In celebration (or is it anticipation?) of the release of the Solar Concert DVD, we are posting this excellent review of the Solar Concert that was published some months back. Not being one of those lucky enough to watch it in the live, I can’t wait to see if the DVD bears out the reviewer’s take on the whole event. Enjoy!
One of the interesting points during my recent interview with Taeyang was when he had said that he planned to fill his concert with the sound of a live band. Of course, the majority of singers use bands in their concerts. But Taeyang’s case is different. As confirmed in “Look Only At Me,” his songs feature layers and layers of sounds created by the producers. This makes them much harder to recreate accurately in live performances.
In “I Need A Girl,” the percussion sounds that create a “bounce” and subtly back Taeyang’s vocals are not live instruments. If one were to use real percussion, its sound would become stronger, and, chances are, the overall balance of sound would crumble. Morever, Taeyang’s unique bounce that he creates in harmony with the sound would be ruined as well. Taeyang produces this bounce with his voice by playing with the beats, freely dividing and combining the beats and the space between them. And even in a strongly driven song like “Superstar,” he manages with his smooth R&B vocals to convey a melancholic feeling. There’s a reason he said his musical ideal is to make “music that is full of hope on your way to work in the morning and gives comfort on your way back home.” His style of delicately controlling feelings through the harmony of voice and sound is particularly great for conveying complex emotions. From an outsider’s perspective, it’s his distinguishing trait and one that draws you in.
However, in his concert Taeyang did not try to recreate this bounce with the live band. Instead, he used the live band to maximize the songs’ hidden scale. The sound at this concert was dynamic like that of rock music, and the majority of the songs were constructed to grow in scale as they progressed. In the recording of “Just A Feeling,” the accelerating rhythm emphasizes its lilting quality, and Taeyang’s sleek vocals create its bounce. In the concert, contrarily, the sound gained power through the increasing drive of the guitar and drums as the song grew gradually to a climax.
The overall sound of the concert was also set this way. The treble was magnified in order to allow the guitar and powerful drums to be heard more clearly. On the whole, the separation of sound was not bad, so the strains of the keyboard spreading quietly could still be heard amidst the drums and guitar. Only at the climactic points were there times when the bass got buried. And it is unfortunate that, because the treble was emphasized, the strong electronic sounds in the encore [i.e. “Where U At,” which did not use the live band] were slightly piercing to the ear.
The decision to use this kind of arrangement was a good one. Unlike a recording, which makes possible detailed listening, a concert requires more immediate impact. And Taeyang, too, seems to have wanted to create a concert centered more on singing than on performance. Furthermore, in order to sing “music that is full of hope on your way to work in the morning and gives comfort on your way back home,” it was necessary to delicately express a wide spectrum of emotions within the songs and to show much change and transition. In “Move,” Taeyang’s vocals are layered over a slow tempo and gradually accelerate, producing a mood of “melancholy strength.” In the concert, the band arrangement magnified the breadth of this transition and, thus, intensified the emotions within the song. If the album was a strong display of his feel and style as a musician doing R&B/Soul, the concert’s band arrangement clearly displayed Taeyang’s unique sentiment in a way that anyone [i.e. the general public, not only listeners of R&B/Soul] can feel and appreciate.
Of course, there is a problem. In a concert dominated by thundering drums and dynamic guitar building to a climax, the singer still needs to show his presence. And in order to do so, he needs to possess a voice that could rise above all that sound. Moreover, the concert venue’s stage is very small, and the remaining space is divided into three levels; the already powerful sound can’t help but fill up the entire venue. Guests 2NE1’s performance itself was enjoyable, but the members’ vocals often got buried amidst the sound. Besides, Taeyang is a vocalist skilled at subtly conveying feel. Retaining that smooth, nuanced voice while singing with strength made it difficult to just let loose and scream.
And yet, Taeyang truly penetrated the band’s sound. Through to the end of the concert, his pitch never wavered, nor did his voice lose its power. And, all the while, he retained his unique R&B vocals. [If I were] to exaggerate a bit, it felt almost as if his voice was piercing the atmosphere and rising up through the sky. With his voice, he was able to take lead of the band’s sound while keeping the audience’s focus on himself. In “Just A Feeling” and “Move,” the songs’ highlights were not the performances, but, rather, Taeyang’s voice, which grew in strength in accordance with the increasing scale.
This decision to emphasize his voice could have felt regrettable for those people who had wanted to enjoy his dance fully. As ever, Taeyang danced, and his voice never wavered even as he danced. Still, it was not easy to keep dancing when most every song required him to sing at full strength at the climax. Even in a song like “Wedding Dress,” which is famous for its choreography, Taeyang danced only some memorable moves so as to direct focus on his singing. And by resting briefly during guest appearances and displaying a lot of different stage concepts, he made an effort to ensure that the stage did not feel empty even without filling it fully with dance. Ultimately, he adjusted the balance of dance and vocals in order to create the kind of stage he envisioned.
