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EXO Make Dreams Come True For Enthusiastic Fans In Chicago

By Leah Westbrook | February 22, 2016 01:16 AM EST

One of the biggest dreams any K-Pop fan has is being able to see their ultimate bias group in person. For international fans, this isn't a dream that often comes true, but when it does, it's an experience that will long be remembered.

For fans of SM Entertainment's internationally beloved boy group, EXO, that dream came true Friday night, at the Rosemont Theater in Chicago, Illinois.

Flocking to Chicago from around the world, fans braved the city's less-than-favorable weather to gather outside the theater hours before the 8pm showtime. Huddling in groups in a desperate attempt to block out the wind and cold, half-frozen EXO-Ls spent the long hours before showtime chatting and laughing, squealing and dancing, their ever-building excitement seeming to make them impervious to the weather. As the hours ticked by, the line slowly wrapped its way around the building as more and more fans gathered for this most momentous of occasions.

By the time the doors opened, the energy surrounding the Rosemont Theater was palpable, an electric charge that filled the air. Funneling that energy indoors, the theater came to life as nearly 4,000 packed themselves into the auditorium. As seats filled, the room buzzed with excitement as the reality of this once-in-a-lifetime moment hit fans hard. Squeals and laughter, shouts and cheers filled the theater as the clock slowly counted down the minutes to showtime.

When the house lights finally dimmed, thousands of fans jumped to their feet, their thunderous cries of joy ringing so loudly you could feel it rumbling in your chest. If EXO was at all unsure about the enthusiasm of their North American fans, it had to have been gone in that moment as there's no doubt they felt that wave of love hit them backstage.

Opening the evening with an awe-inspiring video projected onto a screen that filled the entire stage, each member of the group was dramatically introduced to the audience, each new face garnering a wild surge of cheers. As the video drew to a close, the screen parted and the already ecstatic crowd lost all grip on reality as 8 familiar silhouettes came into view.

Met with a wild roar of welcome, EXO kicked off the evening with an impressive, pyrotechnic-filled, 3-song set that included "Overdose," "History," and "MAMA." Completely unable to contain their excitement, the audience sang and danced and cheered their way through the set, many of them still unable to grasp that what they were experiencing was actually real.

It wasn't until the group stopped to make a quick introduction that the reality of the evening began to sink in. EXO was there, on-stage, not more than a few feet away, talking and smiling and waving to fans so emotionally overwhelmed tears and cheers were the only response.

Encouraged by such a warm welcome, EXO moved into an enthusiastic 4-song set that included "Don't Go," "Playboy," "Baby Don't Cry" and "My Answer." With Baekhyun at the piano, he, Suho and D.O wooed every woman in the crowd with their tender voices and perfect harmonies. As the last sweet tones of the piano faded so did the lights and the crowd went wild, their love for EXO so palpable it almost took your breath away.

Touched by such sweetness, the audience was perfectly primed for the second video of the evening, a fun work of genius which allowed the audience to imagine themselves interacting with the 9 members of EXO in ways one could only imagine in their wildest of dreams. Finding themselves the object of each members' affection, the audience squealed, laughed and cheered their way through the video, the appearance of a new member always bringing with it a tumultuous roar of affection.

Returning to the stage for a heart-stopping 3-song set that included "The Star," "EXODUS" and "Hurt," EXO left the audience clamoring for more as they disappeared into the darkness for one of the many wardrobe changes of the evening.

The third video of the evening portrayed the 9 members of EXO as coffee-making elves. A hilarious mixture of slap-stick comedy and adorableness, this video had the audience rolling with laughter as they watched their biases reinvent the art of coffee-making. Though no official poll was taken, it's safe to say the majority of people in the audience were wishing their morning coffee could always be hand-made by EXO elves.

Returning to the stage as the life-sized reincarnation of their elvish coffee-making selves, EXO went into one of the most memorable sets of the evening. Starting the set off with "Peter Pan" and "XOXO" the group had an unexpected surprise for their beloved EXO-Ls. As the set moved into "Lucky" the boys stepped behind a giant paper screen and began tossing clothes around as they changed outfits on-stage. Popping their heads up from behind the screen as they sang, the boys teased the crowd with clever back-lighting and a brief glimpse of bare shoulder from Kai, much to the delight of the audience. With the wardrobe change over, the boys burst through the paper and went straight into "3.6.5." while the audience squealed and cheered and sang along.

