By Cecille Santillan-Visto
Concert Review
MBC Show Champion in Manila
Oct. 27, SM Mall of Asia Arena
AS THE dispute with Beijing over the deployment of a US anti-missile system in South Korea is still unresolved, the Korean music industry is constantly looking to expand its market to countries outside China. The two-year security-related spat has resulted not only in the dwindling of Chinese tourists going to Seoul but also in China effectively banning Korean artists and producers of Korean dramas and films from its territory. To fill the void, K-pop producers have trained their sights on Southeast Asian countries to sell their talents.
And the Philippines is only too willing to welcome these K-pop exports with open arms.
This openness was showcased anew during the MBC Show Champion in Manila last month, where Filipino fans saw a good mix of K-pop newbies and one of the biggest Korean boy bands today on one stage.
Show Champion, which is a popular weekly music program produced by the Korea-based Munhwa Broadcasting Corp., also celebrated its 200th episode in the Philippines, gathering some of the best K-pop groups in 2016. (See related story here.)
The success of that milestone celebration in Manila convinced MBC to return for a second — though less extravagant — serving.
From the nine artists who performed two years ago, the lineup this time was cut down to six. Although the roster was not as star-studded (established group like BTS, VIXX, AOA, BAP, BtoB and Super Junior’s Heechul took part for the anniversary), this time the fans seized the chance to see Xeno-T, MXM, The Boyz, Hyeongseop x Euiwoong, Weki Meki, and EXO perform live and to enjoy the perks bundled with their concert tickets.
Select ticket buyers were treated to photo opportunities, a sound check party, red carpet access, and even attendance at the press conference. The treats, which are seldom packaged in similar concerts in other Asian countries, provided local K-pop enthusiasts with a total fan experience.
But it was for the show — more than the perks — that the audience trooped to the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
MBC Show Champion’s regular emcee, Kim Shin Young, opened the program. Unlike in 2016, this time an interpreter was thankfully on hand to translate the comedienne’s spiels.
As expected, the newer artists were called to the perform first, with the main attraction, EXO, as the last act. Each group had three to four songs each during the two-hour concert.
Curtain raiser Xeno-T, formerly known as Topp Dogg, kicked off the show with “Forever,” following it with “Perfume” and “O.A.S.I.S.” Originally comprised of 13 members when BusinessWorld interviewed the hip-hop group in Seoul in 2015 (Story link here), three years later, only five members were left and unfortunately, they never really made it big as a group despite the rebranding.
Duo Hyeongseop x Euiwoong, with their colorful costumes and overall cutesy vibe, sang “Spring Rain” (complete with yellow umbrellas as props) and “It Will Be Good.” The singers, who are products of Produce 101 Season 2, also dished out “Love Tint” from their Color of Dream mini album.
In their segment, fast-rising group The Boyz performed “Boy,” “Right Here,” and “KeePer.” Impressively in sync in their choreography, the 12-member, sophomore group said during the press conference that they hope to return for a full concert.
“When we learned that we will be part of MBC Show Champion in Manila, we were both excited and nervous. It is the first time of most of our members in the Philippines and we are excited to meet our fans,” said Eric.
Girl group Weki Meki, which is gaining a local following, showed that they can also hold their own. Their setlist included “True Valentine,” “La La La,” “Crush,” and “I Don’t Like Your Girlfriend.” Only in their second year, the ladies of Weki Meki still have to polish their performance to be at par with established groups such as Twice, AOA, and APink.
MXM, another duo, likewise had three songs, and most awaited was the upbeat “Ya Ya Ya.” Fans were also chanting to their songs “Diamond Girl” and “Checkmate.” Although Youngmin and Donghyun stirred up the MOA Arena with their performance, it was EXO that the audience really wanted to see.
When EXO finally went on stage to sing “Kokobop,” this was obvious.
EXO, which was in Manila only six months ago for a full concert called ElyXion, came at an awkward time — they were to return for a concert called Don’t Mess Up My Tempo on Nov. 2, barely a week after the MBC Show Champion in Manila. The song and the album of the same title proved to be instant hits but EXO could not even give Filipino fans a preview at the MBC Show Champion concert.
In a V-Live broadcast days later, EXO said it was unfortunate that they were left without a choice but to sing “Kokobop,” “What U Do?,” and “Power” at MBC Show Champion. The timing may have been poor but EXO, as usual, did not disappoint. Three songs, however, left the fans wanting more. There were no encores as in a regular concert. Fans had to be content with the special freebie prior to the concert — the red carpet appearance of Sehun, Suho, DO, Chanyeol, Xiumin, Chen, Baekhyun, and Kai. It was short and sweet but EXO-Ls, as their fans are called, are already looking forward to the world tour that will be anchored on the Don’t Mess Up My Tempo album.
With K-pop concerts and fan meetings already regular fare, it is expected that producers will soon be enticed to bring in other related Korean entertainment platforms such as awards shows, reality TV programs, and even plays and musicales. The possibilities to promote Korean entertainment in general, and K-music in particular, are limitless.