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BTS’s Jungkook says performing amid South Korea’s ban on audiences singing or dancing along is “difficult”

By | Published on Friday 11 March 2022


BTS singer Jungkook has commented on how strange it was performing live in his home country once again yesterday, more than two years on from the group’s last shows there, and while South Korean COVID-19 rules effectively ban audiences from expressing their enjoyment.

Different countries have taken different approaches to allowing live music to return after its lengthy pandemic hiatus. In the UK, we have the classic “fuck it, it’ll probably be fine” approach. Swinging very much in the opposite direction, BTS’s record label Big Hit Music recently informed fans heading to shows in Seoul that “cheering loudly, yelling, chanting and standing up” would be banned, in order to adhere to South Korea’s current rules for staging live performances.

The group played the first of a three night run at Seoul’s Jamsil Olympic Stadium yesterday with a show called ‘Permission To Dance On Stage’ – the last two words added to the end of the name of their 2021 single seemingly to make it absolutely clear where dancing would be permitted.

Afterward, Jungkook posted a video on Instagram, telling fans how it felt to return to live performances in his home country under such strange conditions.

“Finally, after two years, although it felt like 23 years, I got to perform in Korea”, he said, according to Koreaboo. “Like, wow… finally. Overall, I felt extremely happy today. Just extremely happy. And, to be honest, I felt at home. I think that’s the right way to explain it; like I was finally back in my hometown. It was such a great time”.

However, he went on: “I usually get to hear the fans chant and sing with me. I didn’t get to hear that today though. And that made it really difficult for me to perform. I mean, it was still incredible. But I found it difficult”.

He then noted that, having done online shows, he is used to performing without an audience in front of him. “It’s not that I wasn’t able to concentrate on the performance or that I wasn’t having fun”, he continued, “I’ve done online concerts before – and I went into those considering them as, like, video shoots, since the audience would be watching online. I have to focus on making it look perfect on camera and that’s it”.

But that’s very different to playing to a subdued audience. “Today, it was like… I’m looking at [fans] right in front of my eyes but I wasn’t hearing anything [from the audience] and they can’t get up and dance or anything”, he added. “They had to stay seated. It was just difficult to watch”.

“I gave it my best”, he went on. “I think I might’ve gone overboard a bit, too. I felt confused, like, ’Is it going to be OK that I do this or that?’ Before going on stage, I thought, ‘OK since the fans can’t do much from the audience – like make noise or get up to dance – I should try even harder to give them an energetic show’. But then, once the show went live and it happened in front of my eyes, it felt a whole lot different. It wasn’t like what I expected, probably because it was the first time I was experiencing that”.

“So I kept worrying, like, ’Are they having fun? Are they enjoying the show?’”, he continued. “All throughout the show and even after, I was pretty concerned … I miss your voices that I would hear from the audience in the past. I’m having a mix of emotions tonight”.

While most artists probably have a horror story about that gig where the audience was still and silent, in normal times it’s probably safe to assume that a stadium full of BTS fans would be rather lively. Which would understandably make performing to 70,000 fans who can’t engage with a show a rather surreal and unnerving experience, as Jungkook’s comments confirm.