A white night is a natural phenomenon in the arctic where the sun never sets at night during summer nights. Playing off of his stage name Taeyang, which means “sun” in Korean, the Korean singer shone brighter than ever before last night at The Wiltern during his first solo show in Los Angeles. After holding multiple concerts in the past as part of the highly successful K-pop group BIG BANG, Taeyang came back to LA after two years, this time to close out the U.S. leg of his “White Night” world tour.
Taeyang (real name Young-bae Dong) began his career back in 2006 as a member of BIG BANG. And while he’s always been part of the group, he started his solo ventures as early as 2008 and has since released three full-length albums and one EP. With BIG BANG’s music being a mix of electropop and hip-hop, Taeyang’s voice has provided an R&B touch, something he has explored more deeply in his solo work and the genre he’s known for as an artist. His latest, White Night, gave the name of his worldwide tour, which started in Japan last month, and as the song used as the night’s intro.
As the screen on stage parted in the middle to reveal Taeyang, decked in a very appropriate all white and shimmering ensemble and platinum blond hair, the 29-year-old delved into his first song of the night, the 2013 trap and dubstep hit “Ringa Linga.” As one of his few hype songs, it kicked off the show on a high as he followed up with the similarly energetic “Body,” “Superstar,” and “Wake Me Up.”
Since this particular tour was meant to promote his latest album, the overall song selection and rearrangement of the older tracks were catered to fit White Night’s vibe. Still R&B at its core, Taeyang got a bit more experimental with synthier, livelier sounds and more mature themes (see “Naked” and “Tonight,” complete with body rolls and spread eagles from the female dancers). Most notably rearranged were his 2010 singles “Wedding Dress,” toning down the dated synths and taking out the autotune, and “I Need A Girl,” which he started off acoustically and then picked up after the first chorus. He also opted to show off his stellar vocals with his classic R&B jams, new and old, like “Only Look At Me” and his most recent single, “Darling.”
Taeyang has cited that his biggest influences when working on White Night were Michael Jackson, Prince, and Freddie Mercury — all of which he channeled throughout his set. Whether he was ooh-oohing during the funky “Amazin’” or rocking out to “Tonight,” his inspirations were present, but it still felt very Taeyang with his choreography and bedroom eyes charm. “Personally, out of all my albums, this was the most fun to make,” he told the crowd in English, reading off a monitor on stage. He co-wrote and co-produced most songs on the album, roles that he has been taking on more frequently as he grew out of the K-pop idol mold.
With the reality of his upcoming compulsory service with the South Korean military looming over the tour (all able-bodied Korean males must serve two mandatory years), Taeyang took this as an opportunity to treat VIPs (BIG BANG’s fans), as this will most likely be the last time they meet in a while. The singer included BIG BANG’s “Fantastic Baby,” “Bang Bang Bang,” and the group’s farewell song to their fans “Last Dance” (member TOP is currently serving, putting the group on hiatus) in his set, which hands down drew the biggest reception from fans who danced and screamed along. “Every time I sing [‘Last Dance,’] I miss the BIG BANG members a lot,” he told the crowd. He also performed “Good Boy,” which he released with fellow member G-Dragon as a duo in 2014.
Another unexpected highlight of the night came towards the end when the singer announced a special guest. This turned out to be Ysabelle Cuevas, a nursing student from the Bay area, who posted an English cover of “Wake Me Up” last month and Taeyang reposted on his Instagram account. After meeting him at his San Jose stop three days ago and identifying herself by singing the chorus, Taeyang brought her out in LA to sing her rendition. “You will get lots of fans after this,” he told Cuevas after her performance. “I’m already your fan.”
Keeping in mind that the White Night tour — with its mesmerizing visuals, world class live band and production, and award show-like performances — was designed to fill out arenas and stadiums in Asia, it was an amazing experience to witness it at a small venue like The Wiltern. It felt intimate yet the quality did not come down on any front, which was reflected by the show’s hefty price tag (the cheapest tickets were sold for $130). If anything, concertgoers lucked out at seeing Taeyang perform 24 songs up close rather than a mile away.
Singing in an entirely different language, English speaking K-pop fans tend to benefit from the key English phrases sprinkled on songs that are easy to sing along to. Taeyang has those too, of course, (“Girl, I need a girl/Baby I need you/Girl you need me too” on “I Need A Girl” or “My name is T to the A to the E/(to the)/Y to the A N G” on “Ringa Linga”). But being able to hold a mic in the air and have the audience sing entire verses of your all Korean song “Eyes, Nose, Lips” is something few Korean acts can even fathom. Closing out the night with his biggest hit to date, Taeyang and the crowd serenaded each other the gut wrenching aforementioned ballad with the bittersweet yet fitting goodbye, “All of our love/It hurts so much/But now I’ll call you a memory.”
After last night’s show, Taeyang will be heading up to Vancouver where he’ll conclude his eight stop North American tour, which will then be followed by the Asia stops.