The concert has been considered another significant step forward for K-pop’s global expansion into Europe.
The time was Saturday night (local time) at the Poble Espanyol park in downtown Barcelona. Ringing out through the plaza, surrounded on all sides by traditional buildings representative of the different regions of Spain, were the sounds of “Empty,” the leadoff single from “Beginning,” JYJ’s first album for a worldwide audience. A crowd of around 3,000 people from all over Europe, including Spain, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Italy, and Switzerland, sang along in unison to the chorus. Many danced along with the moves of the performers onstage. The evening’s events showed a K-Pop wind blowing at gale force through the park, which in Korean terms would be a kind of traditional folk village.
JYJ sang songs in English, including “Ayyy Girl” from “Beginning,” as well as numbers in Korea like “Get Out” and “Falling Leaves” from the recently released special disk “In Heaven.”
“We are happy to have been able to keep our promise to visit all of you in a place we have never been before,” member Jaejoong said. “We hope to keep a second promise next time by visiting here again. Unfortunately, this is our last number of the night.”
No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the audience members erupted in a groan of disappointment, crying, “No! No!” Jaejoong, perhaps moved by the sincere response from the diverse audience in a faraway country, had tears welling up in his eyes. Yoochun, too, wiped tears away from his eyes.
Saturday’s performance was the smallest given by JYJ to date, but it drew attention as a gauge for the current state of K-Pop’s reception in Europe. This was the first solo performance given in the continent by one of the K-Pop acts that is spearheading the wave. Coming on the heels of the success enjoyed by last June’s SM Town Concert in Paris, which saw a number of SM Entertainment acts appearing, its individual success gave proof of the reality of the Korean Wave in Europe.
Many of the audience members were young European women in the teens and early to mid-20s.
“Spanish music is a bit dull and no fun to dance to,” said Sara, the 27-year-old manager of the Spanish chapter of the fan club Sharing Yoochun. “When I first heard K-pop, I thought it was in the American style, but as I listened more and more I discovered an appeal that is unique to K-Pop.”
Particularly notable was the number of people who fell for K-Pop after previously being fans of Japanese miniseries, animation, and popular music, or J-Pop.
Celine, a 26-year-old from France, explained, “There are around 15 thousand Korean Wave, Hallyu, fans in France, but we are seeing a trend of J-Pop fans moving toward K-Pop.”
JYJ is following up its Spanish performance with a Nov. 6 show in Berlin. Tickets for it sold out the day they went on sale.