Girls' Generation: The 1st Asia Tour (South Korea 2011)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 9/17/11
Cast: Yoona, Taeyeon, Jessica, Sooyoung, Sunny, Hyoyeon, Yuri, Seohyun, Tiffany

My fascination with South Korean pop sensation Girls' Generation continues to grow, and after tracking down all of their music videos I decided to see what their live performance had to offer. I was pleasantly surprised and the girls continue to impress me. While they may be the epitome of producer pop and image marketing, they are all considerably talented and excel at what they do. It also gave me a chance to really identify each of the girls individually, which is something I've had a lot of difficulty with just watching their videos. With nine girls to keep track of, it's really easy to lose focus and become overwhelmed.

The show opens with an absolutely terrible four minute long video, which nearly made me want to turn the TV off. Thankfully things gets much better when the girls make it to the stage with a rousing performance of "Genie." They do about a half dozen high energy group performances before the show devolves into weepy ballads, show tunes ("Singin' In The Rain", "Over The Rainbow"), and various solo acts. The girls all come back together at the end of the show for crowd pleasers "Gee", "Baby Baby", and "Oh!" Various video segments are shown in between costume changes, which are quite amusing and prove that the girls have a good sense of humor. One features Yoona, Yuri, Tiffany, and Seohyun as bad-ass "tough angels" (which I really appreciated) and another is a goofy parody of a Korean period drama featuring Taeyeon (dressed as a frog), Jessica, Sunny, Hyoyeon, and Sooyoung in a silly dance competition. Another amusing clip features excerpts from some of the girls' diaries, and their experiences with fans and paparazzi.

Each of the girls has their own solo act, which showcases their talents and helps to identify their personalities. Whether ironic or not, Jessica's "Barbie Girl" is a delightful piece of self aware pop fluff. Tiffany's cover of Rihanna's "Umbrella" is sexy and flashy, Sooyoung's "Santa Baby" is fun and flirty, and Yoona does a bizarre rap with Super Junior. Both Hyoyeon and Yuri perform their own hip-hop dance routines, and while they're both extremely good dancers, I found their street thug approach distasteful. Sunny sings an appropriately named and often covered "Sunny", and her sparkly attitude and seductive sideways glances gave me a newfound appreciation for her. I've always found Seohyun (the youngest member of the group) to be a bit of an outsider, as she always looks awkward, uncomfortable, and emotionally flat when she's with her bandmates, but on her own she's quite impressive. Her performance of "Sixteen Going On Seventeen" allows her to shine and do her own thing, and the results are jaw-dropping. And then there's the group's leader, Taeyeon, who I've now confirmed is my favorite. She's a good dancer, an incredible singer, and utterly adorable. Her focus and drive are incredible and every gesture is so precisely calculated that it's really kind of scary. Her performance of the Pussycat Dolls' "Hush Hush" (mixed with Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive") is astonishing and overflowing with sensuality and attitude. The woman definitely knows her stuff and how to project it.

It's a long concert (over three hours!) and it's amazing to see the girls maintain such a high level of energy and enthusiasm for so long. All of their outfits are wonderful (except the bizarre Bavarian bar maid dresses) and they all appear to be having fun. The cinematography and editing are good, and the picture quality only degrades when the girls are standing too close to the video monitors near the back of the stage. The audio quality is also pretty good, although the audience noise is a bit overwhelming for the first half of "Genie." Oddly, they bring the audience mix down to nearly nothing for the second half of the song and for the rest of the show. Either that, or the audience gave out after the first two minutes of the concert. Definitely an enjoyable outing for fans of K-pop, as well as a guilty pleasure for guys who like to watch pretty young girls in cute outfits bopping around on a stage for a few hours. Unfortunately, it has diminished returns on repeat viewings, as lip-syncing and continuity flaws become more apparent. I think part of the allure of the band is that they're flirty without being trashy. American pop (and western culture in general) is so overly sexualized and in your face, while Girls' Generation seems like a refreshing blast of fun and youthful innocence.