ARMY came prepared with gasoline knowing Agust D would be spitting straight fire.
Agust D, also known as Min Yoongi or Suga from BTS, took over Allstate Arena on May 3, 5 and 6 with his D-Day tour. This review covers only the May 3 show, which was a particularly delightful treat considering what he said right at the end of the show:
“Coming from New York, I had one rest day. I think I was in the best condition today.”
As someone who has now seen him both as BTS’s Suga and Agust D, it’s safe to say he’s correct. From the opening chords of “Haegum,” the crowd was on their feet and ready to fight. The title “Daechwita” literally refers to traditional Korean military music and keeps true to that meaning with it’s confrontational beat and the repeated insistence to “play it loud.” Following closely is his self-titled track “Agust D,” which contains lyrics including “my seat is business/yours is economy, forever behind me kissing my ass” and “you wasted rappers should be grateful that I’m an idol,” among other insults and clap backs to anyone who’s said his music isn’t “real hip-hop.”
Yoongi’s technical skill and talent are accompanied by a deep pain that doesn’t need to be translated or dissected to be understood – he leaves it all to his performance. That being said, if you do look into English translations of these lyrics, you’d better be ready to peer into a raw wound with fresh stitches. One example of this is his latest single “Amygdala,” which puts his deepest traumas in no uncertain words. Pouring out everything from his mother’s heart surgery to his father’s liver cancer, “Amygdala’s” chorus contains repeated pleas of “save me” and “let me out.” It’s transparently clear, while what didn’t kill him made him stronger, the way Yoongi seemed close to tears during this song that it still fucking hurts.
A theme that’s become pervasive throughout Agust D’s work is the battle he faces against more powerful, corrupt versions of himself. In the music videos for “Haegum” and “Daechwita,” he murders versions of himself as a mafia boss and a Joseon-era emperor respectively. It’s particularly interesting not only considering these are the two songs he chose to kick off the concert, but this theme persisted in the VCRs. One such example is when Yoongi is seen sitting in a motel room when someone knocks on his door. Pulling back from the peephole through a fisheye lens puts you in the perspective of the person on the other side of the door: Agust D, with a gun pointed straight into the peephole. Even if the trigger warning at the beginning of the show didn’t give it away, you sure knew what happened next in that moment.
The set list also included a medley of sorts, composed of his verses in BTS tracks “Cypher 3: Killer,” “Cypher 4,” “UGH!,” “Ddaeng” and “HUH?” The energy between Yoongi and the audience was particularly powerful during this medley, especially watching him bounce excitedly as he spits bars like cherry pits into the audience. However, his performance of “Interlude: Shadow” was enthralling not just because of his soul-baring delivery or technical prowess, but because of his own complicated feelings with his own success. Putting it plainly, he worked his way out of poverty doing what he loves, but still experiences dissatisfaction. Yoongi draws directly from BTS’s debut track “No More Dream,” he seems to mock himself with the line “you have a big house, big cars, big rings/all the things you wanted, you’ve got it all/so, what’s the problem?”
The slower moments offered a reprieve from the aggressive, high energy tracks but were no less intense. His performance of “Snooze” was particularly moving with the preface of a heartfelt tribute to the late Ryuichi Sakamoto, whom he collaborated with the song. From an acoustic version of “Trivia: Seesaw” to the piano ballad “First Love,” as well as the closing performance of “The Last,” Yoongi maintained a firm grip on the audience’s attention without fail. From his masterful storytelling to his hair-trigger flow, his stage presence and talent made for one of the best live shows in recent memory.
Min Yoongi put his shattered psyche on display for all of Chicago to see – and he did nothing to make it pretty but everything to make it entertaining. No matter what you call him – Suga, Agust D, Min Yoongi – this is who he is regardless of whether you can handle it.
Agust D’s D-Day tour wraps up the North American leg at Oakland Arena on May 17. The second leg of the tour begins on May 26 in Tangerang Regency, Indonesia and ends in Seoul, South Korea on June 25. His D-Day album released on April 21 and is available on all streaming services.
All photos were taken by Penny Rae Hawkins and edited by Jon Knoell.