“Osaka, I’m home!” Kazuha proclaims between performances on the first day of LE SSERAFIM’s ‘Flame Rises’ stop in the Japanese city on Wednesday (September 6). The crowd, lit by a sea of synchronised, coloured lightsticks, erupts in ear-splitting roars in response to the idol’s exclamation of her homecoming. “It’s a very special feeling to be able to perform here in Osaka, where I was born and raised.” That special feeling was an undoubtedly infectious one, palpable throughout the historic Osaka-Jo Hall, alive with an uncontainable excitement that can only be described as electric.
Theatrics are what truly drive the ‘Flame Rises’ tour. Between their dramatic entrances to the stage – by falling backwards from a raised platform – to holding up apples impaled by arrows, every set, song and performance are the clear result of long, gruelling practice. They open the show with the song that started it all – their debut track ‘Fearless’. Despite being only five girls on an expansive stage against an enormous LED screen, their presence fills the otherwise empty space with ease.
As the dimmed lights morph into a warm purple, the crowd shrieks as they see LE SSERAFIM lay in a circle on the extended stage. The audience know exactly what’s coming: twinkling and luscious fan-favourite B-side, ‘Impurities’. Impeccable choreography that engages with audiences from all angles aside, the song’s bridge was the true highlight. As Eunchae, Kazuha and Sakura’s steady-pitched voices croon the chorus lines, Yunjin’s ethereal falsettos gracefully intertwines, effortlessly lending the already enchanting track even more texture and grace.
Though LE SSERAFIM bring their A-game throughout the concert, the pacing can feel a bit rather abrupt at times, especially when they’re transitioning between high-octane songs to the laid-back ones. But the quintet are quick to bring things back to speed with crowd pleasers ‘Antifragile’ and ‘Unforgiven’, as well as their viral hit ‘Eve, Psyche and The Bluebeard’s Wife’. The energy they constantly imbue into their intricate, physically demanding choreographies and live vocals is awe-inducing.
A major highlight of the show is unquestionably the brand-new, presumably tour-exclusive remix of ‘The Hydra’. Infused with fresh EDM instrumentation and dance-pop elements, this remix injects the show with a fresh burst of energy, complete with an intense dance break. It effectively signals the significant growth they have experienced as musicians and performers in the short span since ‘The Hydra’’s release, marking their rapid progression and journey towards stardom.
But ‘Flame Rises’ in Osaka was not made this incredible by LE SSERAFIM alone. The fans who flocked to see the group live this Wednesday night came with a sense of heartwarming camaraderie – between the false end of the show and the start of the encore, the hilarious signs written by fans with inside jokes, and even exciting announcements like birthdays and engagements. It’s what makes K-pop concerts like LE SSERAFIM’s so emotionally fulfilling; every single person in that hall was there not just to watch their favourite group perform live, but also to come together with the like-mindedness of celebrating the girls and each other.
“Thanks to the new encounters with many people and the support they give us, I think that the five of us are able to witness such a wonderful scenery that I would have never been able to see on my own,” Kazuha says in a shaky voice to the crowd, amid emotional sobs as the realisation of the milestone sets in. (“Unbelievable,” one member mutters under her breath as they all reach out to comfort her, because Kazuha never cries.) “I can’t thank you enough, but I hope that in the future, I will be able to repay you by showing you all how [brightly we’ll be able to] shine on a stage like this.”
It’s clear to the audience that even LE SSERAFIM themselves don’t want the night to end – as they closed with the Latin-pop-inspired ‘Fire In The Belly’, the quintet chose to elongate the song with a few more repetitions of the line “Olé, olé, olé, olé”. During this encore, they took their time to stroll along both the primary and extended stages, basking in the ethereal sight of the Osaka crowd, bathed in the soft, multi-coloured glow of their lightsticks as Fearnots chanted along with them.
“In the dark of the road / Engraving the history / This is your and my odyssey,” LE SSERAFIM belt on song, squeezing out the remaining morsels of energy they have left for the night. It’s an apt note to end the show on: ‘Flame Rises’ is indeed just the start of LE SSERAFIM’s odyssey as they reach new heights as K-pop greats, and as they persist in shaping their legacy, we are gifted the privilege of witnessing them ascend to even greater heights.
LE SSERAFIM played:
‘Fearless (Japanese Version)’
‘The Great Mermaid’
‘Blue Flame (Japanese Version)’
‘Good Parts (when the quality is bad but I am)’
‘Antifragile (Japanese Version)’
‘Eve, Psyche and The Bluebeard’s Wife’
‘Unforgiven (Japanese Version)’
‘FEARNOT (Between you, me and the lamppost)’
‘No-Return (Into The Unknown)’
‘Fire In The Belly’