When SUGA of BTS first announced his solo world tour, many ARMYs were filled with a mix of anticipation and curiosity. What would a full-scale concert look like with just one of the seven members? How would SUGA balance his complex discography as a member of BTS, a solo artist under the moniker Agust D, and a beloved person named Yoongi?
However, the US shows proved that the heart and soul of ARMY remain committed to growing with each member during this new chapter. In a time where BTS’ future often feels uncertain amidst their hiatus, SUGA’s tour renewed and deepened the fan-artist relationship on an intimate scale, without sacrificing any dynamic performance ability that makes every BTS member so legendary.
One Time for The Present, One Time for the Past
Unlike the “Permission to Dance” and “Yet to Come: Busan” concerts in 2021-22, packed with sponsor booths and fan engagement opportunities, those who arrived at UBS Arena in Long Island were greeted with a more laid-back pre-concert experience. General Admission patrons at all US stops arrived the earliest for check-in, often showing up before sunrise or camping out several days in advance to ensure a better spot in the standing pit.
Amid an ocean of outfits that trended more towards the sleek black and leather “Agust D-core” than the brightly colored and purple ensembles, ARMY waited for merchandise, took pictures, and for the New York shows, drew supportive messages on the asphalt outside the main entrance using colorful chalk provided by the venue. In addition to classics such as photo cards and stickers, ARMY handed out SUGA-specific freebies, including tangerines (his favorite fruit) and LGBTQIA+ pride flags (SUGA is a well-documented supporter of queer communities). Though there were changes in the aesthetic and design of the pre-concert fan experience, ARMY's positive core values and practices grounded the atmosphere.
From a Gentle Rainfall to a Perfect Storm
Entering an arena at the start of the Agust D tour feels like a calm oasis after the chaos of ticketing, traveling, and obtaining merchandise. The sound of falling rain accompanies gentle drops that glide across a giant LED screen. Softly colored lights cast a gentle haze over a sea of ARMY bombs slowly flickering to life in anticipation of the main event. The safety and peace cultivated by the beginning of SUGA’s solo concert serve as an apt metaphor for the role of the tour as a whole: to provide ARMY with a concert experience after the full group’s 2020 world tour was abruptly canceled due to COVID-19.
Several well-penned articles have already touted the success and artistic brilliance of SUGA’s performance, from well-loved ARMY Lenika Cruz's review in “The Atlantic,” to stamps of approval from major Western publications such as NME and Teen Vogue. The record-breaking financial success of the US leg was hardly unexpected; however, many major elements of SUGA’s tour have been praised for both the commitment to excellence and unexpected innovation.
SUGA surprised many with innovative staging that strips physical panels of the stage away, uncovering different layers of selfhood amidst success, trauma, and self-actualization. As an artist, SUGA displays his hallmark versatility that requires three names to encapsulate his range. Even when he struggled with a difficult cough in Jakarta and Japan, SUGA’s vocal prowess has blossomed in a remarkably short time. From showcasing his hard-hitting and brilliant signature rapping to playing both guitar and piano, SUGA leaves his heart onstage during several deeply and painfully introspective moments across performances of both long-awaited Agust D solo tracks and BTS fan favorites.
A Commitment to Play: Fan and Artist Creativity and Bonding
Large-scale, often hilarious fan-artist and fan-to-fan interactions have been just as integral to the memorability of SUGA’s tour as his impeccable performances. From ARMYs in New York and subsequent US cities barking at SUGA to show their appreciation, to Jakarta ARMYs creating new fanchants, ARMY participation culture allows fans to actively shape the concert space through interactions with each other and SUGA himself.
For example, after fans cheered loudly when SUGA accidentally banged on a couple of piano keys while warming up in LA, he dramatically repeated the action on subsequent nights to even larger applause. Conversely, after SUGA announced that he would select only Samsung phones for self-recording during the encore by yelling “No iPhone, only Galaxy,” ARMYs have done everything from handing him an antique Samsung flip phone to disguising iPhones as Galaxy phones.
The joke even carried over internationally– in Japan, where no recording is allowed at all, a fan-made “no iPhone, no Galaxy, only eyeballs” sign was broadcast to millions during the movie theater livestream. These jokes might seem insignificant to non-fans, but the amplification of a touring culture that extends beyond mere performance consumption is part of what makes being an ARMY so memorable.
“다 괜찮아질 거야 (It’s all gonna be alright)”
In addition to being a commercial and artistic success, SUGA’s tour served as a powerful mechanism for building hope, cohesiveness, and new memories for ARMY in an age of transition and relative instability. With several stops to go amidst a busy FESTA schedule, we can’t wait to see what’s next for SUGA and the rest of the BTS members (maybe even a Tony Montana performance in Seoul?).
Note: The author of this article attended a total of eight live D-Day shows (UBS D1-2, Prudential, Los Angeles D1-3, and Oakland D1-2) and the livestream of Japan D-2 at a theater in Seoul. All recollections and opinions are their own.
Written by: Mariko
Edited by: Lisa K
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