Live: 2NE1 Are The Best At The Prudential Center


Prudential Center
Friday, August 17

Better than: Pretty much everything.

At the Prudential Center on Friday, after an hour and a half delay due to “vocal and technical difficulties,” 2NE1 emerged from four separated, elevated platforms, wheeled around by shirtless dudes in mesh shirts. Later, they descended to the proper stage, necks decorated with massive, wavering chains that spelled 2NE1 between the four of them. This was the temper of the evening, their first concert in the U.S. on their first world tour: an assertion of dominance, perfectly mirrored to their music and choreography, four women braiding together aggressively, instructing you to fuck off.

The audience was unified in mania. At every K-pop event I attend I relive intense memories of 1997—boy bands, whole human geographies that are just noise. Before the show properly began they screamed at every intimation of its start, every change of the lighting, which admittedly felt arbitrary, a cruel affectation of the Prudential Center. Their wrists were haloed in glowsticks, and they carried glowing, angelic scepters and waved them in semi-perfect concert, even in the unmusical stretches. Enthusiasm didn’t flag and in fact seemed to accumulate and reinforce itself, even though the show was delayed by 90 minutes and the break before the encore was bizarrely stretched. It seemed to me a condition of having whole aspects of your identity so wrapped up in a kind of music, and also the quality of engaging directly, finally with that music in a way you couldn’t before. As long as the show endures you are at your utmost point of existing.

The sets seemed elaborate yet eventually revealed themselves to be minimal; this was their charm. At one point a roller coaster car appeared on the elevated platform. 2NE1 members CL and Minzy sat in it and sang “Please Don’t Go” as a projection of stellar track ran just beyond them. They traveled through space and time and pyramidal shapes in exactly two dimensions. It felt unpretentious, sweet, conscious of its artifice and still totally excited by the elemental awesomeness of shapes and colors.

Their backing band was functionally a funk band, and during the show they would occasionally drift around the imperial structures of the songs, causing the center to shift. During one lengthy costume and scenery change the band launched into a thorough jam, drums lingering behind bass, keyboards navigating the changeable surface. The visuals, in keeping with the unified 2NE1 aesthetic—a sort of toughness approaching outright violence that is still anchored in feminine performance—were of bullets floating in perfumed air.

Some of the songs were remixed into distant yet semifamiliar degrees. It opened them up—freed of pop and the need to appeal to a new listener, the songs loosen. Bom, wandering through a stage set that seemed a universe of luxuriating fabric, herself quilted deeply in a dress, sang “You and I” to a sparely fingered piano; there’s percussion to the original that approaches polyrhythm. “Stay Together,” maybe the most inert track on their debut mini-album, blossomed fully into incredible Quincy Jones disco, nimbly anchored in dreaminess by a Rhodes piano that practically skims in the lightness of its touch. “I Don’t Care” as a single is tight and exact, unwavering in its purpose, which is to convince you in an almost authoritarian way of how it is cool and incurious. Live, it actually sounded carefree, semi-indifferent to its ending, the synths acquiring smoky flutter. 2NE1 too, it seemed, had sailed imperceptibly out of choreography, into wandering delight. They skipped across the stage, hovered slightly in reach of fans, twirled in the raining confetti. Last week I walked off a plane into San Francisco and wanted immediately, by the quality of the air closing in around the jet bridge, to dance, softly, exhausted but still a little animated by the circumstance of being there. That was how they danced, as if they had arrived.

Overheard: In line, a college-aged boy wearing a fitted shirt on the extreme end of goldenrod, told his friends in excitement, “We are the hipsters here.”

Random notebook dump: For reasons I have yet to totally parse, the impressive line into the Prudential Center was compromised by dividing entry by gender. I stood behind at least twenty people and then was encouraged, because I was a dude, to slide through this additional security entry, through which an unbroken crowd of dudes were swiftly passing. Ladies remained in the static, sprawling line to the right. I thought initially the express line was maybe for people who didn’t have bags. I had a bag.

Set list:
I Am The Best
Clap Your Hands
I Don’t Care (Reggae Mix)
Don’t Stop The Music
CL DJ Set: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, We Found Love, Hung Up
Don’t Cry (tease) (Bom)
You and I (Bom)
Try to Follow Me
Please Don’t Go (CL & Minzy)
Pretty Boy
Kiss (Dara)
It Hurts
In the Club
Stay Together
I Love You
Let’s Go Party
Hate You
Go Away
Can’t Nobody

I Don’t Care
I Am The Best