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EXO Bring Fans Back To The Heyday Of American Boy Bands With Their EXO'luXion Tour

By Annie Sidou | February 29, 2016 08:59 PM EST

Entering the Prudential Center last Sunday evening to see K-pop superstars EXO, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia. It was a weird reaction to have considering I had never before seen the group live and that they have only been around for a few years.

All the same, the surroundings were very familiar: I was unmistakably there to see a boy band.

Anxious teenage girls filed excitedly into the venue in droves, clutching handmade signs and screeching with glee. Some were chaperoned by less enthusiastic parents and others turned out en masse with similarly bedazzled groups of friends. Despite having waited for hours outside the venue, many since the early morning, the crowd had only smiles, eagerly lining up again to get overpriced (but oh so worth it) tour merchandise.

Although a closer look at my surroundings revealed something very foreign, the scene felt comfortably familiar, reminiscent even, of my days as a 98 Degrees groupie (I'll always love you, Jeff). If it weren't for the rows of T-shirts with the faces and names of each of the band members prominently displayed across the front, I might have been misled into thinking I had wandered through a wormhole and landed at a Backstreet Boys, or New Kids on the Block concert.

Since 2012, EXO has been one of South Korea's top boy bands with both of the group's studio albums and all four of their EPs hitting number one on Gaon, the country's most prominent music chart. Despite their young ages, Sehun, Chanyeol, Suho, Baekhyun, Chen, Xuimin, Kai, D.O and Lay (who unfortunately was absent from the North American EXO'luXion Tour due to prior commitments) are seasoned performers and like all good boy bands, followed age old pop music tropes while putting on a multi-faceted performance with something for everyone.

U.S. fangirls have long welcomed cute, talented lads from overseas - from the time of the Beatles to the more recent One Direction, but the draw of EXO is even more impressive when you take into consideration the language barrier. None of the members are particularly fluent in English, yet managed to connect to the audience with some generic phrases, universal gestures (hearts and winks galore) and the help of an off-stage translator. Even with the diverse international crowd, there were plenty of singalongs and signs glittered with Korean phrases.

The show kicked off with a short film giving EXO's boy band origin story, a sort of mythical tale of the members harnessing superpowers from elements like fire, water, wind and frost - presumably making them good at singing and dancing when their forces combine a la Captain Planet.

Another video interlude somewhere in the middle of the show was shot in the first person, giving all of the about-to-pee-her-pants-with-excitement girls in the audience a glimpse at what it would be like to have a date with each of the baby-faced heartthrobs. A third clip had the band dressed as little elves working tirelessly to make the perfect latte. Both were incredibly cheesy and the crowd went completely wild for them.

Of course, no boy band concert would be complete without a rainbow of matching outfits. From the moment the stage screen parted to reveal the eight members decked out in sparkly gold blazers, I knew this was going to be a snazzy affair. A variety of suit patterns - from shiny red to classic black to barbershop quartet-inspired stripes - were individually tailored to match each singer's unique personality (with the added bonus of being able to keep track of who was who through the various dance numbers.

The concert was non-stop excitement from the very beginning. Flames and fireworks shot out from the stage in bursts as the octet executed elaborate choreography. Hypnotizing flashing lights and elaborate screen graphics sent everyone into the same high-energy, K-pop-fueled trance. Near the end, cannons full of confetti and streamers shot clouds of little white paper into the arena, sprinkling down upon the dancing mob on the general admission floor and in the seats. At one point Baekhyun sang at a big white piano and at another point Chanyeol hopped in a DJ booth. Fans hurled stuffed animals toward the stage and the arena constantly twinkled with thousands of lightsticks.

All in all, EXO put on a tremendously entertaining concert with an impressive 24-song set and two encore numbers. At nearly three hours long, a lay fan might have found that the extensive talking breaks detracted from the music, but likely offered a much needed break for the performers who then had ample opportunity to interact with the crowd on a more personal level. With all the elements of a perfect boy band experience, including quite a number of fainters in the crowd, EXO certainly succeeded in indulging many a teenage fantasy, even the nostalgic ones.

Tagged :  EXO

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