Finding Happiness With DAY6: GRAVITY in Chicago
Following the much-anticipated release of their new mini-album The Book of Us: Gravity earlier this summer, DAY6 embarked on their second world tour. With stops spanning New York, Boston, Miami, Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, the Gravity tour marks the band’s most ambitious stateside venture yet.
I had the pleasure of attending the Chicago concert and, admittedly, went into it with extremely high expectations as both a My Day and a music reviewer. In their press rounds following the release of The Book of Us: Gravity, DAY6 stressed time and again that this was an album created with live performances in mind and after listening to it, I could not agree more. In the weeks leading up to the concert, I couldn’t help but speculate where songs would fall on the setlist or if the performances would measure up to the hype created by the band. But with just the opening notes of the first song, I found myself literally moved to tears—something that happened several times throughout the concert. Undoubtedly, DAY6 put on one of the most inspiring shows I’ve been to, bridging the gap between fan and musician in an unforgettable experience about what it means to be human, to be happy, and to have the time of one’s life.
De-Stressing the DAY6 Way
I’ve been a fan of the band since 2016, though it wasn’t until I attended their 2017 U.S. fanmeet that I became a My Day (the review was actually my first post for this website). Since then, the group has matured in every way from their sound to their achievements, but perhaps most notably in their apparent happiness; this growth is evident in their music. In perhaps the most fitting way, the concert opened with their new song “Best Part,” an anthem about living life to the fullest. Although I’d originally thought this track may have fit somewhere in the encore, I now can’t think of a more perfect opener. With lead guitarist Jae’s command, the audience clapped the opening beats together with the band, immediately bringing the crowd and DAY6 together as one.
The band then launched into older tracks “Sing Me” and “I Wish,” keeping the energy high before going into their opening ment where Jae gave the audience a challenge:
“You are here to relieve stress. Important factors to think of: it doesn’t matter what the people next to you, what the people in front of you, what the people behind you think. You need to let loose and be yourself and have fun today, okay?”
It was this sentiment that echoed through each song that night, reverberating in the theater more than even the heaviest of bass. The energy multiplied with crowdpleaser “Somehow” before the band jumped into their latest hit, “Time of Our Life.” When The Book of Us: Gravity had originally dropped, I had a feeling that this song would become one of my favorites only after I had seen it performed live and I was right. If there’s one thing to make me enjoy a band live, it’s seeing them enjoying themselves. Watching DAY6 perform this song so passionately, not just in front of their fans but seemingly with their fans...it was simply euphoric.
The next portion of the concert got a bit grittier with the performance of “So Cool” before stunning the crowd with the first surprise of the night: a rousing drum solo by the much-loved maknae Dowoon. While DAY6 are best together, each member is an astounding musician in his own right, and getting to see their individual talents showcased was incredible. Next up was bassist Young K, whose sultry grooves—mixed with just the slightest hint of warranted cockiness—captivated the audience. “Out of My Mind,” a cut off the band’s debut EP, was followed by “Feeling Good” before breaking into more tracks from their new album. First up was the feel-good, slightly-psychedelic banger “How to Love,” followed by a chill solo from leader and rhythm guitarist Sungjin that sent the crowd swooning. New songs “For Me” and “Wanna Go Back” were up next and the crowd got particularly hyped for the latter, as did DAY6 themselves: the song is one of the few that features Dowoon on vocals. Although he only has a couple lines after the bridge of the song, in all honesty, the screams for Dowoon might have been the most fervent of the night.
Ever since the start of the tour when setlists began circulating online, I’d been particularly excited for the next segment in which the band performed several mashups of their music with Western songs. Though I’d never in my wildest dreams considered a DAY6-Bruno Mars collab, it just made so much sense when their recent hit “Days Gone By” was mixed with his “Treasure.” Likewise, the jivey beats in older jam “Like That Sun” matched Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” perfectly. The highlight of this portion though, both personally and for what I suspect was a majority of the audience, was the band bringing back their rarely-performed 2016 song “Blood” alongside Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” Personally, “Blood” was the first song I ever heard from DAY6 and the reason I became a fan so I hold it dear; having seen them in concert several times, I was overjoyed to finally hear the song live. Jae even made a jab at the audience that, yes, they saw fans’ tweets begging to add “Blood” to the setlist (and I’ll admit, I am guilty as charged).
