By Cecille Santillan-Visto

Concert Review
Winner Cross Tour in Manila
Jan. 25
Mall of Asia Arena

MANY WONDERED whether Korean pop group Winner was just a flash after clinching the crown in a talent reality show in 2013. Now, more than five years since the group’s official debut, Winner — composed of leader Seungyoon, Mino, Jinwoo, and Seunghoon — is arguably one of the most formidable K-pop groups, performing in sold-out concerts not only in Seoul but in major cities worldwide.

The quartet held its first solo concert in Manila in November 2018 (see concert review here: and before that, they were the special guests of the now-defunct girl group and YG Entertainment labelmate, 2NE1, for the Manila leg of the 2NE1 All or Nothing Tour in 2014.

As the members have been given the right amount of exposure and gained the appropriate level of experience, Winner was, in a nutshell, a powerhouse in its concert last Saturday. Winner was so entertaining that even those who were not avid fans may have emerged from the Mall of Asia Arena as members of the group’s fandom, Inner Circle.

During the Everywhere Tour in Manila in 2018, the group was a bit tentative, having recently lost a member, Taehyun. But this time Winner returned to the Philippines confident, methodical, and, as they repeatedly shouted during the show, “solid.”

They brought with them a live band, a set of sultry dancers, and a repertoire that was slightly different from the set list published online based on Cross Tour concerts in other countries.

But perhaps the most entertaining portion of the show was off-repertoire. Their rendition of Sarah Geronimo’s viral “Tala” dance was clearly the most applauded performance of the night, with Sandara Park cheering them on from the VIP seated area.

Main dancer Seunghoon, fondly called “Hoony,” first danced to the song with so much gusto that he brought down the house. Then he taught the other members the steps and after just one run-through, all four danced in sync. They delighted the audience by also singing a portion of the chorus after the dance demo.

Winner performed 30 songs in all, dished out several Tagalog lines (“Charot!,” “Ayos dito ah,” and “Salamat”), and danced what could have been the best “Tala” cover to date. With overflowing fun and positive vibes, the fans were the first to recognize that last week’s concert may well be one of Winner’s winningest moments since it was formed.

They sang many of their hits, from “Everyday” (the curtain-raiser) to “La La,” “Love Me Love Me,” “Movie Star,” “Really Really,” and “Special Night.” Spectators in the VIP standing area were dancing eagerly, contributing to the uniquely festive mood. Winner repeated some of the songs during the encore, namely “Really Really,” “La La,” and “Everyday.”

Winner opened the concert dressed all in white and had several costume changes thereafter. In celebration of the Lunar New Year, they also donned the hanbok, the Korean national costume, greeted everyone “Maligayang Bagong Taon (Happy New Year),” and, in keeping with tradition, knelt on the ground and bowed their heads to the floor.

Stage design- and lighting-wise, Pulp Live World made sure that everything was in sync. There were two hydraulic-controlled stages and the band setup was pulled in and out as the set changed. With all the movement — coupled with the pyrotechnics — there was a feeling of “fullness” even if there were only four main entertainers onstage.

Each member also had his own set. Main vocalist Seungyoon belted out “Instinctively” and “Wind” while Mino — with all his swag — rapped all the way to the bank with “Trigger” and “Fiancé.” Seunghoon took the cute route with “Flamenco” — in Spanish costume and in full character — but came on strong with “Serenade.” Jinwoo dished out “Call Anytime.”

In between sets, Winner apologized to fans for a canceled concert festival where they were the main act.

“But we are back, Manila, and huwag nyo kaming kalimutan (don’t forget us),” they said.

Winner has a similar feel as their seniors, Big Bang, but in a different way. They also compose their own songs, which are deliberately more “audience friendly,” and as such, they can easily connect with people regardless of spectrum.

Winner is definitely winning in its K-pop career and we look forward to witnessing more winning moments.