Music

NewJeans Unite Fans Through Music at Bunnies Camp 2024 Tokyo Dome Fan Meeting: Concert Review

NewJeans took the stage at Tokyo Dome for its Bunnies Camp 2024 fan meeting on Wednesday (June 26), the first of two days the breakout K-pop group performed at the venue for its first-ever headlining show in Japan.

The five-member girl group set a record as a non-Japanese act for shortest period of time since debuting to perform at Tokyo Dome. Tickets for the two-day event quickly sold out to draw a total of 91,200 fans, proving the “Supernatural” group’s overwhelming popularity in Japan where various talented K-pop acts seek to expand their influence.

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K-pop fan meetings often feature segments other than live performances, such as games and chatting among members, to focus on interacting with fans. But NewJeans’ event opted to forgo such frivolities for a more music-oriented showcase based solely on the idea of entertaining fans (Bunnies) through song. In addition to all the tracks from their past EPs and singles — “New Jeans,” “OMG,” “Get Up,” “How Sweet” — the girls performed two off their brand-new Japanese debut single, “Supernatural.” This stance was reflected in the mysterious DJ set by the opening act, South Korean music producer 250 (Lee Ho-hyeong), which focused on remixes of NewJeans songs, but with an emphasis on ambient moods.

The venue brimmed with intense anticipation before the show began, and when NewJeans actually appeared on stage, the crowd erupted into a fierce frenzy that felt like it would blow off the roof of the stadium. But the five members — including Hyein, who had been on hiatus to recover from a foot injury — showed no signs of nervousness in the face of such a spectacle and went on to hype up the audience with live renditions of their signature songs such as “Attention” and “Cookie,” amplifying the energy of the original songs many times over with assistance from a band consisting of guitarist Kazuki Isogai (SANABAGUN.), bassist Kazuki Arai (King Gnu), keyboardist Yudai Ohi (SANABAGUN.), and drummer Soy. Although there were concerns about Hyein’s condition, she looked well and made a strong comeback, impressing fans with her vibrant, cool performance.

In addition to popular songs like “Hype Boy” and “Super Shy,” the highlights of the day were the solo performances that showcased the charms of each member through a fresh approach — Danielle and Hanni’s sweet duo performance of the unreleased song “Hold It Down,” a strong solo dance by Haerin, and Danielle debuting her beautiful R&B-inspired original track “Butterflies (With U).” 

The girls also covered J-pop songs ranging from classic to contemporary to the delight of the audience, including performances of Vaundy’s “Odoriko” (Dancing Girl) by Minji, Mariya Takeuchi’s “Plastic Love” by Hyein, and Seiko Matsuda’s “Aoi Sangosho” (Blue Coral Reef) by Hanni. Moreover, the girls not only sang these songs, but also created a unique space where the content of each song and the members’ personalities were fused together, as in the performance of “Odoriko,” where Minji threw down her bag with a determined look on her face and started running, a complete change from the cool demeanor she maintained in the first half of the set. NewJeans is known for its beautiful and fragile image, spearheaded by label head Min Hee Jin, and this aesthetic was brilliantly carried through here as well.

The fan meeting also featured guest acts on both days, and J-pop duo YOASOBI appeared on Day 1 (Rina Sawayama took the stage on Day 2) — not as an opening act, but incorporated into the main set. YOASOBI singer ikura joined the group for “Right Now” as if she were the sixth member, surprising the audience with their coordinated formation. The two acts then segued into YOASOBI’s song “Biri-Biri,” smoothly performing the Pokemon-inspired number featuring a cute melody and solid drum and bass beat that perfectly matches NewJeans’ style.

After YOASOBI led the audience to a spectacular climax with its performance of “Idol,” Billboard Japan’s 2023 Song of the Year — unfortunately sans members of NewJeans — the five girls returned to the stage and upped the excitement with an energetic performance of their upbeat hit “ETA,” the audience erupting into a thunderous chorus of “What’s your ETA?” By this time, the band’s groove and the members’ cute but powerful voices and vibrant dance moves were perfectly integrated, and a unique exuberance typical of NewJeans filled the entire venue. Even during the laid-back “OMG,” which the members performed on a moving float, the venue was charged with a strange excitement that had nothing to do with relaxation. To be honest, I was personally concerned that the group’s musicality and a venue with tens of thousands of people might not necessarily be a good match, but on this day, NewJeans completely took over the stadium, a promising result in light of the group’s future performances at large-scale music festivals overseas.

The members closed the main set with “Ditto,” bringing the show to a happy ending with its pleasant groove and familiar dance moves. Answering calls for an encore, the group returned to perform the last song of the evening, “ASAP,” ending the fan meeting in style covered in a huge amount of confetti. The overwhelming satisfaction from the live performance itself — hard to believe it’s only been two years since the group was formed — as well as the tremendous response on social media after the show (with focus on the unexpected covers), will no doubt lead to even greater enthusiasm for the group.

–This concert review by neu_mura first appeared on Billboard Japan

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