Sundays may be a drag for most, as the dread of Monday looms—but none of that was a concern for fans of South Korean boy group WINNER. About 6,500 attendees crowded Stadium Malawati, Shah Alam on the 14th of October 2018 to catch a glimpse of the fantastic foursome in the flesh.

There was undoubted excitement in the air as this was the group’s first visit to Malaysia. Organised by Macpiepro, WINNER’s “EVERYWHERE” tour was the second part of their back-to-back series—with labelmates iKON’s “CONTINUE” tour just the day before.

Source: YG Entertainment

The history of WINNER is a bittersweet one. Initially a quintet consisting of Yoon, Jinu, Hoony, Mino, and past member, Taehyun—the boys were victors of a survival show called “WIN: Who Is Next?” where as trainees they competed against the members of iKON. However there were big shoes to fill (being the first boy group debuting under YG Entertainment since BigBang) but WINNER’s colour had always been more of the sentimental soulful type. It was through their unique sounds and creative use of instruments that caught the eyes of many with their debut album.

Though after the unexpected departure of Taehyun in 2016, their music style experienced a drastic change. With a year of silence, they came back stronger than ever with a bright electronic inspired pop sound. The shift in genre was surprising but even so, the group seemed to have won the hearts of many with their natural talent.

Source: YG Entertainment

A change from the previous day, Stadium Malawati was now covered in various shades of cool blue—the official fan colour for WINNER. INCLEs (fans of WINNER) were running around the place, trading freebies and making sure everyone had some light source of a sort that emitted a blue ray. As this was the group’s first visit, Malaysian INCLEs wanted to be sure to graciously welcome them.

Various fan account admins had even went through the trouble of giving out free LED bulbs that glowed blue to fans who didn’t own the official light stick. An act of pure charity, it was touching to see the lengths fans were willing to go to for their favourite groups. While light sticks are extremely aesthetically pleasing to look at, they do not run cheap at all. This smart move (though arguably came at the cost of the admins themselves) was a winner (pun intended) for both the artist and the fans as when the lights were dimmed come 6pm; a blue sea of lights glimmered brightly.

Source: YG Entertainment

When the sound of “Empty” filled the stadium, the stage parted to reveal all 4 members strutting down as they sang their debut song with plenty of emotion. After “Air”, the boys greeted the crowd and introduced themselves—all in English without a translator. It was particularly impressive that leader Yoon self studied the language only within a couple of months because he wanted to communicate with his fans better. He took the lead, guiding the rest of the members as they expressed their thoughts in a common tongue with Malaysian INCLEs. After saying hello, there was a comical segue with the sound of a ringing phone before they started the 4th performance of the night; “Hello” and their latest single, “Everyday”.

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As Mino disappeared backstage to prep, the remaining 3 members took the stage to interact with the crowd. Yoon stated that he really wanted to feel the atmosphere of Malaysia but couldn’t since they arrived extremely late the night before. “Instead I had great food…” he said cheekily, “…of room service.”

Nevertheless, the group managed to try local delights such as satay, mee goreng and nasi lemak. Jinu was especially insistent on satay, bringing it up again even after Yoon had already mentioned it. Hoony then teased the crowd, asking them if they were ready for the solo stages. With answers in the form of passionate yells, the trio bid their goodbyes as they slowly descended below the stage.

Source: YG Entertainment

The solo stages truly showcased each of the members of WINNER’s personalities and styles; proving how even individually they are their own performer. The stadium was dark for Mino’s stage; red lights barely illuminating him as he performed the sensual “Body” and “Turn Off The Light”. Dripping with sex appeal, Mino effortlessly pulls off the sensuous concept. Jinu switched things up for his cover of labelmate G-Dragon’s “Untitled, 2014” where his clean and crisp singing style complemented the song brilliantly. It was especially touching to finally hear him sing, as he often shies away—unsure of his potential.

Yoon made quite an entrance with his solo power ballad, “It Rains”, which truly showcased his singing capabilities. His husky voice accompanied with the climax of the song had the entire stadium on their feet, in complete awe of his range. Yoon also sang an unexpected acapella cover of John Legend’s “All Of Me” with a choir of INCLEs singing along. He then picked up a guitar and started strumming the beginning chords of “Instinctively”, which he famed after covering it on reality television singing contest “Superstar K2”. To his surprise, the entire stadium was singing along despite it being a track that he worked on before joining YG or WINNER at all. Touched by the notion, he thanked the fans before leaving the stage for the final solo act of the night; none other than Hoony.

