By: Kya Brogdon | 14 Nov, 2022
The Orpheum Theater - Phoenix, AZ (November 6, 2022)
It’s been over three years since South Korean pop-rock band The Rose’s last tour, and they’re back and better than ever. After being a fan of them for three years, I was lucky enough to score tickets (and go with two of my best friends!) to their first-ever show in Phoenix, Arizona. Since purchasing the tickets back in August, I’ve been counting down each day until it finally arrived, eagerly listening to the setlist (spoiled on The Rose discord server by frontman Kim Woosung) and hand-painting roses on my jeans for my concert fit.
Held at the beautiful historic Orpheum Theater in downtown Phoenix, the atmosphere was electric—even as we were waiting outside the venue. Fans were passing out various kinds of freebies, as is the norm at most K-pop concerts. From fanmade photocards, buttons, small bags of candy, to even a full-scale banner project, everyone is sure to leave the venue with something tangible to remember the concert by—even if they didn’t purchase the official merch.
Streamlining into the theater, my friends and I could not contain our excitement as we kept walking closer and closer to the stage to find our row. Many of the concerts I’ve attended are in bigger, arena-style venues, so anything close to the stage is very expensive and almost impossible to get. But, with this venue being smaller, the actual view from our row 13 seats was so much better than what I had been imagining. The life-size black roses (which is the name for fans of The Rose) decorating the stage showed how much this concert - and tour as a whole - is for the fans just as much as it is for the band. The presence of these black roses on stage as a representation of the fans really served to bring home the theme of their most recent album, Heal, and the title of the tour itself, Heal Together.
Contrasting to most Western music artists, K-pop concerts don’t have opening acts. When the show starts, you are immediately thrusted into the show and introduced to who you came to see. When the pre-show music stopped and the light dimmed, the roar of the crowd spread through the room like a wave as everyone turned on their lightsticks and stood up. The feedback of instruments being plugged into amps was easily drowned out by the cheers from the crowd. We watch each member take their rightful place on stage - bassist, Lee Jaehyeong on stage right, drummer, Lee Hajoon back right, keyboardist, Park Dojoon on stage left, and lead vocalist, Kim Woosung front and center.
Let me tell you, no amount of setlist preparation beforehand could have prepared me for that heart-aching way The Rose chose to begin their show. Opening with the intro song from their latest album titled “ ~ ” they immediately transitioned into “Definition of ugly is,” and then followed up with two quintessential pop ballads in the form of “Insomnia” and “She’s In The Rain”. Wow. Usually at concerts I tend to get emotional at the ending moments or the fan song, but The Rose had me sobbing right out of the gate.
To stop us from falling deeper into the pit of sadness, the group then transitioned into more upbeat pop-rock songs like “Modern Life” (originally a song from Woosung’s second solo album Moth, now adapted to fit the other members), “Candy (so good)” and “Red”. Generally, I’m the type of person to record my favorite piece of each song at a concert, but when “Red” started I knew I wasn’t going to have anything post-worthy because I was jumping and dancing way too much (shout out to my friends for providing me with videos after, y’all are lifesavers).
Another highlight for me was watching Woosung switch out guitars between songs and tune them by ear on stage. As someone who used to play guitar, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to tune by ear, never mind add the adrenaline, pressure, and noisiness of being onstage in front of thousands of fans.
Dojoon tried to distract us by teasing us with the lyrics from “Candy (so good)”, having the crowd sing the chorus and then calling out those that didn’t know each word, and having us repeat the lyric, “You look so good” and playing bashful when we sang it to him. When he looked over at Woosung to gauge how much more distraction we needed, he was met with Woosung looking back at him, already tuned up and ready to go.
“Okay, he’s fast, let’s go,” Dojoon commented, met with laughter and cheers from the crowd and from the other members.
After “Red,” the mood transitioned back towards introspective and melancholy. On stage and on screen, Jaehyeong told his story of his battle with his mental health that led him to write “See-Saw,” and how music, his members, and the fans helped him remember what his purpose is. Not only was hearing his story and message emotional but watching the other members react to it brought tears to my eyes. The bond between the members was absolutely powerful, and the love they have for each other and for Black Roses is so evident in everything they do.
When the show started to wrap, after scream-singing the lyrics to “Time” and “Cure” and waiting for the inevitable encore song, I sat down and took a moment to look around the theater at all the fans who love this band just as much as I do. No matter how many concerts I’ve been to throughout my life, seeing all of the fans and feeling all of the love emanating throughout whatever venue I’m in is something that always takes my breath away. Music is truly something that can bring people from all walks of life together, and nothing proves that more than concerts.
The Rose ended their show with “Black Rose,” a song dedicated to fans released in 2020 when both members and fans were dealing with military enlistments, lawsuits, and the pandemic. Hearing every voice echo, “Tell me it's okay / Don't be afraid / Nobody can take away, take away / Love is the way,” while swaying back and forth with their lightsticks illuminating the whole venue sent chills down my spine and a smile across my face. I couldn’t help but think of the lyrics to their song “Beauty and the Beast” - “It’s a beautiful life / You and I” - and how true they were in that moment. With The Rose, every moment is truly beautiful.