Live Report: Red Velvet – OVO Wembley Arena, London

The group's R To V live show is simply iconic...

In K-pop, the final song of a concert is usually a mellow affair. Something not too happy and not too sad, where idols can interact with the audience and send them bittersweet goodbyes. Inoffensive, for a better word. However, when even that final song is a pop masterpiece, you know you’re dealing with another level of performers.

For their fourth concert ‘R to V’, K-pop group Red Velvet chose nothing less than the wistful, sparkling ‘You Better Know’ as their closer. The crowning jewel after two hours and a half of hits, it sends the audience home with fireworks and magic, instead of just tears and deflated hearts. “So are you ready or not? / The times you’ve been waiting for / Are getting closer to you,” they sing, as if the world waiting outside is even better than their concert, and not the opposite.

Last night, the message also rang true for the quintet. Playing at the OVO Arena Wembley in London, it was the last stop of the European leg of their tour, which began in Paris on May 24th, and also hit Amsterdam, Berlin, and Barcelona’s Primavera Sound Festival. (On Thursday, they make a concluding European performance at the Madrid edition of the festival). During their final ment, the members were visibly touched while looking back on the highs and lows of this tour — including the absence of member Joy due to health reasons — but certain that this is just the beginning of a better chapter ahead.

Since their debut in 2014, Red Velvet built one of K-pop’s best discographies on the premise of having two sides: bright ‘red’ and sultry ‘velvet’. As its name suggests, ‘R To V’ is a concert that aims to showcase their musical range, gathering the best gems from their near-decade together. The result is a dynamic setlist that leaves no boring breaks or filler moments — and Red Velvet deliver it with royalty.

The concert is permeated by VCRs that reinforce this idea, with two versions of the members (one wearing all-white outfits, one wearing all-black) meeting themselves and realising they are different sides of the same coin. As for the setlist, it is starkly divided into two halves, but the transition between ‘red’ and ‘velvet’ is as smooth as cutting a slice of cake.

They opened the night with their poised 2022 single ‘Feel My Rhythm’, followed by that same year’s B-Side ‘Bamboleo’ and 2019’s ‘LP’. Dressed in pink, ballerina-inspired outfits that later turn into pastel-coloured spring dresses, they follow up with a cheerful section including hits like ‘Ice Cream Cake’, and ‘Oh Boy.’ By the time ‘Eyes Locked, Hands Locked’ starts to play, one of Red Velvet’s biggest assets comes into view: they harmonise like heaven, and make sure the whole venue can listen to it live.

Changing into outfits that mix red fabrics and jeans, they continued to raise the tempo with a much-welcome rendition of B-Side ‘Bing Bing’, their latest single ‘Birthday’, and finally reached the peak of ‘red’ with 2017’s song of the summer, ‘Red Flavor.’

From then onwards, Red Velvet entice the audience with some of their most alluring, ‘velvet’-y delicacies. Dressed in two sets of black outfits mixed with lace, leather, and diamonds, they carry out the commanding duo of ‘Pose’ and ‘Beg For Me’, the slinky ‘Zoom’, and the mischievous ‘Peek-A-Boo’, among others. The peak of ‘velvet’ happens when they perform crowd favourites ‘Bad Boy’ and ‘Psycho’ — each with special dance breaks that remind the audience of how clean and captivating their moves are. 

When the encore arrives, there’s finally a chance to grasp at the sublime collection of songs they have put together. It’s worth mentioning that Wendy’s charisma and playfulness carried the arena whenever she talked to the audience, as well as Yeri’s loveliness — especially when they both gave a try at British accents. Leader Irene directed the group with elegance throughout the concert, and Seulgi’s warmth-heartedness radiated when she looked at the audience and made an effort to “remember each of your faces”, as she said.

Before the majestic ‘You Better Know’, they closed the set with a delightful combination of ‘My Dear’, ‘Russian Roulette’, and the deranged ‘Zimzalabim’ — a feast for the senses, and the ultimate display of Red Velvet’s preeminence.

Words: Tássia Assis

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