Wonpil’s synth solo closed this part of the concert (though not without some “DJ Wonpil” jokes courtesy of Jae), and then the band dialed it back with some of their angstier hits, “Colors” and “I Need Somebody.” Admittedly, I am not that big a fan of ballads and so “Colors” has never been my favorite. Seeing it live, however, has changed my opinion on the song entirely. Maybe it was the raw emotion behind the song or maybe it was the fact that Wonpil was a mere 50 feet from me, but this song was definitely a standout of the night. Following “I Need Somebody” was the electrifying “I Wait,” the band’s first single from their 2017 Every Day6 project, which amped the energy right back up. The next song, “How Can I Say,” was a new addition to the setlist for the U.S. leg of the tour and possibly added in to replace the notable exclusion of the band’s explosive 2018 hit, “Shoot Me.” Last but certainly not least, Jae rounded out the solos with a hard-hitting guitar solo that sent the entire venue erupting into cheers.
It would be bold of me to say that this concert was my favorite I’ve seen, but I can say that what happened next is hands down my favorite moment of any gig I’ve ever attended. As any My Day knows, the group rarely sings the opening verse to their debut song “Congratulations,” in favor of letting the crowd sing it to them. I knew the song would be performed towards the end of the setlist as usual, so I was entirely caught off guard when the band suddenly broke into the opening beats of the song as the house lights raised. Together as one, fans serenaded the band with their own song, all the way up until Young K’s rap verse, as DAY6 looked on with the sincerest of smiles. I’ve been to plenty of concerts where Korean artists have the crowd sing, but never before have I heard such a thorough rendition. It wasn’t a jumbled mess of vaguely Korean sounds but instead a performance in its own right, full of just as much heart as the original version. To see DAY6 place so much trust in their fans and to see Western fans deliver it back tenfold was simply breathtaking and something I’ll be forever grateful to have been a part of.
The main portion of the concert closed out with “Lean on Me,” “Headache,” and a particularly charged performance of “WARNING!” before the heartwarming closing VCR in which DAY6 played several humorous games.
The Best Medicine
In no doubt the most moving part of the night, the encore began with new track “Cover,” a song co-penned by Young K and Sungjin about losing oneself and overcoming it. Amidst a concert of such self acceptance, the emotionally-charged and cathartic “Cover” felt like the climax of the show. “Cover” drifted right into the band’s iconic ballad, “You Were Beautiful.” While this song will always be stunning in any context, it was particularly gorgeous set against a blue stage complete with whimsical lighting. Forever-crowd-favorite “Congratulations” was the last song before the group’s ending ments in which they profusely thanked the fans. Wonpil started off by apologizing via translator for speaking Korean, to which the audience passionately assured was more than fine. Young K, being the travel aficionado that he is, remarked on the beauty of the city and claimed Chicago gained its beauty from its people. Dowoon, Jae’s known “A+ English student,” also spoke in Korean as he lovingly thanked fans for the night, though not without a couple adorable English phrases thrown in. Sungjin, however, threw everyone for a loop, delivering his entire ending speech in English: after wishing for everyone’s continued happiness, he promised to study English harder and vowed to say all future comments in English as well. Jae finished up, thanking the crowd for their endless energy.
The final songs of the night were usual closers “DANCE DANCE” and “Freely,” and both had the entire audience on their feet, especially after Jae had pleaded that people put down their phones in order to enjoy the moment with DAY6. Although he stated that he more than understood the need to record memories, he wanted to create his own memories with My Days and hoped that fans would opt to experience the music with them instead. It was a truly honest moment and, as a result, many phones were pocketed as the hype continued up until the last note of the night.
A lot of things have changed for DAY6 since their last stint in the U.S.: they toured the world, they won first place on a music show, they performed in bigger venues, and they even won their first band award. Though the band always has and always will place experience above achievement, the change in their demeanor is apparent—their hard work is paying off and they’re happy. And yet, in spite of everything, their only wish is to share that happiness with their fans. Rather than just saving it for the end, Jae interjected multiple times in the show that he was just so unfathomably thankful for everything and that fans would just have to put up with him saying it throughout the night. Perhaps it was the rare lack of a language barrier, but I was personally taken aback by such modesty; these boys are truly thankful for everything. I had the opportunity to do hi-touch with the band following the conclusion of the show, and amidst various compliments to the others, I told Young K that I was glad he seemed happy. In the split second we had with each other, where I could have easily been another face in another city, he stopped and asked if I was also happy. This is the kind of artist DAY6 is. And after a concert like that, there was no other answer I could’ve given him but yes.