On May 31 and Jun 1, hip-hop trio Epik High (Tablo, Mithra Jin, and DJ Tukutz) brought the 2015 North American Tour to the historical Vogue theatre in downtown Vancouver. Made possible thanks to SIVA Group, this concert review will cover the May 31 show of the Epik High North American Tour.
Readers who have been following Hiphop KOREA (HiphopKR) since its establishment in 2010 would know that I am a huge fan of Epik High, a group that introduced me to the ever growing-genre of Korean hiphop. The opportunity to fly to Vancouver for this concert coverage was a special experience for me, not only because it was my very first one, but also because their music was a major influence in the creation of HiphopKR, an English site dedicated to Korean hip-hop music for fans worldwide.
The South Korean hip-hop trio entered the Korean music scene with their debut album Map of the Human Soul (2003). With hit singles from their subsequent albums such as “Fly,” “Love Love Love,” and “Umbrella (feat. Younha),” Epik High became a face of Korean hip-hop. Through the ups and downs of going independent, Epik High was faced with adversities which resulted in the group signing with YG Entertainment, an entertainment company that provided them the medium to release their 8th full-length album Shoebox (2014).
Not surprisingly, the audience began lining up in front of the Vogue theatre hours before the show:
As 7 pm approached, the floor began flooding in with VIP audience of varying ages, from junior high school students to parents in their mid-fourties standing next to their children in anticipation of the show. The theatre roared in loud applause as the lights dimmed to darkness and the theatre echoed by the strings from their opening track “Encore / Raise the Curtain (막을 올리며).” The three immediately transitioned into performing their older but timeless single “Fly,” providing the audience a taste of both the new and old of Epik High.
After the official introduction of each member, Epik High performed “Cold (춥다),” a single that dropped in 2012 featuring fellow YG label artist Lee Hi (이하이). The slow-tempoed, moody track was followed up with their classic single “Umbrella (우산).”
Between each track and during intermissions, Tablo provided a hilariously inaccurate translation of Mithra’s Korean dialogue to the audience. Mithra’s single status and unshaven beard was constantly poked fun (in tasteful humour) by the other two members. Although several, the intermissions were kept brief and enough time for the artists to catch their breath and prepare for their subsequent performance.
The energy of the crowd was revitalized with the track “Burj Khalifa,” a track rich with double meanings and poetic puns (check out the official english translation of the entire album by Tablo here). Other heart-thumping tracks performed include “Happen Ending,” “Love Love Love,” and “UP” featuring Bom of 2NE1.
Tablo took the stage to perform his single “Airbag,” a track expressing his feelings regarding the aftermath of the Stanford incident. He continued his solo performance with his english version of the track “EYES, NOSE, LIPS (눈, 코, 입)” by Taeyang of BIG BANG.
The last set of the show featured their hard-hitting tracks “KILL THIS LOVE,” “High Technology,” “One,” “NEW BEAUTIFUL,” and “Fan” seamed together masterfully by DJ Tukutz. From the start to finish, every audience member was off their seat jumping synchronously with the Epik High members who poured out every drop of sweat until the bitter end. Even the venue security staff were nodding their head to the beat. As expected, the end of the show was met with an encore chant, to which the three artists returned on stage and finished strong with their mega collaborative track “BORN HATER,” and “DON’T HATE ME.” Epik High closed the show with an epic group photo with the audience.
Looking back to the past weekend, the Epik High show in Vancouver was an incredible experience for me, both as a fan of Korean hip-hop music and as a concert reviewer. Not only is Korean hip-hop becoming recognized worldwide, but these artists are able to fly from Korea to foreign soil and perform at sold-out shows in front of international fans. Through this North American tour, Epik High demonstrates that language is no longer a barrier for cross-cultural appreciation of music. The future is bright for Korean hip-hop, and I am excited to continue contributing as a catalyst of this movement.
– Minsuk (Andrew) Noh, HiphopKR