Apparently, the year 2018 had at least a couple of Girls’ Generation-related curveballs to throw at me. Nobody, myself included, would even think about having Taeyeon do a stop of her ‘S concert tour, given the historical experiences of us trying to get Girls’ Generation here.
So imagine the explosion of hope and euphoria when our dreams and aspirations of finally having a confirmed solo concert stop became a reality.
I was fortunate enough to experience PERSONA last year in Hong Kong, so, together with what I’ve read and watched about the previous stops in Seoul, Hong Kong, and Bangkok, my expectations were pretty high. Here we go again, witnessing one of the best solo acts in KPop gracing the stage and all primed and prepped to give everyone a night to remember.
And this time, it was going to be in my own home soil.
It was funny too, since I was just in Taipei a few months back for Tiffany’s fanmeeting. Here we go again, busting the wallet for yet another concert.
Fast forward to the day. The curious thing about the venue was that it was darned small, compared to the other usual places around Metro Manila, and compared to other KPop concert venues. And it was right in the heart of one of the most dense and busiest areas on northern Metro Manila. Getting a parking slot alone was a chore for me.
What made up for that little hassle was the fact that, for some Divine Intervention, the ticket I managed to snag got me a front row seat. Yep. You saw that right. I got me a frigging front row seat, and almost at the center of all the action as well. Like whoa. I was really muttering loudly, “Is this serious? Like really? We’re seated in the first row? Really?”
Yep. THAT close.
I was immediately blown away. It admittedly took a while for me to calm down after that slap of reality.
The concert started on time. Damn I wish we could have that every single time there’s a performance in the Philippines. There is always this tendency to start things late. In fact, I was a bit worried because the concert here started way later compared to our neighboring countries. To put it into context, we started at 8:00PM local time, which is equivalent to 9:00PM KST. That’s late.
Anyways, all those worries aside, we were about to get a really nice treat. We immediately flooded the New Frontier Theater with our very own version of the Pink Ocean. The first time we were able to fill an entire concert venue with such, as the previous Girls’ Generation appearances in the Philippines were in multi-group concerts. That alone was very special.
The concert started with the band coming, led by pianist Hong So Jin, more popularly known as Hong Ttochi, as the lights dimmed. We were already screaming our heads off while they were setting up, and from where I was sitting, I could see the band giggling and smiling as they prepared to play. Once everything settled down, the entire concert hall blared and burst into an amazing showcase of sounds, videos, and lights, eventually ushering in the first song, “Here I Am”. The stage background video panels opened, and Girls’ Generation’s leader Kim Taeyeon descended onto the stage from high up. And off the bat, we were holding up our blue banners that said “우리이킹 도착했습니다”, or “Our King Has Come”, finally welcoming her into our neck of the woods. Honestly, I couldn’t hear the song very well, as we were all screaming our heads off yet again. Understandable, since this is the first time Philippine SONE got to have a solo concert of any sort from Girls’ Generation. Resplendent in a fiery red outfit and flanked by her backup dancers, she immediately took to the stage like the queen… or in this case king… that she was.
“I Got Love” followed the opening song. I remember my first reaction to this one: “I Got Love, I got dead”. And yep, all the more with the live performance. I got dead once again. Her sitting so majestically like a boss in that hexagonal structure was just so badass for her. There was no extension stage, so all the dance parts were done where she stood. And because we were so loud cheering and screaming, maybe too loud, Taeyeon had to bring her head mic closer to her mouth so that her voice can be a little bit more audible to hear. That last pose in the end of the song further reflected how majestic, how boss-like, and how king-like, Taeyeon is. And mind you, we were just starting.
“Fire” was the third song of the night. The people behind me were already saying that their throats were going dry and aching. I chuckled, remembering my own first concert experience where my throat ran dry by the time the third song came about, all those years ago in 2012 in Bangkok. Now that’s also where and when I got to appreciate the official Girls’ Generation lightstick. In unison, those who were carrying and waving their respective official lightsticks found that they suddenly turned red, in sync with the atmosphere of the song. “Fire” is such a powerful song, with an equally powerful performance. This was quickly followed up by yet another unreleased song, “Love You Like Crazy”. And Taeyeon wowed all of us by doing her mini-trapeze act, swinging in the air a couple of times. We didn’t get the full version of it though, as the venue’s size restricted a lot of things.
