In the sweltering heat, the seven BTS members began to sweat heavily after the first two songs. But the climate mattered little as BTS entertained their Saudi Arabian ARMY with a medley of its globally celebrated K-pop numbers.
BTS kicked off the 30,000-seat concert with its powerful hip-hop number “Dionysus.” Clad in abaya cloaks and niqab masks, the 30,000-member audience sprang to their feet in unison, holding up BTS ARMY purple light sticks. ARMY is the name of BTS’ famously enthusiastic fandom.
The audience sang along with the Korean words of “Fire,” “Idol” and “Fake Love” and called out the names of the BTS members. The excitement at the concert was no less than that seen at European and Asian BTS concerts. It was a symbolic moment in the ongoing liberalization process in Saudi Arabia where public dancing and women’s admission to soccer stadiums were prohibited as recently as two years ago.
BTS leader RM said, “Today is a festival for the Armies who have been waiting for a long time,” referring to the band’s first performance in the country. Some of the members also staged solo performances, including youngest member Jungkok, whose aerial performance of “Euphoria” — with the help of a wire — brought the show to its climax.
Religious restraints and Islamic doctrine melted away as the K-pop septet took the stage of Riyadh’s King Fahd International Stadium and opened up its nearly three-hour concert to a rapt audience. It was a historic moment that marked the first-ever stadium concert by non-Arab artists in Saudi Arabia, reportedly arranged as a symbolic moderation gesture by the Arab kingdom.