Exciting. Amazing. Breathtaking.
These are just a few words fans used to describe Vanner, whose Boost Up 2022 [Part One] Tour began on March 16 at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago, IL before embarking to thirteen other cities including Orlando, FL, Denver, CO and Los Angeles, CA.
Fans, called VVS, had nothing but love for the five-piece Korean boy group when they opened with “Form,” an explosion of raw power and swagger that never failed to kick things into gear. Crowd favorite songs included “UPPER” and show closer “Trampoline,” two high energy songs with as much bounce as the latter implies. Slower moments like “Like a Star” and leader Taehwan’s solo cover of “0X1=Love Song (I Know I Love You)” by Tomorrow X Together gave those in attendance not just a chance to catch their breath, but to experience a softer side of the group and their heartwarming vocal harmonies.
Other cover stages included “Permission to Dance” by BTS, performed wonderfully by lead vocalist and dancer Hyesung with rapper Ahxian. Ahxian prepared a Korean rap not in the original version of the song, flexing his chops for writing as well as performing. Later, he, lead rapper and dancer Gon and vocalist Youngkwang teamed up for a cover of a remix of Paloalto’s “Turtle Ship” which features G2, B-Free, Zico and Okasian. Of all the cover stages, “Turtle Ship” was easily the highlight. While the other stages were impressive, “Turtle Ship” provided a rare opportunity to show off Youngkwang’s skills as a rapper while Gon and Ahxian watched on like proud parents.
Of course, there wasn’t anything like their original material. Directly following “Form” was another track from their 2020 Life mini album “Lachata,” a dance track that could break anyone out of a post-work slump and into their best dancing shoes. Other highlights included their latest single “Rollin” and their debut track “Better Do Better,” as well as past single “Crazy Love” and album track “Without You.” Regardless of tempo or whether it was a cover, Vanner left everything on stage and the crowd wanting more.
If there was anything the Chicago show could have benefitted from, it’s a boost of self-confidence. Hours after the performance, the group Tweeted: “Thank you for loving VANNER, which is lacking a lot. It was an honor to start our tour in Chicago.”
Taehwan later revealed he wasn’t in his best condition when he sent out his own message on Twitter just after midnight March 17.
“Chicago’s energy was great as expected,” he Tweeted. “I was disappointed that I couldn’t show you a perfect live performance due to my poor condition caused by a cold. I’ll recover quickly and show you a perfect performance.”
This wasn’t a sentiment shared by Mariah Fee, 26, who traveled from Kalamazoo, MI to see Vanner in Chicago. A fan since their 2019 debut, she felt “shocked and maybe a bit defensive” when they described their performance this way.
“I thought they did great and was surprised that they felt any different,” she said. “I’m a proud VVS and the boys did great, no lacking to be found.”
Luckily, Vanner seemed to gain assurance in their later performances. During their March 24 concert in Orlando, they performed songs like “Purge Day” with confidence and excitement that partially came from this being their first performance in Florida. This was beyond reflected by the fervor of the crowd, who shouted encouragement for them to return when Vanner mentioned this onstage. Later, they helped the group convince Taehwan to perform some of his solo song “Frozen” a cappella while Hyesung and Gon accompanied him a cappella as the backing track. It was not only a fun addition to a talk break, but an expression of camaraderie and support between fan and artist.
The pièce de résistance, however, was always going to be the April 3 date at Summit Music Hall in Denver, CO. Vanner’s performance is so anticipated in the city, it has taken on its own identity: Denvanner. It’s so ubiquitous it’s come to be used by the group themselves. According to Denver local Cerise Robinson, 19, it got started when the Colorado-based K-pop fan community KonnectPop were trying to get a K-pop group to the capital city. Once someone told them about Vanner, they did “everything in their power” to make them their first group.
“We all came to not only support Vanner but to show the K-pop industry Denver loves K-pop,” Robinson said. “That was many fans’ first concert ever, also mine, but it was also Vanner’s first US tour so I think that all the firsts happening that night connected us.”
After that, Denver staked their claim on the group and Denvanner was born. They’ve since gone to Denver a total of three times, all of which were attended by Robinson. She described the energy between Vanner and their particular crowd as “addictive.”
“Vanner themselves are amazing, but so are the fans,” she said. “With every show, I see more and more fans from outside of Colorado trickle in and it makes me happy. It really feels like a community.”
As much as Denver VVS truly love and appreciate Vanner, that kind of anticipation isn’t priceless. Near the end of that show, Hyesung broke down into tears and expressed dissatisfaction with his performance with help from a translator.
“It’s been a while since we performed in Denver,” he said. “We were kind of pressured to show you guys a perfect performance and show you guys our best in every way.”
Robinson’s “heart cracked” at the admission not only because of how grateful she and other Denver fans are that they’re here in the first place, but her belief Vanner could “sit in place and sing and Denvanner would still scream their lungs out.”
“I guess I never thought about the pressure they might feel to have this be the best stop,” Robinson said. “I know as a fan I’ve always felt that ‘am I screaming loud enough? Can they hear the fan chants? Are we doing enough?’ …they always do great and I hope they aren’t pushing themselves too hard.”
Like a carefully chosen bow, the tour wrapped up at the Vermont Hollywood on April 8. Everyone from the crew to the crowd held nothing back, making that final show all the more explosive. Those who were able to snag a spot at or near the barricade could literally hear the way Vanner stomped their way through hard-hitting club banger “Nasty.” Later, Taehwan performed some more of “Frozen” with some good-natured ribbing from the other members in lieu of an a cappella accompaniment. Above all, the group seemed more relaxed than they had in any of the previous cities while performing above and beyond their already high caliber. In short, Vanner exuded what can only be described as true showmanship.
That kind of showmanship, as well as their eagerness to interact with fans, inspired Olivia Martinez, 23, to travel from Monterrey, Nuevo León Mexico to see them in Los Angeles.
“…their music is really good, but having the experience of seeing them in person is another thing,” Martinez said. “How they sing and dance and interact with their fans makes you stan them even more.”
This was made extra special for Martinez when she got to interact with Taehwan, her favorite member or bias, something she said she hadn’t gotten to experience before.
“It’s another level how you can interact with your bias because in Mexico, it’s usually just the concert,” she said. “You don’t get to interact or talk with them.”
If this tour succeeded at only one thing, it’s showing Vanner is a can’t miss in K-pop. Just don’t let Vanner try to tell you any different.
PHOTO CREDITS: Penny Rae Hawkins, Mariah Fee, Cerise Robinson
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