EXO: Setting the stage aflame

KOREAN boyband EXO literally set the stage on fire last Saturday evening during its sold-out concert at Axiata Arena, Bukit Jalil, as part of its EXO Planet #4: The ElyXiOn tour.

The SM Entertainment mega-boyband pulled out all the stops in its two-and-a-half hours of synchronised choreography, throwing in flames, fireworks, and an undeniable level of dedication.

The current EXO team of Xiumin, Suho, Baekhyun, Chanyeol, D.O., Chen, Kai, and Sehun – minus the absent Zhang Yixing a.k.a Lay who is currently focusing on solo ventures – definitely deserved the borderline hysterical cries from its fans fondly called EXO-L[ove].

With a set list reaching 30 songs, the 5pm concert promoted by Star Planet left no minute wasted, packing in dreamy videos of the boys, and at least three nifty wardrobe changes to boot.

The arena glowed with its iconic hexagon logo torches as EXO stepped out on the darkened stage to Total Eclipse, before singing hits like Forever, Ko Ko Bop, Lotto, and Coming Over.

Chants of ‘We are one’, the group’s tagline, echoed around the arena, adding to the mix of seemingly neverending stream of screams and loud choruses of lyrics from the crowd to every song the boys sang.

Demonstrating flawless footwork, the boys moved fluidly on the large Y-shaped stage extending towards the centre of the arena, never missing a beat even when the floors lifted them high during the tracks, Drop That and Power.

While the evening was mostly a highly-charged party of fog machines, confetti, and bright, blinding lights, the interspersed shifts to solo numbers and a slower tempo provided a better glimpse of each member’s vocal chops.

What stood out was D.O. and Chanyeol’s English rendition of For Life, where the former’s stirring high notes hit the spot accompanied by the latter’s beautiful notes on the piano.

The hip-hop influence was apparent in Sehun’s solo. Geared with a mini army of backup dancers dressed in similar athleisure, his electrifying dance moves oozed The Weeknd vibes.

Going out with a bang, the boyband fittingly ended the night with Angel, a song from its debut album Mama.

The night of non-stop dancing did, however, look like it took a toll on the boys especially halfway through. It didn’t really show in their dancing or singing, rather, appearing in hints of understandable mental exhaustion on their faces.

You can’t help but be reminded of the boys’ countless hours spent in practice for their tours and music videos, in order to achieve those precise dance moves for each of EXO’s Kpop bangers.

Although the language barrier limited the boys to adorable poses, ‘thank you’s’, and ‘I love you’s’, it proved to be an unforgettable moment for a lot of EXO-Ls.

For 22-year-old Fasya El Farosyi, who first caught EXO when it made its maiden appearance in the country for MTV World Stage 2013, the interaction with the crowd was what she loved and cherished most.

The EXO-L has been a fan since the band’s debut in 2012, and counts absent Lay – the only Chinese member left – as her favourite idol.

She said: “The performance was good but I think they can do better … maybe they [were] tired of, you know, going to places [for tours] and doing concerts.

“I think the concert was [still] worth it and I hope I can see them again in the future. The sad thing is my favourite member Zhang Yixing wasn’t there.

“I hope he will come back soon. I think EXO-L is missing him so much because he’s been so busy with his own schedule.”

Still, despite Lay’s absence, his teammates performed to expectation, and Saturday night’s concert was categorically a success. The boys’ level of commitment to their EXO-Ls and their craft is indeed impressive.