It was the night of 27th July 2018, mere minutes away from the day of TWICELAND ZONE 2: Fantasy Park’ in Kuala Lumpur. Out of the blue, JYP Entertainment releases a statement disheartening fans both local and abroad – the concert had been cancelled. “Surely this is a joke?”, some fans thought.

TWICE had already flown in to Malaysia and even held a press conference for the concert. To have the concert cancelled the night before, when the expectation of fans was at its peak; no one could have anticipated this. 

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The day after, distressed ONCE (TWICE’s fandom) flocked to KLIA to hesitantly send TWICE off. They chanted and sang songs of TWICE until the girls themselves showed up, beautifully wrapped in batik as a tribute to their Malaysian fans. Emotions were at a fever pitch as Mina and Dahyun were visibly in tears. Some fans cried along, others emphatically roared words of encouragement; confident that the girls would make a return. 

Fast forward a little over a year later, TWICE is back in Malaysia for their TWICELIGHTS World Tour. However, Mina (lead dancer and vocalist of the group) will be sitting out this tour as she’s been previously reported to be dealing with anxiety issues. Despite this, fans were confident that the rest of the group will give it their all for their long-awaited return to Malaysia.

To the delight of many fans, instead of last year’s Malawati Indoor Stadium (which was the main factor behind the cancellation), the concert was now held at the better-equipped Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil. But enough about that day. This year at TWICELIGHTS, fans were ready to dance and sing along twice as hard. 

As with most K-pop concerts, the venue was filled to the brim with fans. But a TWICE concert is more than just ‘most K-pop concerts’. The surrounding of Axiata Arena was fitted with multiple banners and backdrops, including ones with individual members so you can snap pictures with your bias (or just with all nine members). While the crowd was intense, organiser iMe Malaysia did a splendid job in organising the queues for dedicated zones and ticket types. Concerts like these almost always involve a long wait in less-than-ideal Malaysian weather but at least the organiser tried to make the experience a more bearable one. 

Those in the standing Lights Zone already entered the pit a few hours before the start of the concert and the rest of the audience in seated zones were ushered in soon after. Fans cheered in excitement as TWICE adverts played on the screens, but as the lights dimmed those cheers grew into deafening roars – it was time.

The opening visual showed a mysteriously masked woman walking towards an arcade machine. Upon activating the machine, she materialises the TWICE members one by one as fans scream for the members appearing on screen. After a bit of a light show and more visuals displayed on screen, Jihyo, Tzuyu, Chaeyoung, Momo, Jeongyeon, Sana, Dahyun and Nayeon are elevated onto the stage. We see an image of the members behind where each of them stand and a gap where Mina would be. But that solemn realisation is quickly set aside as the group opens with a powerful performance of “Stuck In My Head”

The choice to start with this song was a good one as it easily got the crowd pumped up. Pyrotechnics at the front of the stage blazed away as the girls danced with a fiery passion. The members donned a shiny sequin suit and a black skirt with full-length black tights. The latter might’ve been for religious sensitivities but they still looked good nonetheless.

The performance quickly segued to “Cheer Up” followed by “Touch Down”; catchy tracks that deserve the roaring fan chants from the predominantly male crowd. It wasn’t easy to admire the singing of the group thus far, the music was just a bit too prominent in the mix, drowning out the vocals. But then again, the cheers from the audience mostly drowns out all of the above. 

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After the three songs, the lights came back on for the girls to introduce themselves. Jihyo, the leader of the group even acknowledges last year’s cancellation. “We actually came to Malaysia last year…but sadly we couldn’t perform for you. Finally, here we are.”. Chaeyoung then proceeds to introduce the next song with a simple gesture which fans knew was the point dance for the song, “Bulldozer”.

“Bulldozer” was a catchy track that affectionately slowed things down from the aggressive opening. The second half of this song saw the girls making their way to the extended stage for the first time, bringing about a frenzy of excitement in the standing zones. TWICE then got in position for the fan-favourite, “Yes Or Yes”. As the song came to a close, the girls positioned themselves at the back of the stage as the screens gently closed in from both sides – signalling the first wardrobe change. 

It wasn’t long before the girls returned with their jackets removed, performing a cover of “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5. With a cane in hand as a dance prop, the performance was a blend of sexy and cute. Jihyo also hit some impressively high notes here. The girls then performed a marching band-esque remix of “Dance The Night Away” before they were lowered down the stage for their next wardrobe change.

A VCR plays, showing the TWICE members in a soft, angelic glow as they look seductively at the camera. The fans proceed to passionately cheer every time Mina is shown; it’s one of the few times fans get to see her tonight after all. Focused on the VCR playing at the main stage, fans were caught off guard as the girls made their way up to the extended stage instead. Draped in mesmerising long white gowns, they began singing the gentle ballad, “After Moon”. During this time, the Candy Bongs (TWICE’s official lightstick) in the hand of ONCEs glowed a bright mint/turquoise – the colour representing the absent member, Mina.

TWICE then tells the audience that just like the ‘TWICELIGHTS’ in their hands, they’ll be showing different colours and different types of performances throughout the night. They then dedicated the next song, “You In My Heart”, to all ONCEs. This was then followed by the other heartfelt ballad “Sunset”, and “Heartshaker (White)”. As fans sang along to the latter track, TWICE is slowly lowered down the stage once more

The next VCR saw the girls staring fiercely at the camera, basked in red – the next colour that TWICE will be portraying. Transformed from their innocent ‘White’ image, the girls resurface in a striking red outfit and white knee-high boots to perform “Heartshaker (Red)”, a spiced-up, sexier version of the song before. To further showcase the ‘Red’ in TWICE, the group continued with “Strawberry” and “Woohoo”. Both tracks oozed sexiness and playfully teased the male ONCEs present. As the lights dimmed, you’d think that meant there was time to catch your breath, but no, we were wrong. It was only just the beginning. 

