A Full Circle Love: WINNER’s ‘EVERYWHERE’ Tour in Manila

YG fans were given a double treat last weekend with YG’s next generation of boy groups, WINNER and IKON, having their first ever solo concerts take place back-to-back at the Mall of Asia Arena on November 11th and 12th, respectively.

While it may be WINNER’s first solo concert here, it’s not their first time visiting let alone performing in the Philippines. As they mentioned during the concert, they held their Season’s Greetings photoshoot last May in El Nido, Palawan; prior to this, they performed as 2NE1’s front act in 2014. This concert has been a long time coming for Filipino Inner Circles, and finally they can have their winning moment.

While I, personally, am not a hardcore YG stan, WINNER has always managed to find a place in my monthly Spotify Kpop shuffle. Tracks like REALLY REALLY and LOVE ME LOVE ME are mainstays in my “Summer Tropical Feel Good” playlist. Their current sound is definitely the kind of music that would fit perfectly with the Philippines’ playful, yet laid back island vibe. I can almost imagine myself at sunset, lounging at the beach with a mango shake in tow, lazily grooving to their album as the waves crash repeatedly onto the shore. Then I take off my earphones and realize I’m stuck in my… less than stellar, concrete-clad reality.

Which is why it was such a great treat to escape my everyday trappings for one night and let loose into a tropical paradise with WINNER. And I wasn’t alone. Even as I was approaching the arena, as far as the eye could see, there were fans decked out in variations of blue. (I was silently thanking the universe that I happened to pull out a navy blouse in my frantic state that morning.) A multitude of fans had already been waiting in line early on and even as the sun was setting, more and more fans had gathered with the same unrelenting energy. Fans outside were also treated to live soundcheck audio, only furthering the excitement and anticipation in fans waiting to get in and enjoy the show.

By around 6:00pm, we were let into the venue. Right outside the standing floor area was a pre-concert event held by PLDT Home Fibr for Inner Circles which included a mini WINNER point dance tutorial presented by Dasuri Choi. While I was intrigued to find out what else they had in their program, the inner concert-goer in me decided to head inside to try and find the closest possible position to the barrier in the standing area. And boy, was I pleased that I did so.

The concert started off with a literal BANG! With fireworks going off on stage as the four members of WINNER rose from the elevated platform on the main stage. They opened the show with “공허해 empty” and “AIR” clothed in glittering blue and white outfits. They made their way to the extended stage where they ended the first set of songs with their opening ment. What surprised me the most here was when the members greeted fans in both English and Filipino! The most notable of which, in my opinion, was Jinwoo’s “Pogi ba ako?? Maganda kayo.” and Seunghoon’s “Mahal kita~” with matching finger heart aegyo.

WINNER Leader Seungyoon’s introduction of the next song was interrupted by the sound of an phone ringing through the sound system, to which he responded sheepishly with, “Sorry, it’s my phone.” as the intro to “HELLO” played, leading into their performance of the catchy hip hop tune. This was followed by “EVERYDAY”, which began with a prompted call-and-response of the chorus between WINNER and Inner Circles.

Playful banter ensues after the song ends as the members pause to take a water break. Seungyoon talks about eating Filipino food, with one of the group’s meals being footed by Seunghoon (To which he yells “Jollibee!”). They also mention shooting their Season’s Greetings on location at El Nido, Palawan. Seungyoon also made it a point to show his appreciation for the fan projects prepared by PH Inner Circles such as the banners and globe ad around Mall of Asia: “It was deeply touching. Thank you.”

At this point in time, I realize that there are absolutely no translators on standby. This is all being facilitated by Seungyoon and the other members. I’m amazed at how well Seungyoon communicates with the audience and is able to talk to the fans fluently and confidently. The other members as well are so quick to switch to a language they’re not comfortable with in order to connect with their international fans. Even simple phrases such as “Namiss namin kayo” show they have a genuine interest in showing their love towards their fans.

The next set of performances showcased the member’s individual talents and charisma. Mino performed a too-hot-for-words rendition of “Body” and “Turn Off The Light” in a flashy jacket with nothing underneath (cue screaming Mino fans and a exclamation of surprise from me). Jinwoo performed a near-angelic cover of “Untitled” by label-mate Big Bang’s GDragon; with a cloud of fog surrounding him as if he dropped down from heaven to grace fans with his presence. Seungyoon performed his song “It Rains” after which he made his way to the extended stage.

