MONBEBE are Here, Loud and Clear: MONSTA X Brings High Energy to São Paulo
Because I saw MONSTA X take over BUILD Studio at New York City, I was certain I would be able to keep my cool seeing them perform live. Spoiler alert: I was wrong. Concerts in Brazil are a unique experience before doors even open; I made the poor choice of arriving at the venue 40 minutes before doors. I didn’t have the best ticket in the house, so I figured those in the same section as me wouldn’t be too eager to arrive hours early. I knew I would stand in a line for a little less than an hour, but I did not expect to have to walk four blocks to reach the end of the line and take almost two hours just to get inside the venue due to so many MONBEBEs. After attending concerts only in the United States for the past three years, I grew a little unaccustomed to Brazilian ways. The tents outside the venue, the queue wrapping around blocks well beyond the arena, fanmade lightsticks being sold by vendors I’m certain didn’t know what a lightstick was—all that and doors weren’t even open yet.
Given the extensive stage and screens surrounding the venue, finding a great place to enjoy the concert, even after hours in line longer than I ever could have expected, wasn’t difficult. In fact, I was glad to be so close to a large screen side-stage, as the VCRs were fantastic. My last K-Pop concert before MONSTA X was KCON, and the one before that was BTS, so I had been spoiled by big K-Pop productions for a while now and was nervous to be back home at a venue I saw BTS perform at in 2015. As the first VCR began introducing each member and “Shoot Out” began playing, I knew I had nothing to worry about. MONSTA X made the stage their own and shook every person watching to their core.
The We Are Here world tour had a nearly impeccable setlist. For someone like me, who loved the group during their survival show and knew their biggest hits but never became an avid fan, all of the essentials were there. The three-for-one intro combo, made up of “Hero” and “Trespass” following “Shoot Out,” was the perfect energetic start. Everyone was up and jumping, screaming their lungs out following every word. And I do mean every word as everyone knows Brazilian fans don’t shy away from a rap verse.
After the members introduced themselves, we got to see a cooler side of MONSTA X. “Party Time” carried on the concert with the group sitting behind a long table sipping on drinks followed by “Play It Cool,” “Mohae,” and “Jealousy.” Still keeping their energy high, MONSTA X was now more focused on their choreography and performance rather than just hyping the crowd. Not every artist can deliver a flawless performance while still keeping their crowd engaged but MONSTA X can pride themselves for being on the list of artists who can. The group didn’t disappoint as units, either, with the first unit opening up the units stages composed of vocalists Kihyun, Hyungwon, and Minhyuk with a soothing cover of Bazzi’s “Myself.”
In a complete 180 turn, the SAMBA unit, composed of the rappers JOOHONEY and I.M, took the stage in a rock-infused hip-hop stage that certainly will be talked about for years to come by those who got to live it. The rappers first performed side by side, but the highlight of their stage was the little taste we got of the closest we will ever get to a Korean Twenty One Pilots with JOOHONEY on the drums. As a reformed emo kid, this may be biased, but this was my favorite part of the night. The rappers completely transformed the stage: for seven minutes, we were at a JOOHONEY x I.M concert. The last unit stage was a performative piece by Shownu and Wonho to “Mirror,” with the members acting as each other's reflection for a sexy stage.
The next few songs were not my favorite, but I enjoyed having the downtime to compose myself after the unit stages. I also understand how important variety is in a concert. A perfect setlist comes through pleasing all styles in the crowd. Of course, everyone present was there because of their love for MONSTA X, but as K-Pop fan crowds are always aware of the group’s diversity, one’s bop might not be thy neighbor’s. Through "Honestly," "Neol Hada," “White Sugar," "No Reason," and "Myself," MONSTA X tended to the more tender hearts in the crowd, showing their boy-next-door side. Dressed in shorts, polos, and sweaters ready for the yacht club, this portion of the concert really got the tears flowing.
