“Have you been waiting long for us,” asked Jihyo at the first of TWICE’s two shows at London’s O2 Arena last night. Several minutes of screaming was how the sold-out crowd answered, clearly in the affirmative.
The nine-piece K-pop band formed in 2015 via televised talent show Sixteen and released their debut EP the same year. A string of sugary pop records followed and last summer, they became the first female K-pop group to headline a stadium in North America. They’ve spent much of 2023 playing massive venues across Asia, Australia and America but Thursday’s London concert was their first ever European show.
Their latest international arena tour, dubbed Ready To Be after their recent mini-album of the same name, saw TWICE continue their evolution from polished popstars into something with a little more edge. A four-piece band highlighted the rebellious pop-punk attitude in Queen Of Hearts while Dance the Night Away was twisted into a groove-led celebration. “We’re ready to show you who we are,” Dahyun said from the stage, with the band growing in confidence over the years thanks to the support of their fanbase, known as ONCE.
Leaning into this, all nine members of TWICE were given a moment in the spotlight with a solo number. Dahyun delivered a beautiful, Frozen-inspired cover of Colbie Caillet’s Try that was designed to show the crowd that “you’re precious just the way you are”, Momo performed an urgent dance routine to Beyoncé’s Move, making use of 12 backing dancers while Nayeon sang their brilliant bubblegum solo number Pop!. The best moments came when TWICE were united though.
Swaggering opener Set Me Free fizzed with excitement before the bass-driven Go Hard showed off the group’s sleek choreography. At various points in the night, that captivating stadium polish gave way to a wonderfully ramshackle Saturday morning tv energy. During one costume change, fans took part in dance-offs that were broadcast on giant video screens before a scream-o-meter was used to bring TWICE back to the stage.
The big finish? A roulette wheel that could have been borrowed from This Morning, used to decide which two songs to finish on. The O2 had never seen anything like it, but those moments of chaos really allowed TWICE’s personality to shine, both as individuals and as a collective.
Clocking in at 150-minutes, TWICE’s debut European show was an overdue celebration of their journey so far that also embraced the messiness of growing up. Last December, fellow K-pop titans Blackpink played the same venue before going on to headline Coachella Festival and BST Hyde Park. TWICE are on a similar trajectory, but Thursday’s gig saw them comfortable doing things their own unique way.
The O2, September 8; theo2.co.uk