While preparing, Seungyoon took the time to sing a snippet of “I Like Me Better When I’m With You” by Josh Wall, a song he claims he sung for the first time in front of an audience and show his appreciation for fans by dedicating the lyrics to them. He then performed a soulful cover of Yoon Jong Shin’s “Instinctively” while accompanying himself on guitar (another point of appreciation Seungyoon mentions: His guitar strap was provided by PH ICs!).

The final solo performance of the night went to Seunghoon, who showed off his sharp dance moves while performing “Ringa Linga” by label-mate Big Bang’s Taeyang. The rest of the group reunited on stage clad in all white to perform “WE WERE”. A great song to get the crowd settled down for their next ment.

After the ment, the members of WINNER slow down the show to perform a sit down version of “FOR” and “Raining” amidst strategically placed mirrors reflecting the images of past loves. A great effect that helped drive the story of the song forward. After which they made their way to the extended stage with “MOVIE STAR”, one of my favourite songs from their new album, and definitely a head bopping sing-a-long for fans in the arena. By this point, I was already thoroughly enjoying my concert experience with WINNER, even as I felt that we were nearing the end of the first half, I was still clamouring for more.

Then they played the MOST HILARIOUS VCR I have ever seen at a concert. The story centered around four children playing the members of WINNER fantasizing about what their futures would be if they were to find a large treasure, with the actual members starring in their fantasies. I don’t think I’ve laughed this hard at a concert video. I have to commend the acting chops of the boys, I was immersed in their wild fantasy and laughing at each of the comedic beats.

After the VCR break, the boys appeared back on stage in fantastic red outfits with the rest of their back-up dancers to perform “IMMATURE”, a perfect starter after watching the silliest VCR that explored their ‘immature’ fantasies. The next songs performed on the main stage with colourful and funky pop video effects were “LOVE ME LOVE ME” and “SPECIAL NIGHT”.

It’s at this point that Seungyoon talks about what the meaning of the tour title “EVERYWHERE” is. He explains that it was decided by their desire to go everywhere where their fans will be waiting for them. They wanted to visit different cities, experience different cultures, and make special memories on tour. He then thanks Inner Circles for making it possible. He then signals the beginning of the end of the show. Although Inner Circles in the arena are far from tired, as demonstrated when Seungyoon made different sections of the arena make some noise to get the crowd fired up for the last set of songs.

WINNER made their way once again to the extended stage to perform “ISLAND” and their smash hit “REALLY REALLY”, after which they got the crowd to sing once again to start the final song, “LA LA”. The lights went out as a special message from 2NE1’s Sandara Park played. She greeted Inner Circles and congratulated the members of WINNER for their first solo concert in the Philippines.

As the crowd began to die down, Inner Circle’s fan project came into play in the arena as an array of cellphone lights turned on one by one, slowly turning the once blue sea of pen lights into twinkling white stars. Slowly the voices of Inner Circles grew more prominent as a melody began to form in the air, singing as one the chorus of “MOVIE STAR”. Over and over, they sang as if coaxing WINNER to come back to the stage for an encore performance. I was moved by the whole project and the love than Inner Circles reciprocated.

And when the fans least expected it, WINNER popped back up on stage with “끼부리지마 Don’t flirt” and “LUXURY”. Taking notice of Inner Circle’s fan banners that read:  “Inseos [Inner Circles], the shelter that embraces WINNER everyday”

They gave their final greetings (in both English and Filipino!) and teased fans about an upcoming album comeback! They ended the show with an remixed mashup of “EVERYDAY” and “REALLY REALLY”. After which they bid fans goodbye with a promise to return as soon as they can.

My final thoughts on what I just witnessed were an array of emotions. Even though it was short-lived, I was able to experience the tropical paradise that WINNER and Inner Circles created together. I was amazed by the sheer talent of the group; at their energy and aura while performing and how they managed to capture my attention thoroughly. But mostly, I was in awe of WINNER’s charm and charisma in between songs. It was fascinating to watch how they connected to fans in between most of the songs, making a point to show their appreciation, whether it was through acknowledging all the fan projects by Filipino Inner Circles, or by preparing Filipino phrases in order to communicate with Filipino fans. I could feel the genuine love coming from them.

As Seungyoon said in his final greeting, “A singer cannot exist if there are no listeners,” I truly believe that WINNER, with their talents, charm, and genuine love for their fans, they will continue to exist and honestly, they can only get bigger. As for me, I’ll definitely be anticipating the return of WINNER.

We’d like to thank PULP LIVE WORLD for inviting us to experience WINNER: EVERYWHERE Tour in Manila.

Additional photography by PULP LIVE WORLD.

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