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When it came to dance, there was no stopping the powerhouse that was him. After all the ballads and acoustics, it was time to turn up the hype. Hoony’s overflowing charisma and confidence were impeccable, his passion evident from his languid movements. Performing his own song, “Serenade” and covering Taeyang’s “Ringa Linga”, he brought the house down with his performance.

Source: YG Entertainment

All 4 members were reunited once more shortly after, walking up towards the front of the stage to interact more with the fans. Yoon coyly asked the crowd if they were enjoying the solo stages so far before unwinding with the slower acoustic numbers. It’s within these softer intimate tracks that WINNER’s vocals truly shine, Yoon and Jinu’s harmonisation carrying them through “We Were”, “For”, “It’s Raining” and “Movie Star”. Hoony and Mino didn’t disappoint either—utilising their deep voices for a more emotional styled rap.

After a costume change, the boys came out in flashy outfits and began hyping up the crowd once again. INCLEs were pleasantly surprised when “Immature” began ringing through the stadium – one of their older tracks when Taehyun was still part of the group. They then proceeded with the addictive “Love Me Love Me”, accompanied by aesthetic neon visuals. Keeping within the theme of neon, the funky “Special Night” played next—getting everyone into the groove of the 90s.

“Island” got everyone dancing to the tropical pop number, but it was the iconic “Really Really” that got the entire stadium singing along passionately. Being the first release since WINNER rebranded as 4, it was especially moving to hear everyone ardently chanting ‘Neol johahae’. For their last song, the energetic “LA LA” played before the boys disappeared for the encore.

Source: YG Entertainment

When the lights came back on, INCLEs lost it the moment “Don’t Flirt” played from the speakers. It was yet another unexpected number, as it was from their debut album, but arguably was the track that gained them more fans. Clad in humble blue t-shirts, it was adorable to see the boys of WINNER match the theme of the night. For the last 2 songs, they requested that everyone jumped along and had fun before launching into “Really Really” and a remix of “Everyday”.

It was finally time to say goodbye, and members began reading out their messages that were given on a prompter. Hoony however kept on going against it, and even candidly blurting out “Aku cinta padamu!” The other members laughed, noting how it sounded like he was rapping when he spoke in Malay so quickly. This turned into a mini rap performance where Hoony kept on professing his love for the crowd while Mino beat boxed away. Yoon deeply thanked the crowd, saying how a singer would be nothing without people who listened to their music.

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Source: YG Entertainment

During all of the goodbye speeches—something had caught Mino’s eye. The rapper with meticulous attention to detail, he quickly whispered it to Yoon who then asked in surprise, “Are those roses?” The lights of the stadium were then dimmed, to reveal a sea of colours where every INCLE was holding up an LED rose, which shined brightly. The members were literally speechless—Yoon struggled to form coherent sentences from being absolutely gobsmacked and Jinu was on a verge of tears.

The humility of the group was obvious from their reactions, not expected such love from a country they had never even visited before. “Today is the happiest day of my life,” smiled Yoon before waving the crowd goodbye.

Source: YG Entertainment

WINNER’s talent knows no boundaries, but it is disgusting considering the treatment they receive. It is no secret that they have constantly been on the receiving end of the short stick, evident even from their concerts here. For all the glam and gusto of YG Entertainment, there was barely any streamers, confetti or fireworks during the show—in comparison to iKON’s the previous day.

The favouritism of the other group was even more obvious when an iKON VCR played during the show as well, shocking INCLEs with the unprofessionalism. Taking their complains to Twitter, Malaysian INCLEs worked with Korean INCLEs to make the issue known. “They’ve always been second choice,” sighed Sarah, an INCLE attending her first Korean pop concert. “…but they’re my first!” she said as she smiled brightly. Despite it all, WINNER’s debut concert in Malaysia was a massive success. After witnessing the efforts of Malaysian INCLEs, it is no doubt that they’d return for round 2.

Source: YG Entertainment

WINNER remains to be a bittersweet mystery—each member bursting with talent yet having songs that frustratingly limits them. Whether you enjoy acoustics and emotional ballads, or perhaps have the preference for tropical pop dance tracks—WINNER does it all. And it is in their versatility in terms of genres that will continue to earn them fans for a long time coming.

Review by Leyasheena Panicker.

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