankful, as always. I honestly don't know what I did to deserve such multiple opportunities see and cheer for Girls' Generation, live and alive, in the flesh. I am forever thankful and grateful for all the chances that I got so far to be a part of the Pink Ocean.
And as I write this, there is always that realization that makes me a little sad. Despite all of these efforts, living through with the fact that I am just another nameless and faceless SONE filling up the Pink Ocean still left something missing. But what makes me go on doing this is the thought that as long as I give my all to the Girls, then I should not have any regrets whatsoever.
Being there yet again, seeing Girls' Generation for the eighth time in this lifetime, it didn't feel old. Just different, making me grow that much older and more mature as a SONE. In that special corner of my mind and my heart, in my own little way, I love them.
But still, the bottom line still seems to be, as always, with great confidence, I can say, "I love you, Girls' Generation... and I always will... 'till the day I die."
And just like I said in Phantasia, I am one with you girls in saying, "언제까지라도 함께 하는거야 다시 만난 나의 세계 (It's something we'll do together to the end, into the new world.)."
And that, I promise.
And yes, that's me at the beginning holding up our banners for the last part "Curtain Call"