It is a rare quiet moment during Psy’s concert at the Samsung Galaxy Note II Launch Party. He seems almost frozen in time, scanning the venue behind his pitch-black sunglasses. With one gesture, he coolly takes them off to reveal the face that managed to capture the attention of the world. It is a rare moment like this, one absent of all the electro, horse-dance extravaganza where Psy is the most revealing. To him, the unexpected success still feels like nothing more than a fantasy. “This is my first time in Canada, in Toronto,” he says, “This is a really touching moment for me.”
With one single, Korean pop star has Psy become one of the most recognized faces in celebrity culture around the world. The viral breakthrough of his self-composed smash “Gangnam Style” initially turned the heads of the internet population. Soon after, the song rose to become one of, if not, the summer dance-anthem of 2012. Millions of views on YouTube were only just the beginning of Gangnam Style’s success. The single skyrocketed the star into the much-coveted status of the ubiquitous pop icon, earning Psy the fans and support from an audience he would have never dreamed. From dancing with Britney Spears on the Ellen Degeneres Show to making a surprise cameo on Saturday Night Live, Gangnam Style has taken Psy on a life-changing trip.
And he isn’t stopping anytime soon.
The pop star’s performance at Toronto’s Kool Haus will mark Psy’s first-ever appearance in front of a Canadian audience. As expected, the international presence of Gangnam Style has galloped its way up north to Canada as well. The song has even reached the number one spot on the Canadian Billboard charts, beating out big-selling artists in US pop like Rihanna and Taylor Swift.
The atmosphere inside the venue is nothing short of your standard K-Pop concert. Various fans are seen lined up with neon signs scribbled with encouraging messages written in both Korean and English. The majority of them act like K-Pop fans too, shyly hiding their faces with glow sticks and smartphones as cameras come swaying their way. With Halloween, some fans even showed up dressed as Psy himself, donning the slick baby-blue-suit-and-bow-tie combo proud. As if already taken by an alcoholic haze, they laugh ecstatically, nonchalantly performing the infamous horse-riding dance to the beat of yesterday’s pop hits, diligently key-stroked by the venue’s DJ in hopes of keeping fans energized before the big show.
As expected, elements of Psy’s stadium-selling concerts were absent from this concert. A quick YouTube search of the singer’s recent concerts would see his wildest on-stage fantasies come true. From flying around the venue on wire to performing aside what can only be described as a giant, inflatable caricature of the star himself, concert-goers expecting to see a spectacle on par with Psy’s shows in his home turf could only but be left disappointed. Still, the singer’s set list of merely three songs left fans amazed by Psy’s over-the-top dance moves, pitch-perfect singing and an unexplainable aura of both charisma and sheer hilarity.
The three-song concert opened up with a track titled “Champion“, an essential Psy-hit from 2002 that would arguably sit number one on the singer’s repertoire of hits. It is a pure, high-energy dance number, a song that embodies the kind of artist that is Psy. The singer than followed up with a more recent track, titled “Right Now“, that follows in-suit of the energized, electro-dance anthems that Psy is famous for. The song is the only other song from Psy that has garnered significant interest since the international widespread of Gangnam Style. The increasing interest in Right Now is almost reminiscent of the formula that made Gangnam Style the sensation it is today: a hilarious video layered with cheesy, but memorable dance moves, an infectious pop tune and most importantly, Psy’s wild personality. The last song of the night was, of course, the song that started it all: Gangnam Style. Screams and chants grew wilder as the singer pulled out his shades and took off his blue blazer, revealing a sleeveless dress shirt underneath; a party-animal attire with a hint of bourgeoisie-classy.
While the concert did not satisfy the pragmatic demands of the stadium-selling shows in Psy’s home turf, the pop star managed to prove his abilities as a performer to new and old fans alike. Yes, the majority of the singer’s records take mold of what pop music is; creatively safe, yet irresistible to the ears. However, it was neither an expensive set nor a squad of formidably fit dancers, both qualities that could bring any half-baked pop show to life, that made Psy’s performance a spectacle to watch. In fact, the lack of a set or an onslaught of dancers more or less became an advantage for the singer to showcase the extent of his abilities as a performer. The moments of jaw-dropping pop show moments were credible to nothing but the singer’s talents; the tightly choreographed records sounded perfect, and even the scripted concert shtick the singer so often frequents energized the crowd.
Those expecting to see a full-fledged show were obviously left disappointed, but tonight was but a mere taster, an hors d’oeuvre if you will, of what Psy has to offer to the world. It was perhaps the first time new fans of Psy freshly off the Gangnam Style-bandwagon saw the artist not as “Psy, the Internet sensation,” or “Psy, the guy on YouTube,” but as Psy, the incredible performer and entertainer who has so much in store for the world.