We were finally able to catch our breaths and rest a bit afterwards as Taeyeon paused the performances for the first talk portion of the night, or so I thought. This really, and pleasantly, surprised me, as the talks that she gave that night proved to be very memorable, maybe even more memorable than her performances. And this first one actually set the tone for the rest of the concert.
She started off with the usual greetings and questions if we missed her, in which of course we cheered and screamed that we did miss her. But then she threw the curveball that made all the difference in the world for Philippine SONE. She actually said, in Filipino, “Kamusta na kayo, mga beshie?” which literally translated to “How are you, friends? (Or “best friends” since “beshie” is the Filipino gay lingo slang for “best friends”)”. That made every single person in the audience go explode like nuts. She also acknowledged the first banner that we were still raising up until this point. She then went on and acknowledged the presence of the Scary Nun from the Conjuring, Jack Skellington wearing a Santa Claus hat, and that damned scary doll Annabelle in the audience.
And she was just warming up. Literally. After a few more banters, she remarked about the weather, saying that, December in the Philippines, coming from a cold and dry Korea, is so hot and humid that she didn’t have to use any moisturizer. But not to be outdone, she said that maybe it was because of her red-hot outfit that was making the atmosphere warm. Oh, Taengoo-yah.
I think this talk segment went longer than anticipated, simply because of how loud and how long we were cheering and screaming at her. She concluded this segment by saying that she feels much better now that she’s performing in front of us despite all of the things that has happened during the preparations for this Manila stop. She said that she hoped that her feelings at the moment that it was not wrong to decide to come here and perform would be the same feelings she would carry back home after the night was over. And yes, a lot of us were aware of how difficult it was to even get SM to agree to a Manila stop of the ‘S Concert Tour, making this night a whole lot more special for everyone involved. She then ended the first set with yet another amazing performance of “Something New”. I tell you, Taeyeon going from completely professional mode during performances to full dork mode during the talk segment and then back absolutely flawlessly was something that always blows my mind.
After the VCR segment that also showcased the “Up & Down” performance by live band, the second set opened with “Do You Love Me”, another new song. And this was followed up by “Rain”. I really love how much the official lightsticks were coming into play during the concert, changing colors along the way to suit the mood of the song she was performing at the moment. “Rain” is also a favorite of mine, which I oftentimes find myself singing to whenever it literally rains in the place where I was at any particular moment. And of course, since this is another popular song of hers, we were singing to it almost the entire time. But we did mess it up in the end, as we miscued on the long pause in the last few bars of the song leading up to “…dreaming in the rain…” part, much to Taeyeon’s amusement. It was a nice change of pace, going a little slow after that explosive first segment.
After these two songs, she talked to us some more. She commented about not expecting this much love and support from us in the audience. Like dang girl, we waited three years for you to come back. We were cheering back at her, “Beshie! Beshie! Beshie!” in which she finally understood what it meant as “Friend”. And just as a lot of the fans in the audience thought she was going sentimental, they started chanting “Iiyak na yan!”, which meant, “She’s going to cry!”. Of course, she didn’t understand a word since the chant was in Filipino. I, being in the first row, actually tried to explain it to her, screaming in Hangeul what it meant, “울어요! 울어요!” but I failed. She also gave up eventually, just saying to us that she’s sorry but she doesn’t understand. Later on, she would though. She added however that going around the world performing is a very interesting experience, as she was learning the fans’ languages. She also said that it really doesn’t take much to communicate to one another and that even if we spoke different languages, we could still somehow understand each other. But, Taeyeon being Taeyeon, she couldn’t help but make a funny addition to that already sentimental and meaningful thought that it’s all because of the translator backstage. Taeyeon was also amazed as to how much we knew her songs, singing along with her almost the entire way so far. She said that she was getting so much energy from us because we were singing, cheering, and fanchanting at almost every step of the way so far.
