For those of you who follow Kpop in the UK, and maybe those who don’t, Monday 5th December was a rather momentous occasion. 4minute, G.NA and BEAST, three of the five acts Cube Entertainment manage, came to London’s Brixton Academy as United Cube in the first really big K-pop event held in London.
After a small misdirection that had me at the wrong door, I finally made it into the venue at the stage door where I was given my VIP pass for the pre-show reception and a press pass allowing me to have my camera. I ran up the stairs, not wanting to miss a moment, and ran (almost literally) into BEAST themselves. I automatically smiled and gave a polite bow which they returned as they passed, and I carried on my run up the stairs wishing I had a smart phone with which I could tweet about it all.
After chatting to a few other bloggers who were invited and a glass of champagne, we watched the time eagerly awaiting the photo call and speeches in the green room. Photocalls like that are the norm for Korean concerts: many bands have press conferences before the main event to allow media questions and for the artists thank everyone for coming.
BEAST and G.NA were then interviewed by the Korean media and the rest of us trooped back to the VIP bar to gather belongings, watch 4Minute and BEAST walk though the bar and say hello, and then off to the upper circle area to watch the show. There was already a fair bit of excitement going on for the videos being played on the screen and, as with all concerts, the screaming and noise level intensified when the venue darkened and the concert began.
4Minute kicked off the concert with Hot Issue, and swiftly followed by I My Me Mine and Heart to Heart. I’ll be honest and say I’m not so familiar with the music of 4Minute or G.NA who was the next act up, but I enjoyed it more than I was expecting. I did however know Hyun-a’s Bubble pop which had courted some controversy in Korea with its sexy choreography. For this set, Hyun-a changed while the rest of 4Minute chatted to the audience. 4Minute debuted in 2009, and were promoting in Japan and across Asia by 2010. Adding promotion in Europe and later in this month Brazil has added to their presence on the world stage, something Cube seem to recognise artists need these days. After another set from 4minute, G.NA took to the stage.
The main problem I found with G.NA’s set was that the music drowned out her voice a little too much making her battle her vocals with the other volume. At least from where I was sitting anyway, so perhaps it was possibly the acoustics of the venue. I liked what I heard and can hear she has a wonderful voice, but the full effect was lost because of that imbalance between mic and music. Black and White was a good opener though that kept the energy of the show going. She also performed a cover version of Rihanna’s Take a Bow which got a lot of support from the audience.
In the end though, as can be imagined, it is BEAST who ruled the stage at United Cube. Whether is was the Troublemaker Duet between Hyun Seung and Hyun-a, Bad Girl, Breathe or a ballad, the crowd loved every move they made and every note they sang. Also with a 2009 debut, BEAST began promoting abroad in 2010 with 4Minute but geared up to a Japanese debut early this year with a series of mini album releases. It was later this year that their first full album was released along with a second Japanese single.
In an industry already saturated with groups, BEAST have, on occasion, been dismissed as being a band of rejects, each one of them having trained with either JYP or YG Entertainment in the past, or been part of another group before leaving to sign up with Cube. That dismissal would be a mistake indeed. Their choreography is not catchy boy band but well thought out dance routines, they don’t have a representative colour like boy bands in other companies and they seem to be developing their own unique variation in musical style. No matter what previous experience they might have had or been part of, being part of BEAST is the right place and time for them to gain the success they deserve. I don’t feel Cube are rushing them into mega stardom, they allow them to be a slow burner, letting them gain popularity through the quality music they produce. This concert is proof that this philosophy (and wise decision to sign a deal with Universal for promotions) is one that works. I might not have been a fan before, I am one now, the concert convinced me and I’m sure persuaded others too.
All the Cube artists worked hard for this concert, as did those who work behind the scenes. What we see is the result of the hard team work of managers, coordinators, songwriters, lyricists, choreographers, stage managers and sound engineers as well as hours of practice. The final product is well worth watching and I hope they come back again and make this an annual event. With Cube about to launch a new boy band next year it would be an ideal opportunity to continue to forge links with the UK music scene and encourage international fandom.