Red Velvet: Power to the people

Published August 12, 2022, 8:00 AM

by Josh Morente

A concert in pursuit of inclusivity, particularly for the differently-abled, featuring one of the biggest K-pop groups worldwide

DO YOU FEEL THE RHYTHM? Filipino performers BINI, BGYO, Lady Pipay, with Red
Velvet (seated)

When “inclusivity” is just a word passed around so much, it loses its essence. One might think that a concert aimed at creating a platform for famous and obscure names to come together is just a ruse to deepen the pockets of those in power, but we got it wrong. “Be You: The World Will Adjust” really took into account persons in need of special education and with disabilities. It showed everyone on the concert grounds, on no less than the enormous stage that is the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena, that anyone and everyone can show the world their talents, what they’re made of, and perform to their heart’s content.

Before anything else, “Be You: The World Will Adjust” was a concert presented by IPITI Inc. (In Purpose International Training Institute Inc.). The extraordinary celebration for people with special needs happened on a quiet Friday evening in July. A lineup composed of local up-and-coming acts such as BINI, BGYO, and Lady Pipay, along with Hallyu Wave champions, Red Velvet, was what awaited performers and concertgoers alike.

The event began with a long queue outside the MOA Arena with everyone outside eager to get in. In support of the South Korean girl group, attendees brought lightsticks, headbands with the idols’ faces, and banners with the respective colors of each of the members of Red Velvet. To say the least, it was a jam-packed night.

All were excited to see the K-pop sensation grace the stage, sing and dance to their favorite tracks, and just have an amazing evening overall. It was, after all, Red Velvet’s first gig in the Philippines since 2019. What surprised audiences the most, however, were the opening performances. There was a group of cute kids who danced in matching yellow and blue costumes, an unforgettable rendition of Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth’s “Defying Gravity” from the musical Wicked, a touching cover of Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up,” and a heart-melting piano cover of Lea Salonga’s “Reflection” from the animated movie Mulan, among various equally great acts from talents who wowed the crowd.

ARENA ON VELVET FIRE The Mall of Asia Arena during the concert

What with the wonderful performances, one would think that these were already the main act. These were, of course, just a portion of the production. A brief intermission from the hosts hyped up the crowd after which veteran singer Martin Nievera serenaded the arena with one of his megahits “I’ll Be There,” a welcome surprise. He then brought out everyone who performed before him for the finale of his appearance. To say that it was a mesmerizing sight would be an understatement. Next was Lady Pipay with a medley of pop songs and intricately choreographed numbers, backed by dancers who were just as good as her.

At this point, the attendees, myself included, were wondering when Red Velvet was coming out. For those who aren’t familiar with them, Irene, Seulgi, Wendy, Joy, and Yeri make up the five-piece K-pop group from SM Entertainment. They can do different concepts from fun, colorful pop songs to alluring R&B hits, just name it and they surely have what it takes to do it or well, you know, they might have already done it.

With lights dimmed, and everyone anticipating the idols’ return, this being their third visit to the Philippines since 2015, the entire arena shouted in delight. Giant screens turned on, a montage of their songs played with a countdown, and the whole place got filled with more deafening shrieks, and out came Red Velvet. Anticlimactic? Maybe. But for those who witnessed it live, it was a surreal experience.

The girls went to their designated markings, and the first note of “Feel My Rhythm” played. Wendy gracefully twirled, Seulgi followed and brought over Yeri, while Joy danced to the beat, and Irene finally started with “Mudohoereul dwijibeo (Turn the ball upside down).” The crowd loved every second of it, bewitched by the ladies onstage. Fans, aptly called the ReVeluvs, waved their lightsticks, swayed to the “blow confetti ” dance, and reveled in unbridled enjoyment. What a way to start the set! The girls played a few more songs, including “Psycho” and “Hello, Sunset.” They took a break through a brief introduction of themselves, greeted the concertgoers, and explained the importance of the concert.

POP PRIDE Clockwise from top left: Lady Pipay, BINI, and BGYO

Red Velvet bid farewell, but before leaving, they performed two more pieces. One of them was “Queendom,” an empowering song that fit the theme “Be You,” as it talks about being a queen or a king in your own right, where you make your rules and live life the way you want to. Like the affair, “Queendom” celebrates strength and beauty by being yourself. As they were singing, everyone naturally chimed in to the hit song’s La-di-da-doo-ba-ba-di-da like it was the battle cry of the century. Red Velvet finished their strong five-song set with “Red Flavor,” a fan favorite for a thousand and one reasons. The arena exploded with cheers and chants. Irene rapped the song’s bridge, Seulgi teased the crowd, Wendy sang its high notes, Joy sang it deeply, and Yeri danced to it smoothly. And then it was done. They said goodbye one more time and left the stage. Some say it was bitin (not enough), but to others, it was enough, well worth the wait. For me, quite frankly, it was both.

Diversity and inclusion take time, and won’t miraculously happen overnight, but it’s happening around us. The Be You concert may not be the start or the finish line, but it sure played its part.

BINI and BGYO were the closing acts, both performing their outstanding hits along with excellently choreographed dances. BINI was clad in a pink baro’t saya-inspired ensemble, fitting of the event. They were a sight for sore eyes and equally pleasing to the ears too. BGYO, on the other hand, was a handsome bunch, as attractive as they were in the posters and photos posted on their social media accounts. Both groups could totally go head-to-head with international artists. A sure treat to fans, old and new.

As the night ended, everyone exited the arena, content with what they witnessed and felt. It was a celebration of and for anyone, everyone, the differently-abled, and the ones with special needs.

Diversity and inclusion take time, and won’t miraculously happen overnight, but it’s happening around us. Everyone’s catching on. Better late than never, I say. The Be You concert may not be the start or the finish line, but it sure played its part.