By Cecille Santillan-Visto

Concert Review
2017 CNBLUE Live
[Between Us] in Manila
Dec. 8, 2017, 6 p.m.
Smart Araneta Coliseum

WHEN YOU have watched a Korean rock group perform at least five times, it should be hard for the artists to still pull off a surprise.

Not so with CNBLUE. Vocalist Jung Yong Hwa, lead guitarist Lee Jong Hyun, bassist Lee Jung Shin and drummer Kang Min Hyuk always have an ace up their sleeves — making their performances enjoyable to watch every single time. The Manila leg of their “Between Us” world tour was certainly no exception.

The concert at the Big Dome — their third solo in the Philippines — was the closing tour performance, and as such, was more special for their Filipino fans.

Ang tagal nating ’di nagkita (It has been a long time since we last met),” said Mr. Kang, drawing ear-piercing shrieks from their supporters. Well, it was not really that long. CNBLUE was just here in March for the 2017 Global Peace Concert — One Korea in Manila, where the boys undoubtedly brought the house down and outperformed the other K-pop groups in the powerhouse lineup. They also had sold-out concerts in Manila in September 2014 and June 2013 for the Can’t Stop and Blue Moon tours, respectively.

For this writer, the sixth time to see them live was still definitely delightful. The way Mr. Jung pumped up the audience, CNBLUE could very well stand for Code Name Bursting with Lethal, Unlimited Energy.

“I am your lodi…Today is daebak, today (is) petmalu (I am your idol. Today is amazing, today is extremely cool)!” said leader Yong Hwa. Throughout the night, he and his mates owned the stage, projecting their tireless aura all the way to the last loyal fan in General Admission.

Between Us was a mix of cuts from CNBLUE’s album 7°CN, the group’s seventh mini-album released worldwide in March, and several songs from their more recent work, Can’t Stop, Blueming and Re:Blue.

FNC Entertainment’s award-winning band opened the concert with “Radio,” from their album Wave, where CNBLUE infused solid rock with electronic dance music. “When I Was Young,” and “Domino” quickly followed for a one-two punch. But the opening hysteria was sustained with “I’m Sorry,” undoubtedly one of the group’s biggest hits.

CNBLUE sang 24 songs in seven sets. They connected very well with the audience, clearly communicating in English, with no need for an interpreter. Their numerous world tours have undoubtedly made them better and more confident performers. Even as the members spend a good portion of their time starring in prime time Korean dramas, they have not lost their rock persona on stage.

If at all, their individual ventures into the small screen have contributed to making them well-rounded musicians, with whom the audience can better relate to.

The stage was extended to allow members to interact with fans during the performance. The spectators at the VIP area had a field day taking videos and photos of the all-too-accommodating CNBLUE members. IME PH did a spectacular job in livening the stage with the lights and LED-screen combination, bringing the whole experience a notch higher in terms of production value.

All songs were delivered with gusto with the set where they dished out “Feeling,” “Coffee Shop,” “Cinderella,” and “Between Us” certainly one of the most applauded portions.

In “You’re so Fine,” “Face to Face,” and “Wake Up,” CNBLUE showed its versatility as it can comfortably shift gears from ballad to soft rock to electronic pop to pure rock in a short span.

In the acoustic set, the boys moved to the extended stage, with drummer Min Hyuk exchanging his full set for a beat box. CNBLUE turned playful, giving the crowd impromptu performances of classics such as Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” and “Hotel California,” by the Eagles, where Mr. Jung messed up with the lyrics to flatter the fans. In “Manito” from 7°CN, the entire Big Dome joined by singing “Noreul Saranghae” (I Love You), visibly pleasing the band. “Love Light,” one of CNBLUE’s best loved ballads, soon followed.

They closed with “Young Forever,” and when Mr. Jung said: “Maraming salamat po, Pilipinas!” the audience felt that a comeback concert was already in the offing.

There are at least three good reasons CNBLUE is the only Korean rock band that has managed to stay relevant and worth following since they were launched more than eight years ago. They are ultimate entertainers who give it their all in each performance. They compose and produce their catchy and jam-worthy pieces. They continue to explore other fields, without losing or straying too far from their musical roots. And while other K-pop groups will continue to sprout to fight for fans’ attention, CNBLUE will continue to be a cut above the rest. The “U” in CNBLUE stands for unique.