REVIEW: Avengers SuperM assemble to push K-Pop in smoother direction at SAP Center

SuperM, Taemin, SHINee, EXO, Baekhyun, Kai, NCT 127, Taeyong, WayV, Lucas, Ten

SuperM performs at at The Forum in Inglewood, California, on Feb. 1, 2020. Courtesy SM Entertainment.

SAN JOSE —Composed of members from four groups, SuperM has been dubbed the “Avengers of K-Pop,” in reference to the Marvel Universe films. The seven-member group was plenty super at its nearly sold-out show at SAP Center on Sunday. What was surprising was that live, the group was less K-Pop and more “K-R&B.” Many of the songs featured a funky rhythm section and a beat that didn’t overpower the smooth-flowing vocals. That, and an increased focus on rapped breakdowns made SuperM stand out from other K-Pop acts who’ve come through the Bay Area recently.

For the uninitiated, the group consists of Taemin, a 12-year member of SHINee; EXO members Baekhyun and Kai, the former, who’s one of the most influential vocalists in K-Pop, and the latter, a fashion and cultural icon in addition to his music; NCT 127 rappers Taeyong and Mark; and Chinese group WayV‘s Lucas and Ten. Ten’s best known for his dancing skills while Lucas is the new boy in the K-Pop scene, debuting in 2019.

When SuperM released its self-titled first EP in 2019, it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200—the first K-Pop act to do so. Expectations were sky-high for the group, whose inaugural U.S. “We Are the Future Live” concerts are all in arenas. SuperM has already headlined Madison Square Garden: another first for a K-Pop act. Next week, they’ll appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

SuperM, Taemin, SHINee, EXO, Baekhyun, Kai, NCT 127, Taeyong, WayV, Lucas, Ten

SuperM’s stage, resembling a “G,” at SAP Center in San Jose on Feb. 2, 2020.

The group made its big entrance via a lift that made the members appear through a layer of fog at center stage. The stage itself was massive, taking up the majority of the floor. Two catwalks stretched out from both sides. The left one was longer and led to a huge secondary stage. The one on the right was much shorter. Overall, the stage looked like a capital letter “G” extending from the front of the room.

By the point of SuperM’s arrival, the crowd was already worked up into a tizzy thanks to an intro video that included each member breaking out of his clear container. The sequence recalled a sleeker, more expensive version of *NSYNC’s “It’s Gonna Be Me” video. Thousands of lightsticks—not only for SuperM but for each of the groups the band has incorporated—illuminated the arena instantaneously.

The members formed a circle for an intricate, warlike intro dance before kicking into “I Can’t Stand the Rain.” Like during much of the night, they moved so fast that it was difficult to hear who was doing the singing. On the opener, they traded verses. But after the opener, it was an infrequent sight to have all seven members on stage together. The EP has five original songs, which meant the members had to find more material to make up the 18-song set. SuperM handled this largely by having the members perform some of their solo songs.

SuperM, Taemin, SHINee, EXO, Baekhyun, Kai, NCT 127, Taeyong, WayV, Lucas, Ten

SuperM performs at at The Forum in Inglewood, California, on Feb. 1, 2020.

Taemin took the spotlight first with his songs “Danger” and “Goodbye.” His dancing was sometimes tinged with ballroom moves. Taeyong then took over for one of his songs, “GTA.” The rapper donned a sparkly face mask and dripped with charisma as he delivered his triplet rhymes. K-Pop is a hugely popular genre, but if he were to tour with American hip-hop artists, he’d likely find success there as well. Followed by a handful of flashlight-wielding dancers, he made his way on the catwalk over to the large B-stage where he dropped to his knees while continuing to deliver the angry-sounding vocals.

Even when the group sang in English, it was often hard to make out the lyrics because the sound mix was muffled.

Following another group song, the synth-and-drum-heavy R&B tune “Super Car,” Ten (who’d been taking a break backstage) returned dressed in an all-white outfit with straps hanging off for a sensuous dance surrounded by mask-clad male dancers. His song “Dream in a Dream” melded into “New Heroes,” all while he nimbly contorted about the B-stage.

The members kept taking turns in this manner. Lucas led the crowd in a sing-along of poppy thumper “Bass Go Boom,” which came with colorful early ’90s-inspired visuals on the screen. Baekhyun took over on the funky “Betcha” and “UN Village.” It was nice to see the different sides to the members as they rotated under the spotlight, but if we’re comparing SuperM to “The Avengers,” this felt felt more like watching all the individual superhero films rather than one collective effort.

Fortunately, the very next song allowed all seven members to assemble together. “Danger Woman,” another unreleased track, had SuperM at its sensuous best, inviting comparisons to a Drake or Khalid. That’s a union I’d like to see. A similar R&B jam, “2 Fast,” followed, and then the group finished off the main set by splitting up again. Taeyong and Ten dueted on a cover of NCT U’s “Baby Don’t Stop” before Mark and Kai each took turns with a solo song.

SuperM, Taemin, SHINee, EXO, Baekhyun, Kai, NCT 127, Taeyong, WayV, Lucas, Ten

SuperM performs at at The Forum in Inglewood, California, on Feb. 1, 2020.

Kai’s, “Confession” included an ominous melody and hard trap beat. He finished the song by sprinting to the B-stage and striking a rock star pose, running his hand through his hair.

After an encore break during which a video played of the band getting introduced to Capitol Records, rehearsing, answering press questions and bonding, the group returned to conclude with three original numbers: “No Manners,” unreleased cut “With You” and massive K-Pop hit “Jopping.” “No Manners” was likely SuperM’s naughtiest performance, with some provocative dancing, while the middle cut was the closest thing to traditional K-Pop to make an appearance.

“I was a little tired but you made my energy 100 percent. You guys are like Red Bulls,” Baekhyun said just before SuperM broke into “Jopping” to close the show.

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