This choice is the reason the concert gained strength as it progressed. As each song’s scale grew, the sound filled the venue completely. And Taeyang’s voice, piercing through that sound, left a strong impression as it commanded the stage. This kind of flow, repeated with each song, drew the audience to focus on Taeyang’s voice, and the effect was maximized in songs like “Wedding Dress,” “Superstar” and “Breakdown” in the latter part of the concert. Taeyang began “Wedding Dress” dressed simply in a jacket, singing alone on stage with no other dancers in sight. He danced only briefly at a certain point. Nonetheless, because he had steered the entire concert with his voice, his short dance left all the more of an impression on the audience – to the extent that, standing alone on that stage, his presence filled the entire stage. By singing passionately throughout the concert, he had essentially created a moment wherein his singing, alone, could enthrall the audience.
This is probably the reason Taeyang placed better-known songs like “Prayer” and “I’ll Be There” at the beginning of the concert and chose to perform “Superstar” and “Breakdown” in the second half. In Solar, he opens the album by firing off with the energetic “Superstar” and then segues into songs that could convey his sensitivity and nuance. But in a concert where the scale grew continuously and his voice drew in the audience and heightened the atmosphere, “Superstar” was the song that had the explosive energy to make the audience go wild. “Breakdown,” the album’s most fun and exciting song, sustained the energy and drove to an enthusiastic finale. Indeed, with “Superstar,” the entire audience stood up of their own accord, and the ensuing “Breakdown” drew an explosive response.
As it were, Taeyang returned to the basics in this concert. Instead of relying on dance and stylish vocals, he placed his focus on bringing out the expressive qualities of singing and on moving the audience with his voice. It’s not often that you see a musician famous for his performance and refined vocal style win over an audience solely through the strength of his voice. It’s like when black musicians, like Usher, sometimes get down on their knees when singing passionately; you realize that it’s not a move made to look cool but, rather, something they do naturally in order to pour out their soul in their singing. And you got the same feeling the moment Taeyang – instead of dancing – knelt and bent over, his voice resonating through the hall. Perhaps now he knows the feeling of communicating his soul to the audience. During the encores, Taeyang filled the stage on his own, and the audience responded with more fervor than during any of the other fancier performances. This was possible because, through the night, he had won the audience over with his singing.
The only regret was the dreariness of the stage. With Taeyang, there is a different concept for every song. During “I Need A Girl,” Taeyang brought a fan up on stage. In “Move,” the dancers came out pole-dancing like showgirls. Other songs had a chair or a bed as props. However, aside from a set of stairs in the back, the stage was, for the most part, completely bare. This meant that the staff had to move the sets in full view of the audience, which made for a distracting atmosphere. And with the small props placed on an otherwise empty stage, it was not unlike watching a small play with meager sets. The pole dancing in “Move” would have been much more effective if, instead of all being gathered on one stage, the dancers had been spaced out on different levels and to the right and left of the stage, creating a backdrop for the singer’s performance. Unfortunately, this stage had neither the space nor the equipment to make that possible.
Moreover, while it was less of an issue for the audience on the main level, the upper level audiences had to stare directly down at the very bare stage floor. It made it more difficult to become completely absorbed in the performance – so much so that during the early parts of the concert, the eyes kept straying over to the black floor. At the very least, there should have been an effort to use lighting effects to pull the eyes away from the floor. However, the lights were uniformly bright throughout the concert, and, except on the occasions when they were darkened completely, there was little attempt to use them for impact or effect. Considering that Taeyang’s performances, such as “Look Only At Me,” “I Need A Girl,” and “I’ll Be There,” often use props and dancers to create a kind of mise-en-scène, the art and lighting needed to be applied in a more varied manner.
In this respect, this concert corresponds with Taeyang’s Solar album. Taeyang’s vocals in Solar have taken a major step forward since his mini album, but the album does not contain a song with the impact of “Prayer” or “Look Only At Me.” The concert, too – and Taeyang’s talent – was impressive in his daring decisions and ability to own up to those choices, but the concert as a whole was lacking in parts. For his concerts and performances to advance further, what Taeyang may need is a greater investment from his agency and a capable concert director to help bring to reality the images and ideas in his head. Of course, it’s a difficult task. But for Taeyang, it may not be out of the realm of possibility. When he had first debuted as Big Bang, it was difficult to imagine him as he is now. After all, one day in his developmental years, Superman suddenly learned to fly.
Original article: HERE
TRANSLATIONS BY SYLVIA @ ALWAYSTAEYANG | Please credit when posting elsewhere
News agency photos and fan photos sourced from DCYB, ybeffect, bigbanghaven, 21bangs, bigbangupdates and ygunited.