On Sunday 28th July, Kpop rookies Stray Kids played a sold-out concert at the O2 Academy Brixton.
The group started their energetic set with their pre-debut single ‘Hellevator’. The aesthetics matched the groups fiery performance as the group were bathed in red light, the screen behind them was filled with flickering flames and the front of the stage ignited with spark machines. The explosive opener was matched by the hoards of fans as they sang along and waved their lightsticks fervently.
Stray Kids and their team had masterfully designed the show to showcase each of the albums they’ve released thus far. The show was segmented into sections for each album, the first being their pre-debut album ‘Mixtape’. The group performed their song ‘Beware’ to conclude the mixtape section of the show.
I AM NOT
The screens surrounding the stage came to life with a gritty video accompanied by ‘NOT!’ to introduce the groups debut album.
The words spoken in the short intro song are reflective of Stray Kids overall message. Stray Kids have three members who write and produce most of the group’s music. These members go by the name of 3racha and their music is often centred around the struggles that young people face in today’s society.
“They say people are born different, but why does it feel like we’re all the same,” the words poured out of the speakers along with the distorted siren and drum-filled instrumental. “Us, brainwashed into the same system. They expect perfection so how can we be different, huh? It wasn’t until I saw my reflection, that’s when I woke up and realised that the truth had been hidden away from us.”
The influence the words have on fans were plain to see as the crowd called out the final English words that were spoken: “A sign. An omen. A glitch.”
Stray Kids then reappeared on the stage to perform the intense and powerful rock song ‘Awaken’ which perpetuates their narrative of finding yourself.
Bass ricocheted through the floor as the group’s grungy debut song ‘District 9’. The screens were filled with prison imagery that was reminiscent of the song’s music video. The addictive lines “Stray Kids everywhere, all around the world” were chorused by the fans like a mantra.
After this section it was finally time for Stray Kids to introduce themselves and address their fans. The group’s tough persona dissolved immediately as they stopped performing and their playful side came out.
The leader Bang Chan was quick to comment on how many people were at the concert. His eyes scanned the crowd that were clustered tightly together in front of him. He also spoke about the unusual British weather that they had experienced. He mused that, though the heat outside was incredible, “the heat from [the crowd]is amazing”. It was clear that the heat and the thick crowd were affecting fans however as sweat dripped from their foreheads and they used fanmade banners to cool themselves down.
I AM WHO
The group performed the song ‘Mirror’ from their debut album before moving onto their ‘I Am Who’ album. The transition was flawless as they performed a mirror dance for their introduction to the second album. The dance showcased their skilful dancing abilities. The nature of the movements and concept ensured that the crowd’s attention would be on their precise moves and synchronisation. Stray Kids pulled it off excellently and entranced the audience with their passionate and emotional dancing.
Stray Kids stuck with the darker theme for their concert by performing the darker songs off this album: ‘Insomnia’ and ‘Voices’. The choice of setlist maintained the energy for the entire concert and let the music and performances flow seamlessly into each other.
A blanket of calm settled over the audience as the members gathered at the front of the stage. The group began an inspiring speech to introduce their next song. The members spoke about achieving their dreams and how grateful they are for the fans. “Never give up, just keep your pace and keeping going,” they said just before the guitar riff of their title song ‘My Pace’ started.
I AM YOU
Before Stray Kids launched headfirst into performances from the final album in their ‘I am…’ series, they gave their fans, known as Stay, some ‘gifts’. They travelled down the line and each performed a little skit to excite the fans. Many of the members opted for the typical aegyo. However, Han and Changbin decided to oppose their fellow members and show off their muscles which caused a raucous cheer. Vocalist Seungmin was met with squeals of praise as he chose to perform a short snippet of a song by British band Coldplay. While Bang Chan amused fans by breaking away from his usual Australian accent with an attempt at a Harry Potter impression.
The cheerful spirit of this short break was a wonderful break from the dark vibe of the concert and lightened the atmosphere a little before the group performed two of their more subdued songs ‘I Am You’ and ‘By My Side’.
The standout moment from this slice of the concert was a moving video recording they played at the end. Stray Kids started their career as contestants on a TV survival program by the same name. The group, who were trainees under JYP Entertainment, competed against other trainees to win the prize of debuting in JYP’s next boy group. Trainee life is often difficult and tiring, and a televised survival competition only adds more stress to the trainees. It is understandable that fans feel a special connection to the members of the group after watching them go through so much on TV. It is this connection and the nostalgic clips shown throughout the video that made it such a poignant moment. The saddening clips from the show and the groups auditions were partnered with the soft guitar of ‘Mixtape #2’. The newly released song was written by all 9 members and talks about their hopes for the future and their determination.
CL 1: MIROH & CL 2: Yellow Wood
With the sombre end to the performances from their first sequence of albums, Stray Kids made a zealous move into their more recent albums with ‘Victory Song’. The catchy, electronic anthem rippled through the crowd and got everyone jumping. The group were shocked at how enthusiastically the English speaking crowd chanted the Korean lyrics and got them to sing along even after the song had finished.
The energy remained high as Stray Kids performed their most recent title songs ‘Miroh’ and ‘Side Effects’. The group asked fans to join in with the erratic hand movements from the ‘Side Effects’ choreography, but also asked that fans be careful not to hit each other. The bright white lightsticks were jerked around as Stays danced along.
In the final moments of the show, the brooding performances were dropped as the group performed a medley of their happier, more lively songs ‘Awkward Silence’ and ‘Get Cool’. But they returned to their roots and decided to end at the beginning by performing ‘YAYAYA’ from their pre-debut album as their finale. The song invigorated the crowd one last time and they bid goodbye to their idols with a cheer of ‘Stray Kids everywhere, all around the world’.