Who is Kwon Ji Yong - G-Dragon live in Auckland [concert review]

by - Thursday, August 17, 2017

I've never spent more than $200 for a single concert ticket. Not for Beyonce, not for Adele, not Ed Sheeran, or Coldplay, or even Switchfoot.

But I spent it on G-Dragon.

None of my friends would know who he is. And he's a hard act to describe. He's successful like Justin Timberlake, has bad boy rebellion a bit like Justin Bieber, a hitmaker like Pharrell, a stage presence like Beyonce, passionate facial expressions that rival Gerard Way's, is a rapper, a singer, a dancer, a fashion risk-taker, and arguably the biggest Korean pop idol of his generation.

Quite frankly, I struggle to even think what Western artist could even equate to the brand that is G-Dragon.

The entertainment industry in South Korea purely fascinates me, and at the centre of it, the career of K-pop idols. G-Dragon, the stage name he picked from 12-years-old, has been crafted and trained to become the star he is today under an agency that releases some of the most popular Korean pop music of this era. He grew to become the persona of G-Dragon for the past 11 years, a name that flourished like fire but contained in scrutiny under the public eye. But it's the name, and the real person behind it which into the narrative of his concert.

'Act III: M.O.T.T.E World Tour' is the biggest solo Korean act world tour ever, and GD's first in Auckland. And in many ways, it's the perfect first concert to have as the songs span his eight-year solo career are eloquently divided into three parts.

Part 1: G Dragon
Opening with Heartbreaker, the song that launched him into his solo career, it's a flurry of dancers, fire, and a stage bathed in red as G Dragon appears on a platform raised off the main stage. Giant screens follow his every move, and with classic G Dragon stage swagger, he sings and dances through the best of his first album as his dedicated fans clutching crown torches passionately beat their light sticks to the beat.

Part 2: G Dragon vs Kwon Ji Yong
In a candid series of interviews with influential celebrities and workmates, G-Dragon is described as a superstar, an artist, a force to be reckoned with. He's an influencer in what has made the Hallyu wave (the term given to Korean pop culture) so internationally recognised and they're quick to sing his praises. However, the contrast between asking who GD is and asking who Kwon Ji Yong shows a different side. An obedient dutiful son, an introverted thinker.

Going through the body of work from his second and third album reinforced his place in the game. A person who has directed his place into the industry, he sings crowd favourites like That XX, Crayon, MichiGo and one of my favourites, Who You, that fills the concert with high-energy under the guise of his playful yet cool attitude.

Part 3: Kwon Ji Yong
In a (subtitled) monologue camera, he describes himself as unsure of who he is. He's known as G-Dragon the star, but to reveal himself to the public as Kwon Ji Yong is a difficult and vulnerable first. However, that's how he wants to be remembered, as that's who he is in his loneliest moments - which leads into performances from most recent album 'Kwon Ji Yong'.

A different sort of self-titled release, the third act is interpreted in so many ways - as a farewell to his former lover from a previous relationship, a farewell as he goes into his (Korean-age) 30s, and almost a farewell to the identity he had before he took on the persona of G Dragon to the world. It struck me the most in his song 'Superstar' when he stood floating above the stage on a platform, not completely dressed in glitzy red but clinging to the rope 'I need somebody, I ain't got nobody' showed the other side of him that is outside the walls of the concert.

He took two encores for the night. Everyone held out especially for his biggest hit 'Crooked', which set the whole concert to their feet (and admittedly shouting along to the easy Korean words.)

But 'Untitled, 2014' while slow, was the powerful farewell the show needed as it felt it was a farewell to Kwon Ji Yong as he walked up to the barriers of the crowd. Through the course of the night, he removed the layers of persona, got closer to the fans, and eventually let us become personal with the man behind the superstar status.

While his name was on the $200 ticket I bought, no one chanted G-Dragon's name that night. I realised when the night ended, the only name people cheered out for was Kwon Ji Yong.

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