Taking a moment to interact with their fans, EXO talked about their experiences in Chicago: the beauty of Millennium Park, their love of Michael Jordan and the Bulls, their disbelief that a pizza could actually be that enormous, how much they loved the city. In short, they said everything a proud Chicagoan would ever want to hear and it made every native heart in the crowd swell as they boy's praised their beloved city. Naturally, any talk about Chicago leads to talking about the weather, particularly the cold winters which made for a smooth segue into the next set of songs.

Treating the audience to a rare Christmas in February celebration, EXO warmed the hearts of everyone in the building with a beautiful performance of "Christmas Day," "First Snow." As the other members disappeared behind the screen, Baekhyun, Chen and D.O took center stage to treat fans to a heart-stopping performance of "Miracles in December." For an audience whose majority have spent the past 2 months dreaming of the days when winter's chill becomes nothing more than a distant memory, this set was a pleasant reminder that winter isn't always bad, especially if 8 incredibly talented young men want to serenade you with a trio of Christmas songs.

This rush of warm-fuzzies was followed up by another hilarious video in which the 9 members of EXO were all snuggled together in one giant bed. Dreaming of who knows what, the boys somehow managed to pick on each other in their sleep and once again the audience was rolling as they watched their biases be nothing short of ridiculously cute and silly.

Done with the cute, Chanyeol and Xiumin were the first to return to the stage with a duo performance designed for a single purpose: to get the audience hyped. With an audience so much in love it was easy to get the crowd to participate and the room shook with the audience's response. Joined by Sehun, the trio had the crowd jumping with "Full Moon" as the remaining members filtered on-stage to join in the fun. Keeping the momentum going the boys went right into "Machine" and the crowd went harder. As the energy in the room continued to climb the boys of EXO seemed to feed of the audience's energy, throwing themselves into their performance as the audience cheered them on. From there Chanyeol took on the role of the club DJ and the boys proceeded to turn the evening into an all-out rave with a performance of "Drop That," "Let Out the Beast," and "Run" that brought down the house.

With an audience blissed out of the minds, the boys disappeared once again, giving their breathless fans a moment to recuperate as they watched yet another video. Focused more on action, power and strength, this video had a very similar feel to the opening video, an eye-catching yet subtle reminder that things were slowly but steadily drawing to a close.

Returning to the stage for their final set, EXO wrapped up the evening with "Call Me Baby," "Growl," and "Love Me Right," taking a quick break in-between to thank their Chicago fans for being so wonderful and for making the evening one they'll never forget. Much to the dismay of everyone in the room, the show came to a close and EXO disappeared once again, waving goodbye as the stage lights dimmed.

However, every K-Pop fan knows the "end" of a concert is never really the end. A few desperate minutes of pleading for an encore from the audience brought an emotional farewell video so moving, only the stoutest of souls remained untouched.

Returning to the stage one last time, EXO comforted their fans with a rendition of "Sing For You" so beautiful it caused more than a few hearts to flutter. Giving fans a chance to still their hearts and dry their eyes, each member of the group got to say their last farewells. They talked about the memories they'd made while in Chicago, told funny stories about their adventures in the city, they thanked their fans for all of the love and support they'd given so generously throughout the years. Closing out the evening Suho asked for a group picture to commemorate this once-in-a-lifetime meeting and then asked for the house lights to remain on so he and the rest of the members could see the faces of their fans and remember them. With smiles and waves and a whole lot of fan-service, the boys wrapped up the evening with "Unfair" and with a final good-bye, EXO disappeared into the darkness for the last time.

With hearts overflowing with emotions too strong to express with words, many fans walked out of the theater that night with tears in their eyes. But these were good tears, the kind of tears you cry when you're so happy you feel like you've just spent the past 2.5 hours in a single, perfect dream. And really, that's what this concert was, a beautiful dream come true, not just for the fans but for EXO as well. It was a night full of excitement, laughter, joy and love. A love expressed not with words but with singing and dancing, applause and cheers, a love of music that transcends all boundaries of culture and language, a love so strong it touched the hearts of artists and fans alike. In short, it was a night that will live on in the dreams of many for a very, very long time.

Tagged :  EXO, EXO PLANET EXO PLANET #2 - The EXO'luXion, Chicago, concert, Recap

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