‘Follow the white rabbit” beckons the title screen as we await the arrival of one of the most popular K-pop girl groups of the past decade, Red Velvet – or rather, follow the girl in the frou-frou dress and baby-pink platform heels. A sea of waving lightsticks, the must-have fandom accessory, illuminates the way into wonderland.
Despite having amassed hundreds of millions of streams across three albums since their formation in 2014, Red Velvet have never had a UK chart hit and have only performed in London once before. Yet tonight, nothing is lost in translation. What sets the group apart, and how they have endured for almost a decade, is a dual concept: their “red” side offers delicious pop confections with helpings of funk; their “velvet” side embraces maturity, vulnerability and hip-hop experimentalism.
The show that Yeri, Irene, Seulgi and Wendy (minus Joy, who is on hiatus) unveil is a shapeshifting extravaganza that explores each side of their artistry to the fullest. The first act leans into the “red”, layering sweetness with their breakout hit Ice Cream Cake, the quartet dressed in bejewelled gowns with backdrops traversing from a hall of chandeliers to a cupcake factory. Their vocals, whether they sing or rap, are seamless; their choreography is complex yet seemingly effortless. Despite Joy’s absence, the show doesn’t suffer. The perfection is mesmerising: even though their music is the kind that gets you moving, this is a theatrical spectacle you sit down to watch.
Guttural screams welcome every reinvention across Red Velvet’s two-hour performance as they introduce new outfits that usher in another dimension of their sound: welcoming their “velvet” side with sultry R&B hit Bye Bye and the off-kilter trap of Psycho, they return wearing black-hued pinstripes, ties, crucifixes and platform boots. The group take lengthy interludes to charm their audience, whether it be Irene’s performed shyness or Wendy’s goofy attempt at a British accent, but it’s the music that truly connects: they show how happily pop and hip-hop can coexist, and pair them with a frivolity that lets you leave your troubles at the door. Even after two encores, they never lose momentum – Red Velvet keep us hungry for sugar, spice and everything nice.
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