She then proceeded with “All Night Long”, another song from her latest Korean album, followed by a very fun performance of “Baram x3”. And we did keep up with her impressions about us being able to go with the flow with her, singing, cheering, and fanchanting. Yep, based on what I’ve seen in the fancams of the previous stops, Philippine SONEs are the loudest and the most energetic bunch thus far. And it seemed that Taeyeon thought so too, as she was pointing her mic to us a lot of times, especially during “Baram x3”. The atmosphere was just so warm and energetic and fun. Normally I would be feeling tired already at this point, but somehow, I felt that it was just getting started.
“Why” came up next, which is yet another personal favorite of mine. I actually found myself acting all silly and dorky, singing and dancing in my seat while trying to wave my lightstick like a complete idiot. But I didn’t care. It was at that point as well that I realized how much fun I was having that night, not a care for the outside world for that span of time I was watching Taeyeon share so much love and happiness. And again, we were singing with her as well, with some of us hitting and others missing the high note part before the dance break. I was really immersing myself at the moment, following the choreography of “Why” while singing along, and of course fanchanting at the top of my lungs, “Kim Taeyeon! Kim Taeyeon! Kim Taeyeon! Kim Taeyeon!” during the dance break part of the song. I simply love “Why.”
She then took another break, cutely running to the backstage to prepare for the next set. This ushered in the introduction of the members of the band and the backup dancers, all while the instrumental version of “Good Thing” was being performed. It was good that everyone in the audience were familiar with the band members, starting off with pianist Hong Ttochi, cheering them on as loudly as we could. I even overheard some people behind me crushing on her. Damn that band was amazing. And the backup dancers were really showing off their moves as well, making us all feeling awed and appreciative of their part in the concert.
After the video segment with the piano version of Something New playing in the background, we slowed things down once more with “One Day”. It was honestly a welcome change of pace once more, making me recall that part in PERSONA back in Hong Kong where we were just chilling as if we were in a jazz lounge or something like that. And actually, there were some thoughts that were also running in my head, making me relate to the song as it communicated some of my personal hopes and dreams towards a certain someone. I remember smiling weakly and tightly and feeling my heart flutter a bit, sensing some degree of hope that indeed, one day I will… one day I will be able to do the things I’ve been wanting to do towards that special someone. Taeyeon, and Girls’ Generation as a whole, do have their ways of making me realize my feelings every now and then.
And furthermore, I couldn’t help but think as well that Taeyeon was also trying to say something through this song. I dunno… maybe I was just being delusional or overthinking things at that moment.
“Gemini” was next. And just like PERSONA, this was another chill moment. I like this pacing in the concert to be honest. It gave us a moment to catch our breaths and recharge our batteries for a bit after all that display of warmth and energy. And for the longest time, there was just something magical about Taeyeon singing ballads and slower songs that always capture me in some manner that was hard to explain, let alone describe.
Anyways, after performing, Taeyeon talked to us some more, saying once more that she was really amazed as to how much energy Philippine SONEs were giving her. Our show of love and support for her in that degree was making the night memorable for her. She said that it felt like the (football) World Cup when we were chanting her name, which I realized we were doing it with such energy and vigor. Of course, we responded by doing so once again, chanting her name, “Kim Tae-yeon! Kim Tae-yeon! Kim Tae-yeon!”. She said that she felt that we would win the World Cup if we all went there and fanchanted the way we were doing that night.
She referred to the weather once again, breaking that sentimental mood. It was the first time she experienced a hot December. And apparently, she did notice that it did rain in Manila on the day she arrived, and even earlier in the day while she was preparing for the concert. It was also in this segment that she made another hilarious comment. She shared to us that she was wondering what does Santa Claus wear when he’s in the Philippines, saying something about if he’s going around in a sleeveless top, going topless, or even wearing a bikini, because it was so hot. Dang, Taeyeon showing her byuntae side there. She did cutely apologize for such random thoughts leading to unnecessary questions, silly girl.
Before going on, she said that since it is December, and that the venue was pretty small, it reminded her of her Christmas concert last year in Seoul. Everything was so intimate and that she could see a lot of the fans’ faces and all, so this Manila stop reminded her so much of that Christmas concert. She then said that she decided to perform a couple of songs from her “This Christmas: Winter Is Coming” album, starting with “Christmas without You”.