In Brazil, we have a special term for when things get fun and messy, farofa (think New Orleans during Mardi Gras). And that is exactly what was in store for us next—a perfectly executed farofa. Just two days prior, I attended Sad Summer Festival, a punk rock, emo festival for the sad baddies, but it was at MONSTA X where I felt the need to open up a mosh pit. Starting with “DRAMARAMA” and leading into "Oh My," "Special," "Falling," and "Alligator," this portion of the concert had everyone screaming, jumping, and dancing along. The show was happening at the entire venue, not only the stage. And in true concert fashion, we got our fake ending and had to wait a few minutes before the one and only DJ H.ONE took the stage. Starting with DJ Snake’s iconic “Taki Taki,” Hyungwon, through his DJ persona, put on a fantastic rave with the members joining at the end of the set to close off the night with “Rodeo” and the emotional “Be My Side” after their tearful thank-yous.
The concert opened with a thrilling VCR introducing all of the members, acting as a teaser for what was to come; it was quite a literal teaser since the full-length story of that VCR hit the crowd harder than anyone expected later on. It was pretty clear the VCRs were a key component to MONSTA X’s live show. Longer than most, MONSTA X’s VCRs were used to tell a story and provide the ultimate fanservice experience. For comparison, BTS uses their VCRs in a more abstract way, loosely tying concepts together, but not giving a full storyline that reads so literally. Other groups, such as MONT, use their VCRs as backstage access, showing the fans their preparation for the night, often highlighting special performances. Not MONSTA X. While we saw elements of the final VCR in the intro VCR, the second and final videos were completely disconnected from each other, but perfectly encompassing of the setlist.
The second VCR was geniously placed in between “Jealousy” and the unit performances. Titled Montube, each member had their own channel highlighting some of the most iconic YouTube tropes. Minhyuk came first as a lovely beauty vlogger through “Yekku TV.” We then switched to “Who Am I TV” for English lessons with teacher I.M. while Wonho, a fitness vlogger, had everyone at the venue stretching with “Vanilla TV.” “Honey TV,” hosted by none other than JOOHONEY, gave us a cooking show. Similarly, “Hamjji TV” with Kihyun was all about coffee brewing. In true Hyungwon fashion, we got to see the supermodel pick out his clothes at “ManJjjitNam TV.” Last, but certainly not least, Shownu held his own meokbang-turned-ASMR show at “Nunu TV.” It was such a stroke of genius on MONSTA X’s part to highlight each member on a lighter note than the other VCRs while showcasing their particular interests. And, not gonna lie, I really needed that stretching, so thank you, Wonho.
The third and last VCR brought us back to a darker MONSTA X. The Seven Deadly Sins VCR gave each member a storyline around MONSTA X’s interpretation of the seven deadly sins in between “No Reason” and “Myself.” Hyungwon portrayed pride as a rich playboy. I.M, a tarot card reader, represented envy. Piano player Kihyun represented loneliness. JOOHONEY, as a tattoo artist, was greed. Wonho, an athlete, was sloth. Injured and seemingly in trouble with the police, Shownu represented wrath. Lastly, a heartbroken Minhyuk represented agony. This VCR was as entertaining as it was long. The members really stepped into their acting shoes and delivered their roles brilliantly.
The Fan Projects
It wouldn’t be a Brazil show without perfectly planned and executed fan projects. For We Are Here, MONSTA X Union Brasil organized a few projects worth noting. The first project happened during “Party Time” where MONBEBEs used their phone lights to light up the venue in green and yellow, the colors of the Brazilian flag. Organizers took their time to walk down the line asking each MONBEBE where they would be seated and assigned them their designated color in carefully cut-out pieces of paper. When the time came, everyone held their colors against their phone’s flashlight and created a beautiful ocean, special for MONSTA X’s performance in São Paulo.
After that, it was banner time during “Myself,” right after JOOHONEY’s verse. Organizers also walked the line giving concert-goers delicately designed red posters to match the tour’s aesthetic that read, “Turn and look around you, you are everything to me, this is not a dream.”
Brazilian MONBEBE also added their own special flavor to “DRAMARAMA’s” fanchant screaming “MONSTA X in Brazil, we love you!” after chanting the members’ names. This project was first created last year and made its successful return this year.
To close off the night on a tender note, MONBEBE held up red paper hearts to “Be My Side,” creating a lovely ocean filled with passion for MONSTA X as they said their goodbyes to São Paulo.
With both MONSTA X and MONBEBE in tears, the night ended with a promise that they would be back, a promise they made in 2018 and kept with We Are Here. Nonetheless, as high-energy MONSTA X was and as flawless as their performances were, there’s no denying MONBEBE put on a show of their own from the crowd.