By Cecille Santillan-Visto

Concert Review
K-Pop World Music Festival 2019 in Manila
June 9
SM MOA Arena

AS THE Philippines and Korea commemorated the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations, yet another festival was held recently to celebrate the close ties between the two countries.

With both nations known for their passion for entertainment and the arts, what better way to mark the milestone than through a music festival, particularly a K-pop concert?

Solo acts Sohee and Kim Donghan, girl groups Elris and Red Velvet, and boy band NCT 127 joined forces to entertain the fans who trooped to the SM Mall of Asia Arena for the epic show, put together by All Access Production.

Hosted by Korean celebrity Ryan Bang, the three-hour extravaganza did not only showcase the talents of the K-pop idols but also had some interesting sidelights, including the public fangirling of megastar Sharon Cuneta, a self-confessed follower of the group, NCT 127.

The concert started slow and easy with Sohee, also a member of Elris, dishing the opening song “Mannequin.” Sohee, who had the unenviable task of going first, was initially tentative in her moves but found her footing in “Spotlight,” and finally gaining momentum in “Hurry Up.”

Sohee, who donned a fiery red number, is familiar to Filipinos as she was a contestant in the show K-Pop Star 6: The Last Chance, which was shown on Philippine cable TV. Prior to Elris, she formed a temporary group called KWINs with Kriesha Tiu, a Filipino singer based in Korea, and another Korean aspirant.

Sohee’s performance was followed by the five-song set of Kim Donghan, another product of the reality talent show Produce 101 Season 2. Although he later debuted with boy band, JBJ, he launched his solo career in June 2018.

Unquestionably a talented dancer, Donghan’s moves in “Sunset,” “Goodnight Kiss,” “Focus,” “Idea,” and “Ain’t No Time” were captivating but his vocals left much to be desired.

Girl group Elris has five members but aside from Sohee, only Yukyung, Hyeseong, and Karin managed to perform. Bella emerged onstage visibly injured and wearing a bandage on her leg.

Although they were only four, Elris managed to deliver to the audience’s delight. They included in their repertoire “Summer Dream” and “We, First.” Although the main stage — as well as the extended stage — seemed too big for just the four of them, they owned the MOA Arena with “Heart Bank,” “Will Be Mine,” and their last song, “Pow Pow.”

But when NCT 127 appeared, it was clear that they were one the most awaited act. Taeyong, Taeil, Yuta, Jaehyun, Winwin, Mark, Jungwoo and Haechan, joined by new members Johnny and DoYoung, were vocally impressive and their choreography was on point in “Fire Truck,” “Cherry Bomb,” and “Simon Says.”

Their rendition of “Regular” and “Super Human” also demonstrated why they are one of the K-pop to reckon with.

The main stars, however, were Red Velvet. Although the girls had visited the Philippines in April 2015, they have yet to hold a solo concert in Manila. Their fans eagerly sang with them during their five-song set, obviously missing the girls who took more than four years to return.

Red Velvet was no less than explosive when they performed “Red Flavor,” “Power Up,” and the ballad “Moonlight Melody.”

At the rate Filipinos are enticed by the Korean entertainment industry, especially K-pop and K-drama, more events similar to the K-Pop World Music Festivals are expected to be held in the Philippines. As it is, there is at least one K-pop concert in the country a month. Counting the regular fan meetings of K-celebrities, there is an inundation of everything Korean.

The synergy is great for each other’s economies and deepen the bonds that took root 70 years ago.

Now, that is the kind of friendship worth celebrating.