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Stray Kids demonstrate mastery of eloquent storytelling in ‘Maniac’ tour in Manila
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Stray Kids demonstrate mastery of eloquent storytelling in ‘Maniac’ tour in Manila

Stray Kids Manila

Stray Kids leader Bang Chan told the local press in January that their group is truly unique. It’s an accurate claim. Anyone who attended their recent concert can attest to this. Stray Kids returned to the country for their two-day “Maniac” World Tour concert on March 11-12 at the Mall of Asia Arena. The event is promoted by Pulp Live World.


Bang Chan, Lee Know, Changbin, Hyunjin, Han, Felix, Seungmin and I.N. were monster rookies when they first held a concert in the country, part of the “Unveil” World Tour in 2019. They were supposed to come back with “District 9: Unlock” in 2020, but COVID-19 lockdowns had them postponing and eventually canceling the event altogether.


The Philippines was the last Asian stop of “Maniac” before they head back to the United States to perform in three cities, including their encore in Los Angeles. It’s been a long tour. When they finish, they will have been on the road for almost a year, covering three continents and 19 cities for a total of 42 shows.

Their momentous world tour includes two sold-out nights in Kyocera Dome. Since they started the journey on April 29 last year, they’ve come out with two mini-albums, “Circus” and “Maxident,” one compilation album “SKZ Replay” and their first full Japanese album “The Sound.”

Stays and baby Stays


To say that they’ve kept themselves busy is an understatement. If Stray Kids are not performing their songs, they’re producing new ones courtesy mainly of their production sub-unit 3Racha (Bang Chan, Changbin and Han). They have two other subunits they call Dance Racha (Lee Know, Hyunjin and Felix) and Vocal Racha (Seungmin and I.N.). All members have songs they’ve composed under their belts.


They kept updating their setlists to include tracks from the new albums, depending on the location. For example, for the main set, “Scars” was dropped in favor of “Case 143,” which is the lead single of “Maxident.” But the main costumes they used for Manila were also new ones they used in their encore at Kyocera Dome.


They performed 25 songs in Manila each night, barring group showcase performances. The setlist took the audience on a journey spanning 10 albums over the past five years. Their choices accommodated Stays (fandom name) who were already there when they started through tracks like “Hellevator,” “Yayaya,” “Miroh” and “District 9.” But they also catered to the fans who discovered them because of their earworms such as “God’s Menu,” “All In” and “Back Door.”


Six songs featured in the concert were from the award-winning mini album “Oddinary” like the opening numbers “Maniac” and “Venom”. The stage design was also inspired by this album. The extended LED screen that wrapped the stage and projected bright green spider webs during the pre-show screamed the color scheme of the album cover.


But the flying saucer-like contraption on top of the stage gives off the vibe of Han’s “Alien.” This despite the song not being part of the setlist.


Storytellers


Stray Kids have always been eloquent storytellers. Every resource they have is used to deliver their message. It is expressed in their lyrics, movements, props, costumes, facial expressions and the stages they stood on.


They never shied away from special effects as seen in their epic performances in “Kingdom” when they joined the reality show two years ago. This translated to stage lifts, smokes, pulsating lights and fireworks during the concert.


They wore leashes on their necks when they did “Red Lights” and drowned the Arena in scarlet hues. The song written by Bang Chan and Hyunjin has an uneven rhythm that mimics heavy breathing.

The group put out all the stops for “Charmer,” their crowd-pleasing B-side gem | Photo by Pulp Live World


The dance began with constrained movements, hands tied together by an invisible chain before they broke free from the leashes and started to move freely, seductively. Intense red lights wash over the stage—as if the song wanted you to heed the warning signs, to recognize when to stop.


The first part of “Maniac” was filled with this type of sublime interpretations of their songs.

‘Thunderous’


There was a dance break after the second VCR (video that played onscreen). The stage opened grandly with Hyunjin in the center wearing an ornate black hanbok. His blonde hair shimmering against the minhwa (painting) of the mountain behind him. He danced solo to traditional Korean music, before he was joined by Felix and Lee Know.


It was also during this part that the live band that accompanied them on the tour was revealed. The band slowly ascended onto the stage. When the dance was over, the lights went out.


Spotlight opened and it’s on Changbin. He chanted his verse, following the pansori beat (Korean storytelling). He stopped abruptly before dropping, “What’s up, Manila? Do you know my name?”


“Seo Chang-bin!” The fans gamely answered, completing the inside joke between him and Stays. He smiled, satisfied. His face turned serious again before he started rapping the opening for “Thunderous” as the rest of the group joined him.


The choreography had their bodies follow the movement of the wind before it ended with them spitting three times on their hands. It’s iconic. The song is about not listening to their haters and doing their own thing. The entire segment is a cohesive storyboard of 3Racha’s genius. The song might be called “Thunderous” in English. But in Korean, it’s sorikkun which refers to the pansori singer. They are the singers, rappers who set their own rules.


Pioneers

Stray Kids have been credited to pioneer a new genre. The mala taste genre is defined as a numbingly spicy type of music that satisfies the senses. It goes against everything you perceive what Kpop should sound like.