Dahyun, Sana and Tzuyu were the first in a sub-unit to show off their dancing chops. The trio performed a seductive rendition of Beyoncé’s “Dance For You” and boy, was it seductive. It’s quite a rare sight to see TWICE in this light as they’re more affectionately known for their cute and innocent charm. Some might find that sexiness doesn’t really work for some of the members but it could just be that they’re not used to this side of TWICE. 

Momo and Jihyo, the next unit, kept things a little more reserved – performing a cover of TAEMIN’s soulful track, “Goodbye”. Executing each of the contemporary moves with poise and precision, it was clear why Momo is known as The Dancing Queen. That doesn’t mean Jihyo was far off as her elegant movements proved to be a fine pairing with that of Momo’s. The last special performance piece by Chaeyoung, Jeongyeon and Nayeon was a cover of Lady Gaga’s iconic hit, “Born This Way”. The girls began on the extended stage but proceeded to strut to the main stage for the main choreography. It’s safe to say that the boys went gaga over the alluring trio.

As the stage was faded into the darkness once more, the next VCR began to play. This time it was in the form of a lyric music video for the song, “Turn It Up”. All of a sudden, the arena became venue to a large karaoke session, with fans singing in rousing unison. As the song ended, the main stage opened up to reveal the TWICE members on a crystal sculpture of sorts. 

This part of the concert saw TWICE performing – what are arguably – their biggest hits. The group began with “Likey” and “What Is Love”, back to back, as fan chants echoed around the arena before pausing for another talking session. The girls introduced the subunits that were previously showcased in the special dance performances; how the units came about and how the songs were selected.

Sana explains that they went with Beyoncé’s “Dance For You” because it was one of Tzuyu’s favourite songs, one that she often has on loop in her room. Momo said that “Goodbye” was a song that she really wanted to perform and that she “seduced” Jihyo into joining her to perform it.

There was a bit of an “aww” moment as Chaeyoung from the last unit cheekily admits she selected only the prettiest members of the group, which then saw all the other members playfully running towards her side of the stage, temporarily ‘joining’ the sub-unit. After that fun little moment, Dahyun spoke in English and incites the crowd to cheer for their next song, taking it back to where it all started with their debut song, “Like OOH-AHH”.

The throwback to the 2015 title track caused the crowd to frantically singalong – everyone knew the lyrics to this one. The seamless transition to “TT” only gave ONCEs the green light to take their chants to the next level. Confetti bursts from the stage and rains over those in the pit as TWICE proceeds to the main stage for their ‘final’ song – the latest title track, “Fancy”. Other than being one of the more recent tracks, a dance remix also beckoned the cheers from all corners of the venue. As the last note played, the girls were enveloped in darkness once more.

As the crowd cheers for the inevitable encore, a series of mini-games or Twice Quests invite all the concert attendees to play along. One round involved chosen fans to show finger hearts to the camera to express their love for TWICE, another had ONCEs getting up and showing off their TWICE choreography prowess. The last game invited everyone to join in and scream at the top of their lungs as an invitation for the girls to return back on stage. Sure enough, TWICE got the “Signal” and entered the spotlight once more to perform the 2017 hit. 

It was then time for a surprise from our very own Malaysian ONCE, a touching video showing just how happy ONCE were upon finding out that TWICE would be coming to Kuala Lumpur. This moment really struck a chord with fans in the crowd, harkening back to the day the concert in KL was cancelled; to the constant praying the weeks and months that followed for TWICE to come back for their next tour. 

It’s been a year…Time flies. Sorry we made you wait so long,” expressed Jihyo. But the moment that had fans clutching their chests was when Dahyun fought back tears as she spoke about Mina: “Although Mina isn’t here today… with your candy bong lights, I felt that she was together with us.” The mood was shifted back to a lighter one when it was Tzuyu’s turn to speak. Through the encouragement and cheers of fans, she proceeded to speak in Mandarin; a surprisingly rare occurrence for the Taiwanese-born maknae of the group. “Thank you all for your support….I love you,” she said in Mandarin. 

It was then time to move along with the encore performances, starting with “Knock Knock”. This was the performance that fans truly got their taste of fan service for the night. With Jeongyeon sitting only an arm’s length away and Momo dancing at the edge of the stage. It was a surreal moment for those at the front barricade of the standing zones. 

As TWICE began their truly last song of the night, “Stuck”, they made their way back to the main stage, waving to fans as they walked by. It was a heartfelt singalong session with the fans, the last one for the night. The girls sat down side by side on their crystal podium, singing the last few lines while waving goodbye. The screens from both sides began its slow crawl and eventually reaches a complete close. The TWICELIGHTS logo shone bright on the screen as the entire arena lit up – the concert was now over.

It was a roller coaster of emotions for everyone present at TWICELIGHTS in KL that evening. Just like the colours on the Candy Bongs and the colours shown through TWICE’s performances, emotions cycled from one end of the colour spectrum to the next. The concert might not have been the best display of vocal talent but it showed the vulnerability of TWICE as a group, especially when a piece of them was missing.

It was through the laughter and tears that, for that one night, you felt like you really knew TWICE for who they were. For that one night, it didn’t matter what happened a year ago; TWICE was in Malaysia, and their lights shone brighter than ever.

Concert review: Li Jin Soh.

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