Dang it. That made my heart ache once more. Despite the Christmas vibe of the song, it was lonely love song as well. I found myself taking deep breaths in an attempt to expel the negative and painful vibes creeping inside me and just to enjoy the performance for what it was. So, I just sat there, waving my lightstick all glowing beautifully pink to the beat of the song. And this was followed by “I’m All Ears”, yet another sentimental song. If this set wasn’t relaxing enough, barring that previous talk segment when she went all dork, then I don’t know what it. Like I just previously said, it was something subtle, it was something magical. It was soothing, but at the same time caused a little heartache personally. Ah, the things Taeyeon can do to one’s heart.
We had another talk segment right afterwards. Of course, it didn’t help relieve that small pang in my heart when Taeyeon said that these two songs were her favorite from her Christmas album. Yeouch once more. But then she uplifted my spirits once more when she said that SONEs are the funniest people in the world, and that Philippine SONEs are the funniest bunch. She added that she was feeling down because of the cold weather, but tonight, she was much better, feeling so cheery being with us, laughing and just simply being happy. She said something really special, that she was able to talk a lot, be emotional a lot, and laugh the most when she performs, and she was so thankful that we were able to give back a lot of that positive energy and love and support to her. We created this cycle of sincere love and support between and amongst us that made everything just so special.
And then, in true Filipino fashion, a lot of us were again chanting, “Iiyak na yan!”, sensing how sentimental the moment became once more. And of course, that confused her once more, since she still didn’t understand what that meant. However, we were reacting so loud and so long to what she said that she got distracted and totally forgot what to say next. She ended up saying a lot of random things, trying so hard to recall what she was supposed to say. It was such a cute and funny moment watching her trying her hardest to remember, and then eventually giving up. We were just reacting so much to almost everything she was saying that these talk segments really took a lot of time.
“Gravity” was up next. This was yet another new song from her. It felt, at least for me, a bit haunting. It was steadily slow that somehow had this haunting feeling. “Fine” was of course, highly anticipated. Finally, we were treated to that instant-legendary acapella part that showcased Taeyeon’s powerful vocals. Honestly, that sent so much chills and goosebumps when she started singing that part. I mean, I’ve already known how enchanting and how powerful and how overwhelming her vocals can be, but seeing this one that much closer was a totally different experience in a whole new level.
And personally, “Fine” is my favorite, as I can relate so much to the song as well. If I have to rank Taeyeon’s solo releases so far, but limiting it to the promoted or carrier songs, “Fine” is my number one, with “Why” a close second. I mean, that song is just so good in so many ways, from the vocals to the pacing to the melody, to just about everything. And then I further got goosebumps when she was going for the juggernaut at the end of the bridge part with the powerful and high notes. Oh, and even up to this point, the singing, screaming, cheering, and fanchanting were all still on point. I tell you, the energy and the enthusiasm of the Philippine SONEs present were still as high as they were in the beginning.
The last song in this set was “Feel So Fine”. Honestly, I totally lost track at this point, not realizing that this was the last song of the main act, and that the encore was going to be up soon. That was how much I was enjoying the concert thus far. And the upbeat tempo of the song made everyone, yet again, sing along so much. But in a way, I was also hit by the reality as to how fast time quickly passed by. We were almost at the end of this very memorable and precious first experience of a Girls’ Generation-themed solo concert.
The encore performance opened up with “Time Lapse”, my personal B-track favorite. I didn’t even realize that it started playing. But when it did, I instinctively choked. “Time Lapse” was another song that always make me go through some waves of feels. Taeyeon was in this cute white sheer dress with her hair all in a braid belting out yet another emotionally-charged performance of the song. Just like PERSONA once again, I was getting so much chills, but the rest of my emotions were all riding up and down in waves that I really couldn’t describe or even visualize right now.
