아직도 빛나고 있다

Sometimes, I procrastinate on K-pop. Didn’t think it was even possible, but it is. Guess I don’t have to feel too bad about being a lazy blogger now, do I? Hardy har har.

I’ve had the Fuji TV rip of SHINee’s Tokyo concert on my harddrive since this summer (that’s five months, people), but didn’t get around to watching it until tonight. Conveniently, the almost-full-length-but-not-really DVD version of the concert was released a few days ago, but who the heck is going to spend sixty bucks for one DVD that’s playable only on Region 2 machines? Not my lazy North American bum, no way.

Something I’ve come to appreciate through DBSK’s Japanese performances is the caliber of Japanese-produced concert DVDs. They’re always filmed and edited beautifully, and they always make the performers look really, really good. SHINee’s concert footage was filmed and edited just as well as any other Japanese concert recording I’ve seen, but there’s something special about seeing an old, familiar band in an extremely flattering light for the first time. It’s like looking at a polished piece of antique silver.

It’s funny because this concert took place at the end of 2011, which was also the time when I started to get the impression that SHINee had lost all of its past impressiveness. By the end of Lucifer promotions, it was obvious that SHINee had basically driven themselves into the ground. Their live performances had become unpleasant and exhausting to watch, and for a group whose biggest merit was their live performance strength, that’s kind of disheartening. I think that’s probably why I put off watching this concert footage for so long; it killed me already to know that they lipsynched through a good chunk of the concert, and for them to potentially suck while singing the rest of the concert live would probably be too much for me to handle. If their weekly performances of “Lucifer” and “Hello” were any indication, I was probably strapping myself in for a long, bumpy ride.

So imagine my surprise when I finally sat down to watch this concert footage only to find that every note and every dance move was executed perfectly. They were crazy good, guys, to the point where I’m willing to believe that they were just trolling us with their crappy performances on music shows just weeks before. A part of me is always going to believe that the best live performers in K-pop are DBSK, but man, SHINee sure gave them a run for their money.

SHINee has pulled off strong live performances ever since their debut, but it wasn’t until this concert that the group’s performance ability came across as something that was really natural for them. There’s something kind of beautiful about trying really, really hard, and I think that was SHINee’s biggest appeal during their debut. But two years down the road, it’s become apparent that SHINee’s performance skills have become a lot more polished — not in the sense where it’s obvious that they’ve been spending hours in the practice rooms, but in the sense that they’re so comfortable with their own abilities, to the point where it’s obvious that their greatest joy in performing isn’t to impress the audience with their skill or technique or even their stage charisma, but rather to first enjoy the performance for themselves and then letting that joy spread to their audience. You wouldn’t expect that kind of performance attitude from a group that’s only existed for three years, but the sheer maturity in SHINee’s performances speaks for itself.

That said, there was a lot about the organization of this concert that babied SHINee to some extent. I’m still kind of confused as to why SM seems to have adopted this new policy which dictates that no concert shall go without five or six lipsynched songs, regardless of the artists’ actual ability to sing it live. (Even DBSK lipsynched a good few songs during their concert at Yokohama Arena a few days ago, and that’s never, ever, ever happened during DBSK’s Japanese tours before. The eff.) SHINee had more than enough energy to perform every single song in this concert live — they transitioned from “Ready Or Not” straight into “Lucifer” without breaking a sweat — but the fact they lipsynched brings down the total quality of the concert — an undeserved demerit, considering the level of SHINee’s actual abilities. I think SM underestimates what SHINee can handle, and the fact that they’re not huffing and puffing a la DBSK after one high energy song (see: “Somebody To Love” versus “Ready Or Not”/”Lucifer”) should indicate that SHINee can probably take on more than what they’re already being given.

The maturity of SHINee’s performances extend far beyond their years, but there’s something a little strange about seeing these boys (who are still boys in the most literal sense possible) controlling a stage that is a lot bigger than any of them. It’s quite daunting to watch, and sometimes you wonder if they’re here to work or to play. But for SHINee, I guess you could say that it’s both. In many ways, SHINee is a prodigy, and watching them is like watching an eight-year old teach quantum physics at an Ivy League university: awe-inspiring, but worrisome. It’s easy to confuse SHINee’s maturity on the stage with their maturity in real life, and it blows my mind a little whenever I remember that they’re still kids who are barely graduated from their teenage years. And it gives you a sense of protectiveness over these boys — not from the dangers of the world, but from themselves.

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