The group’s prolific library covers various types of music that they experiment with. That’s how we ended up getting the highly charged rock songs such as “Cheese” and “Rock”, psytrance “Side Effects” and the soft, emotional “Lonely St.”

“Maniac” tour is the handiwork of poets and music-lovers. Stray Kids are hiphop, EDM, pop, rock, trap, ballad and R&B. This is the sound they offer to Kpop: all-embracing and with no boundaries.


They’ve also saved for the concert some B-side gems such as “Star Lost” and “Charmer.” The latter being a crowd-pleasing number with Bang Chan, Felix and I.N. giving their fans a peek of their abs.


Showcase


The group sees to it that there is an experience unique to every city, every night that they perform in. They divide themselves into two, performing songs each group wrote for in “Oddinary.”


The impressive vocal line, composed of I.N., Seungmin, Lee Know and Bang Chan, sang “Waiting for Us.” Bang Chan explained that this had been written to express how much they miss their fans during the lockdowns.


On the first day, Stays were treated to Lee Know’s cool vocals through Sam Fischer’s “This City.” Seungmin’s used his warm buttery voice to sing an acoustic version of the viral NewJeans song “OMG.”

Stray Kids in Manila
The gorgeous stage of “Maniac” in Manila | Photo courtesy of Pulp Live World


I.N.’s soothing voice can make you smile and think of a field of flowers. On the second day, the maknae (youngest) encouraged his fans to stay with him through the song he wrote, “Hug Me.”


Bang Chan impressed Stays by singing Yeng Constantino’s “Ikaw.” This is not the first time the idol has shown interest in Original Filipino music. He once shared in his Vlive “Chan’s Room” that he listens to Ben&Ben’s “Leaves.” Apparently, he’s in too deep into local slangs, that he even knows what comes after “everybody hands go up” in “All I do is Win.”

Oh yes, he’s watching Stays.

Team ‘Muddy Water’

The phenomenal rap line is usually composed of Felix, Han, Hyunjin and Changbin. They perform the hopeful “Muddy Water” which Felix explained is about the new generation, the Gen Z that they are apart of. They are ones who will flush out the muddy water.

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Han was absent on the first day because of enteritis which he and Seungmin suffered before their flight to Manila. He sat on a stool the entire three-hour concert on the first day. Felix covered The Kid Laroi’s “Love Again,” obviously enjoying his performance while giving the audience another side to his distinct “Five Star Michelin” low voice. Hyunjin mesmerized with his dance of “Play with Fire”. The powerful number showcased his expressive face and intensity.


Han was able to join them on the second day. The 4th generation ace even sang parts of “Volcano” during the soundcheck party.


“This is your idol Han. This is your sunbae, Han. I’m okay. I can dance, sing and rap. Yesterday was a sad day because I couldn’t perform,” he said during the ending ment (talking parts).


Han and Changbin showed their chemistry onstage through their seamless transition in their rap. Changbin performed his part in “Mirror Mirror” before Han took over with “I Got it”. They fed off each other’s energy, backing each other up.


Bang Chan asked the audience on the second day which group they like better by cheering. The rap line clearly won, thanks to Felix’s ingenuity. He raised his shirt to show his abs. Twice.

Stray Kids in Manila
Stray Kids during their performance of “TOP” | Photo by Pulp Live World

Confidence and teamwork


Stray Kids come across as comedians when you watch their shows online. Onstage, they are completely different persons.


Their eyes are filled with confidence, energized by the love of their fans. Their full swag was on display in songs such as “TOP” and “Victory Song.” You believe it when they say that they will climb higher and dominate the world. It’s just a matter of time.


After this declaration, they softened it up a bit by sharing how they are going to do it through the “Fam” song. It’s a catchy track where they hype each other.


The group has written several songs dedicated to Stays. They sing one during the encore with “Haven.” The messages of their songs are very encouraging, even healing.


They have songs that acknowledge pain, self-doubt and anxiety. Their powerful words bring comfort to those who listen.

Fan project


Their fans prepared hand banners for them. On the first day, the banner read, in Filipino and Korean, “Here we are your home.” The group All for SKZPH (@AllforSKZPH) was in-charge of the over-all fan project, including the banner for the second day, It read, “I’ll Stay by your side today, tomorrow and always.”

Stray Kids show off the hand banners prepared by All for SKZPH | Stray Kids Twitter

They also prepared a VCR with the music “Neverending Story” and “Mixtape Oh” to tell Stray Kids that they are forever their Stays.


Us Filipino fans have always been told that we are too loud at concert venues. We turn concerts into karaoke sessions. But Bang Chan assured everyone that this is welcome in Stayville. That we are free to sing-along, dance-along and enjoy however we want to with them. He said that they love how loud we are and that it left a huge impression on them in 2019.


“Today you guys are over the top! Amazing,” he said.


Even Lee Know, who is usually reserved, asked everyone to sing “Waiting for Us” so he could listen to everybody’s voices. Hyunjin said he wished he could pack everyone and take them home.


“You guys are always doing good. Never doubt yourselves. Whenever you are down, we’re here to bring you guys up. Like you said we are your Neverending Stray Kids. Good job!,” Bang Chan told their fans.

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Read: A cyclone of fun: Stray Kids reunite with Filipino fans

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