But the thing was, since the crowd that I was with was more joyful and funnier than my other Girls’ Generation concert experiences, the feeling was a little lighter in mood. Everyone was enjoying the concert, that was for sure. Oh, and it was also at this point that we had the second fan project, raising up the pink banners this time around with the words, “11:11 너는 우리의 오랜 소원 (You’ve been our 11:11 wish)”. Which was true. A lot of people in the Philippines have been wishing for the longest time to have a solo concert, and right now it was all unfolding before our very eyes. Those in the balcony formed a mosaic that said “KTY” flanked all around by hearts and a crown. At first there was so much difficulty doing it, which was understandable since it was the first time we tried doing a message mosaic.
She talked to us once again afterwards, where she first acknowledged the 11:11 wish banner. And we took the opportunity to show a small sign to her that said that we have prepared a special banner for her. I was pointing to the girls sitting next to me and then one went up to hand her the special banner that said “PH SONE HERE I AM” with some instructions for her at the back. At first she didn’t know what to do because she didn’t notice the instructions, and she was also trying to figure out what the message mosaic actually said. She took some moments to go up the stairs at the rear end of the stage in an attempt to get a better look of the message. It was all so hilarious and cute to watch her and finally getting the message.
What was also cuter was her reaction when she finally noticed the instructions on the back of her special banner. That’s when she realized that her banner was different as well. She was so cute saying “Mahal ko kayo”, which she also knew it meant, “사랑해” or “I love you”. Also, she was also so cute wondering how in the world we knew that we were going to take pictures, in which we did. A cameraman quickly ran up the stairs at the rear portion of the stage while Taeyeon posed with her special banner with all of us in the audience filling the background, still holding up our pink banners. A couple more stuffs were also brought to her, starting with a copy of the blue and pink banners that we were holding ourselves, in which Taeyeon said it was her souvenir from us. And dang it, she was so cute saying “Thank you” and “고마워”. The next were a Jack Skellington toy and a photobook with a collection of messages from SONE, in which she read a couple of them out loud.
And at that point, the audience was again chanting, “Iiyak na yan!”, in which Taeyeon finally got what it meant and responded that we wanted her to cry from way back and that if we wanted her to cry, then this wasn’t the way to do it, much to everyone’s laughter. She then said that she was feeling a bit sad that she knew that this was coming to an end, but if we call on her again, and if we do it loud and hard enough, then she’ll come back. What made that statement more precious was when she said, “Magkita tayo ulit (Let’s see each other again)”.
“Circus” was the penultimate song of the night. In the center of that stage, Taeyeon was literally glowing, basking in all the love and attention as she sang for us. But she made this particular performance more special, as this was the part where she was hoisted up in the air once more, this time while sitting down on a specially-designed seat, looking all the more majestic and awesome.
And finally, in a long shower of white perfumed confetti, the chanting of her last song of the night, “I”, prompted us to sing along as well, giving her the cue to start a couple of bars later. Of course, everyone knew and appreciated the sentimental and monumental value of “I”, as this was the song that started everything for her solo career. At this point, I was sure that everyone was giving their all, and whatever was left in their tanks that night, giving Taeyeon all the love and support and cheer that she rightfully deserved.
And afterwards, that was it.
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. And over and over again I have been saying this. That was when all the aches and pains started the come to me. Two hours just went by, just like that. 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 on top of that, I was also happy for my fellow Philippine SONEs. Finally, we got to experience our own Pink Ocean. We got to experience an entire concert with Girls’ Generation, even if it was only Taeyeon. But most especially, I am very happy for my fellow Philippine SONEs who got to see their favorite idols for the first time. And furthermore, I knew how difficult it was to get this Manila stop for the ‘S Concert Tour. There were so many challenges and so many issues and problems hounding this one from start to finish, and I am very thankful that we were all able to get together and get this done.
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 twelfth 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. The events that unfolded during the course of the night were all nothing short of amazing, as expected. But Taeyeon took it a step further, a notch higher, a degree better, and everything else in between, making it into something that only she and the PH SONE present that night would understand. I never realized that Taeyeon had such an ability to do so.
And yes, from now on, Taeyeon is the "Pambansang Beshie (National Best Friend)" of the Philippines. And Philippine SONE would also be remembered for being the funniest bunch of SONEs there is right now. These are things would forever be cherished between her and Philippine SONEs. And I daresay no one would ever take that away from us.
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.
That's me at the end of the concert. As usual, exhausted as heck, but very happy, in so many levels.