Updated April 11, 2022 - 9:58 am
There they were, yelling fire in a crowded stadium on a Saturday night.
“Ssak da bultaewora, bow-wow-wow!” BTS commanded in Korean and canine, seven voices merging into one plea for a sort of spiritual pyromania.
The translation: “Set everything on fire.”
“Hey, burn it up,” rapper RM then exhorted in English as flames licked the air behind him, fighting for oxygen with 50,000 pairs of lungs in the room.
The tune then articulated the night’s marching orders — literally — voiced by singer Jin, known within BTS for, among other things, his prodigious ability to go for extended periods of time without blinking.
“Lift up your fists, all night long / With marching footsteps / Jump and go crazy,” he instructed in his native tongue, no eyelashes batted, the capacity crowd before him eagerly obeying his orders.
The song was “Burn It Up (Fire),” a hip-hop-leaning call-to-arms about setting one’s insecurities and self-doubts ablaze, delivered two numbers into the group’s 22-song, two-and-a-half-hour show at Allegiant Stadium.
“Live however you want, it’s your life anyway / Stop trying, it’s OK to lose,” they explained in Korean.
BTS’ songs often double as both a reassuring hand on the shoulder and an argument for defining yourself on your own terms. This is what BTS has seemed determined to do en route to K-pop superstardom, incorporating some English into their lyrics, but largely singing and rapping in Korean, becoming the first act to ever top the charts on these shores while doing so.
Some things defy language barriers, though, namely: skyscraper-high cheek bones and shout-along hooks that would require a surgeon’s scalpel to remove from the brain, all of which BTS possess in abundance.
On the second of four shows at Allegiant Stadium — the group returns to the venue on April 15 and 16 — the septet seemed out to reciprocate the audience’s full-throated fervor.
The Army, of course, is the nickname of BTS’ massive fan base, which spans continents and generations.
“Dope old people luv BTS,” one homemade fan sign read in rainbow-colored lettering; “Mexico loves BTS” another contended; “Can I be Bam’s mom?” wondered yet another, referencing youngest member Jungkook’s Doberman Pinscher.
The fans were part of the production, wielding light sticks, called Army Bombs, that could be linked to their seat via a mobile app, with large sections of the crowd — or sometimes the whole stadium — glowing in unison.
On stage, a massive phalanx of dancers joined the group intermittently, sometimes in feathered get-ups; a four-piece backing band revealed during a handful of numbers.
The set list for Saturday’s show was largely the same as Friday’s, save for the encore, when BTS aired “Anpanman” and “Go Go,” which they didn’t perform the night before.
It was all received with deafening approval, thunderclaps of applause, seismic eruptions of joy.
“I’m anxious for your voice,” J-Hope told the crowd at one point with a wink, “but please make some more noise.”
This was the theme of the evening: release.
“In a sigh, lots of worries are hiding / Stop thinking about it, you already know it all,” J-Hope sang in Korean during a raucous “So What.” “In the middle of the road, in the moment you want to give up, shout out louder.”
And so that the Army did, some things never lost in translation.