ENHYPEN’s “MANIFESTO in U.S.” Tour: Concert Review
In Chicago, ENHYPEN proved they have massive talent and a knack for storytelling.
With a music video world as carefully-crafted and tonally-specific as ENHYPEN’s, translating it into a concert format was a tall order, but at the “MANIFESTO in U.S.” tour stop in Chicago, ENHYPEN proved they were up for the task. Stylistically and entertainment-wise, ENHYPEN provided fans with a high-quality show that gave new life to their storytelling. The show was formatted in two key ways that made its narrative smart and cohesive. One of those ways is by staying close to the source material, following the same storyline of their music videos. Another is by keeping continuity from song to song. The setlist was structured in a way that grouped most of the songs with others from the same album release. On the occasions when this was not the case, a song was pulled out of chronological order for a clear reason and still kept the narrative of the previous song going. Whether it made sense chronologically or thematically, each song led well into the next one, and it made for a fast-paced and engrossing tale.
The show began with “Intro : Walk the Line,” an intriguing monologue that establishes the broad premise of ENHYPEN’s music video story. It poses questions about what the future holds and how to grapple with the unknowns in it, and it indirectly references the group’s hyphen symbol by describing a world that “carved [them] on that line.” Just as they do in their debut mini-album, BORDER : DAY ONE, and its corresponding music videos, ENHYPEN’s opening numbers used choreography and lyrics to represent their fumbling for answers. The boys wore regal, gold-embellished pieces with dark dress pants, playing the role of princes trying to connect with others regardless of status.
A piece of BORDER : DAY ONE was mashed together with a piece of BORDER : CARNIVAL: “Not For Sale” and “Let Me In (20 CUBE).” Thematically, mixing these two songs was spot-on: “Not For Sale” is about realizing the one thing in this world that cannot be commodified is true love, and “Let Me In” is about the desire to pursue that love.
Although not consistent chronologically, the next few songs kept the narrative of the previous performances going. ENHYPEN sang “TFW (That Feeling When),” which voices the desire to share a feeling with a loved one more than any specific words, and “Upper Side Dreamin’,” a song about soaking in a beautiful moment while it lasts. This seemed like a premonition, since the next song was “Mixed Up,” which is about suddenly being shocked by the ways others are twisting one’s story.
The first intermission featured a video with a fancy dinner among princes in a picturesque garden taking a turn for the sinister, as blood stained the setting, the moon turned red, and the sky turned black. This is when, much like in their music video series, they switched from their sweet and naive characters into their vampire ones. Just as the videos transitioning between the BORDER : DAY ONE and BORDER : CARNIVAL eras do, the corresponding live stages swept the viewers into a realm of mystery and suspense.
In front of the background of a towering, gray castle and walls of flames, dressed in crimson tops and black pants, ENHYPEN performed “Drunk-Dazed” and “One In A Billion.” At one point, they performed at and then danced on top of the long, fancy dining table from their music videos and the concert video, although its sole decor now was a shriveled-up vine.
The ominous sensation that was afoot rose more during “FEVER,” a standout performance with an extended introduction showing off teamwork-dependent choreography. The group effectively moved like one organism, as if engaging in dark magic and a preplanned ritual.
After the “FEVER” broke, the members changed into preppy, school uniform-esque looks and turned back into the charming boys of the opening numbers. It was as if the night of vampiric lore had been all a dream.
ENHYPEN performed “Attention, please!” next, and they cleverly performed it in front of a graffiti-themed backdrop. This screen kept having messy spots turn transparent, as if someone sloppily colored over parts of the graffiti with a black marker. As individual members sang their lines, they got this unique version of a spotlight. They eventually all came to the front half of the stage, abandoning the screen they had been stuck behind and choosing instead to call for everyone’s attention outside of a classroom setting. This was a new way to tell a classic lesson from ENHYPEN’s story: it is better to follow one’s passions than stay feeling stuck and constrained by focusing solely on academics.
The lyrics in “Attention, please!” express an intense fear and desire to hold someone’s hand while moving down an unfamiliar path. ENHYPEN recognize the path forward will be challenging, but they also have a desire to follow it, expecting great rewards to follow. These feelings made for a smooth transition into the next two songs, the adorable “Polaroid Love” and the sweet, romantic “Just A Little Bit.”
Just like the “Tamed-Dashed” music video includes much more than what first meets the eye, the live version did as well. ENHYPEN sported silver, sequin-covered jerseys as they danced in front of an image of a football field. What might have been overlooked: the image behind that football field, an image of a full moon and the same blue, starry sky that set the scene in their introductory performances. This was a subtle reminder that ENHYPEN’s worlds are more converged than it seems.
The next video intermission showed the blood-red scene that had been prominent in their vampire chapters, but it soon devolved into a jumble of images, and it ended with the members in all-white outfits, ready for a clean slate and to literally open a door into a new world.
In the same way as its music video, the “Blessed-Cursed” performance had a backdrop of tilted imagery, keeping viewers in a sense of prolonged disorientation.
