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For a performer to be considered great, they have to ensure that whenever they step foot on stage, they are more than just a studio musician. Some succeed at this, whilst others fail, with reasons for either varying depending on the circumstance. It’s never a fun thing to see an artist you enjoy fail to captivate you in person, but the exhilaration of someone you admire proving their worth in a live-setting is something hard to match.
On the 20th January 2019, the South-Korean artist Crush proved his worth and more, showcasing that he is levels above being your average musician, instead being an all-round talent deserving of a place in a league of his own. A truly elite performer, his concert in the intimate O2 Forum in Kentish Town will forever stay in my mind, and no doubt go down as an astronomical success. Whether it was the silky-smooth “Woo Ah,” or an older track like the energy-filled “Hug Me,” everything landed perfectly, ensuring there could no complaints from one of the most passionate crowds I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of.
The set started with extreme pace, even resulting in a few tracks finishing abruptly (partly due to some featured artists being unable to be on stage). But this was actually beneficial, allowing the concert to fly at 100 miles per hour, leaving the audience hardly able to catch their breath.
It was an audience truly up for the occasion too, hanging on every word Crush had to offer and staying firmly in the palm of his hand throughout the night, enthusiastically participating whenever the opportunity allowed. The energy was tangible, and the chemistry between the artist and audience made for a compelling, larger than life experience. It didn’t matter whether the crowd were asked what they had for breakfast (a fantastic way to seamlessly transition into smash-hit “Cereal”), or what football team they sided with; the 2000+ in attendance made sure they weren’t leaving with their voices in tact.
Furthermore, it’s a testament to those fortunate ticket holders that they added to the show rather than took away from it. I lost count of the amount of time I spent smiling from my nosebleed balcony view at the gusto in which the pit jumped, danced, and sang along as best they could to each and every track. A shining example was the breathtaking a cappella rendition of “Beautiful.” It was a bold enough move for Crush to "shh" those in attendance beforehand, but a real credit to the fans (who were more than happy to take the backseat), to allow the unwavering vocal strength to shine through in a truly unparalleled emotional performance.
It was this kind of talent and craftsmanship that remained a constant throughout the night, with hit after hit being churned out with immense success. Crush is a true artist, and it was evident that time and effort had been spent perfecting every last detail of the show. It was at times jaw-dropping, never once dull, and an arena worthy performance presented in one of London’s many hidden gem venues.
During the calmer segment of this particular set, the 26 year-old managed to successfully put a modern, contemporary twist on Chet Baker classic “I Fall In Love Too Easily,” whilst also showcasing his own range and versatility thanks to an eclectic mix of his own more refined tracks; from a shorter rendition of 2014 classic “Sofa” to the raw, heart-wrenching “none.” It was a worthwhile change of pace from the songs that came either side of these slower efforts, adding a more layered excitement and overall enjoyment to the event.
With that being said, it was the closing-stretch that really took the concert to another level. Going full-throttle, the blistering speed of club anthems like “party (Shut Down),” “Laputa,” and “Don’t Be Shy” (a true holy trinity of music) were ridiculously fun to witness, taking everyone to cloud 9 and making sure there was no chance of them coming down.
A special mention must also go to Millic, a magician behind the DJ decks who helped the show move without a hitch whilst adding his own vibrancy and colour to both his supporting set and the main show. To have two performers at their apex deliver such a phenomenal show together is something no superlative can describe, and a blessing to have been able to witness.
Nevertheless, If it’s only a summary of the night you’re looking for, then look no further than the encore. Starting with an impassioned speech about music breaking barriers, and a promise that he will be back a “bigger and better artist” next time he steps foot in London, the sentimental tracks “Don’t Forget” and full-English effort “Lay Your Head On Me” that followed were poignant reminders of the immense talent Crush possesses, and took you along on a journey through just about every imaginable emotion.
In terms of a personal highlight, that came in the form of an extended version of “Oasis.” an upbeat, catchy release that scored a top 5 in the Korean charts back in 2015. It was the perfect set-closer; putting every last person on their feet, all of them singing their heart out and moving to each passing beat, indifferent as to whether the performers were about to soak them with the remaining H2O in their water bottles. It felt like everyone was in unison, and showed that Crush was exactly right in his speech; music truly does break down barriers. This diverse crowd, brought together over little more than a shared interest of one particular musician, emphasised the points made prior emphatically, putting the focus solely on the artist, who returned the love by commanding the stage effortlessly and flawlessly. Nobody was judged for who they were nor were they ostracised for being different, and when music is as welcoming as this, it’s hard not to lose yourself in it.
All in all, this was a night that I’ll never forget. The setlist was bold, gripping, and unpredictable, and thanks to a crowd that fed electric energy to whoever was on stage, there was an unfaltering amount of effort shown. It’s hard to remain partisan and formal when the adrenaline will remain in my system for weeks, and I’m still on a serious emotional high whilst writing this piece. I’ll carry the memories of this show with me for the rest of my life, and it was an honour to have been able to attend this concert. I urge anyone that ever has the chance to see Crush live to take it without second-thought. There isn’t a chance you’ll regret it.