Ateez break the walls of Desert Diamond Arena

While the North American leg of Ateez’s Break the Wall tour is over, Atiny’s devotion will remain.

A slogan with Ateez’s version one light stick, called a “lightiny”

Some fans lined up to camp outside Desert Diamond Arena for the November 10 Phoenix stop for a chance to get the best possible view of their favorite K-pop group. This was certainly the case for Taylor McCoskey, 23, who held an ATINY VIP ticket that guaranteed first entry into the venue. More than that, she set up camp around 3pm MST on November 9 with her fellow Atiny to ensure a spot at the barricade.

“I would like to be as close as possible because it’s always fun to enjoy the experience with the artist,” McCoskey said. “I’m a little shorter and my vision’s not the best, so I like to be as close as possible…”

In addition to the Phoenix date, she attended their Oakland show, both Anaheim dates and both Atlanta dates before finishing the tour with Ateez at both Newark dates. But, it’s not all about Ateez.

“I’ve met some really wonderful people through Ateez,” she said. “It’s kind of hard to see them sometimes ’cause I live on the East coast and a lot of my friends live on the West coast, so being able to see my favorite group with my friends is the best thing for me. It really motivates me to keep going throughout the days.”

McCoskey with her personalized version 2 light stick

Something that immediately set this show apart from other K-pop concerts was the presence of an opening act. Pre-debut group KQ Fellaz 2, the latest group to come from Ateez’s company KQ Entertainment, warmed up the Phoenix crowd with songs “Geek” and “Tricky House.” Despite not having yet properly debuted yet, they presented themselves like seasoned pros who could play to a crowd every bit as well as their seniors. Furthermore, it was lovely to see Ateez spotlight their little brother group, especially with a three-hour set ahead of them.

KQ Fellaz 2

When Ateez performed for the main event, the arena exploded. Opening up with “New World,” they used a combination of the setlist and the VCRs to further the story they’ve been crafting since their 2018 debut. Furthering it even more was an effect displayed over the screens during “HALA HALA (Hearts Awakened, Live Alive).” Flashes of the members in the black outfits of their sinister alter egos were laid seamlessly over the live performance. For those familiar with the group’s lore, it was a reminder of the mystery that still shrouds these dark figures.

A sea of light sticks surround Ateez at Desert Diamond

One of the hardest things to do at a K-pop concert is keeping a bias list straight, and all of the members vied hard for the top spot that night. Yeosang has a beauty that leaves you breathless, but his confidence reached an even higher peak than their last tour. Hongjoong’s effortless charisma plays perfectly against Mingi’s smoky demeanor and near-violent rapping.

This is to say nothing of San, whose delivery and stage presence are power incarnate. His perfect foil, and best friend, Wooyoung stunned with soft angels and angelic vocals, while Jongo stakes his claim as one of the best vocalists of this generation of K-pop. It’s hard to describe Seonghwa as anything other than princely, both with his vocals and visuals. Words fail when trying to describe Yunho, whose polite demeanor can melt away to reveal the devil himself in a blink.

From left: Jongho, Yunho, Mingi, Hongjoong, San, Seonghwa, Wooyoung, Yeosang

A massive boost to the set list was songs from their latest album, World Ep1: Movement. Easily some of their best work yet, Movement provides songs like “Cyberpunk,” a heart-wrenching plea for something real set against a pounding beat with unbearably sexy choreography. Club-ready track “Sector 1” got people out of their seats early in the set, but there really isn’t anything like the title track “Guerrilla.” Everything from the almost Daft Punk-esque synthesized vocals at the end of the second verse to the skittering trap beat only serves to support the desperate mania that defines the entire EP. There’s also just something in the way they say “break that wall” feels like a justified punch to the nose. Wrapped neatly and tightly with a screeching guitar and hardcore vocal touches, the addictive energy got the crowd fired up even at the end of the set.

“춤을 춰, break that wall, 우리 feel로/세상을 바꿀, we are the guerrillas”

An element that made the Phoenix date even more special was knowing it was the first time they’d visited the city. In that spirit, a standout moment came when Mingi told retold a story about he and his friends picking rapper names in high school. which he said were often taken from American cities. The name he chose back then: Phoenix. It added a personal and touching sparkle to an absolute gem of a night.

Onscreen: Mingi, Onstage (from left): Wooyoung, Seonghwa, Hongjoong

On their previous tour, they ended their set with the heart-achingly sincere “Turbulence.” While that song did make the set list, they decided to close with “The Real,” an up-beat track to send the crowd out dancing. Hongjoong’s closing statement said it better than I could write it.

“For our last song, we don’t need to be emotional,” he said. “I already told you: today, is just enjoying day. So, let’s smile and let’s sing along together and let’s say goodbye and let’s promise for next day.”

Ateez is a group who defies expectations and pushes their own limits. The final show of this tour was November 28, but we haven’t seen the last of them by a long shot.

“I really really really love Phoenix,” San said. “You guys are really hot and really cool…so, I promise you I will come back.”

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