By the end of the next performance, “Go Big or Go Home,” ENHYPEN realized the only way they want to live is one hundred percent as themselves, entirely without thinking about social norms or expectations. This black-and-white mentality, ironically, made their futures seem full of more colors than ever before.
The next song was “Future Perfect (Pass the MIC),” which was not only symbolic for its expansion on the themes of the previous few performances, but also for its place in their discography. After the release of DIMENSION : DILEMMA came DIMENSION : ANSWER, and then MANIFESTO : DAY 1, on which “Future Perfect (Pass the MIC)” is included. With this album title, ENHYPEN indicate their story is back to the “Day One” they sing about in “Given-Taken,” but with the song title, they indicate this is a brand new “Day One” that exists in an entirely different realm. The hyphens that became a defining trait of their title tracks - the symbol of the “line” they felt the need to “walk on” throughout their lives - are not present in “Future Perfect (Pass the MIC).” This emphasizes the dawn of a new era, as ENHYPEN take full control of their destinies and do away with the thought confines that previously controlled them. They will no longer “walk the line” society insists they walk, and this message was made loud and clear again by the decision to make “Future Perfect (Pass the MIC)” the final song (excluding the encore).
The theme of complete autonomy persisted with the first song of ENHYPEN’s encore and another song off of MANIFESTO : DAY 1, “ParadoXXX Invasion.” Then came “SHOUT OUT,” on which they embrace the “logic of a new era” and amplify the desire to remove “the fake paradigm that locked [them] up.” They concluded with a reprise of “Future Perfect (Pass the MIC),” and they reinforced their message with their outfit choices. They stood on stage in casual jeans and t-shirts, having done away with all their previous costumes. They now stood there simply playing the role of their true selves. Once again, the live show’s progression paralleled the music video storyline’s progression, since the “ParadoXXX Invasion” music video shows the members in casual wear too.
In a welcome surprise, after all the encore performances had finished and ENHYPEN had left the stage for the last time, there was still one more video clip. This one showed the members walking confidently together towards a towering set of double doors. The doors were cracked open just slightly, but it was enough to show a blinding stream of light pouring out from behind them. The members stepped into this new world as the video ended, not afraid to face the blindingly intense future that awaited them. They literally stepped into a new world after symbolically doing so during the show and previous videos.
Much like ENHYPEN’s music video universe, their “MANIFESTO in U.S. Tour” brought to life an engaging and multilayered narrative. Both live and on the screen, ENHYPEN have created a tale both rich in meaning and lots of fun. It is a story of vices and virtues, of victories and setbacks, of periods of stability and inner turmoil. It encompasses the many shades feelings of love, lust, greed, angst, and fear can take. It weaves together several themes and plots, blurs their chronology, and adds in supernatural elements to keep audiences hooked. Costumes, props, backgrounds, dance routines, and more combine to visually represent a journey of self-exploration, one that is both singular and universal. These themes are all encapsulated perfectly by the tour setlist, its order, and its execution.
Understanding the story laid out through ENHYPEN’s music videos means understanding the story laid out by ENHYPEN’s “MANIFESTO in U.S.” show, and vice versa. The live show effectively and excitingly went off of the stories in their music videos, and although there is some practical variation in how these formats told the story, it remains rooted in a central premise. Below is one way to be absorbed in ENHYPEN’s story, regardless of format:
You discover the world has “carved” you on a certain “line” you are expected to spend all of your life “walking.” This tight constraint on how you are taught to be and to act messes with your head, and you end up stuck in suspended discombobulation, as if you are in the middle of a dizzying carnival of influences and desires. After calming down and admitting to feelings of fear and insecurity, you feel the need to have someone by your side for comfort and strength. Then, it is as if you have broken out of the Matrix, and a realization hits you like a bolt of lightning: no one is making you walk on this agonizing line! You can stray from it as much as you’d like, or even discard it entirely! You can be yourself without limitations, create your own “Day One,” and start anew. Upon this epiphany, you grow more and more excited about experiencing a future that now feels exhilaratingly packed with potential routes, rather than terrifyingly so. You get to a point where there is no turning back; there is no suppressing the urge to plunge forward into a world that ignores society’s commands. This chapter closes when ENHYPEN join you, as you commit to stepping forward into a new, unfamiliar world, head held high.
Those who cherish the ENHYPEN music video world and fear changes to it can rest assured that ENHYPEN’s live show did the videos justice. Better yet, it amplified the deeper messages within them and found new ways to remind audiences why ENHYPEN’s story intrigued them in the first place! The “MANIFESTO in U.S. Tour” was as if a favorite movie was given a live makeover, one true to its source material but inventive and delightful in its twists and turns. There is obviously much more in ENHYPEN’s future, in many formats, and their story will surely keep resonating in ways both personal and ways that unite all fans behind a common ethos of pride in oneself.
For more of my thoughts on ENHYPEN’s show, as well as more ENHYPEN-related updates, stay tuned for an upcoming episode of 17 Carat K-Pop, out on all major podcast platforms and at this link! Also, check out some previous ENHYPEN-dedicated episodes of the show here and here!
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