Houston is in “Stupid Love” with Top-Tier K-Pop Group ONEUS

ONEUS performs at 713 Music Hall.
ONEUS performs at 713 Music Hall. Photo by Natalie de la Garza
If you thought a miserable forecast would keep the fans away from ONEUS when they visited 713 Music Hall on Sunday night, you’d be sorely mistaken. A little rain proved to be no match for the kind of love Houston has for the group.

But first, the basics, which go a little something like this: ONEUS is a (now) five-member South Korean boy band who debuted in January 2019 under RBW Entertainment. The members are Seoho, Leedo, Keonhee, Hwanwoong, and Xion. Their Sunday night concert before an adoring crowd of TO MOON (the name of their fandom) was part of their 1st World Tour, titled Reach For Us, and their second time in Houston.

The concert opened with a three-minute VCR, mostly from the first-person perspective of an unseen TO MOON. It starts like a horror movie, red-tinged and claustrophobic, with our protagonist running frantically through a forest before collapsing. That’s when “he” appears, and an intertitle tells us, “He reached out to me and I took his hand” – as anyone would do in such a situation. We’re then told “the darkness disappeared forever and a ray of light lit up the world.” Literally, our heroine wakes up in Eden, a lush forest in soft focus where she sees the members basking in sunlight, caressing flowers, and cuddling a bunny. They beckon her towards an apple tree, and one member, Leedo, offers her an apple. She takes it and – twist! – his eyes start glowing red and the world goes dark again, but this time the ONEUS members are all there and significantly sexified.

The opening VCR references previous concepts and emphasizes their duality, and in doing so sets the stage for the concert, and really for the group as a whole. ONEUS are kings of the concept, seemingly able to pull off just about anything. Just pick three ONEUS music videos at random, watch them back to back, and you’ll see. Here, I’ll start you off with three songs that didn’t even make the setlist: “A Song Written Easily,” “Bbusyeo” and “Shut Up 받고 Crazy Hot!” It would be thematic whiplash in lesser hands, but ONEUS can weave through concepts, as well as genres, so masterfully that it appears seamless.

The VCR led into an explosive opening with “Bring It On,” the high-energy title track from their seventh mini album, Trickster, followed by Hwanwoong donning the tell-tale blindfold that indicates the dramatic “Come Back Home,” a Road to Kingdom fan-favorite which he proceeded to dominate, from his all-too-brief solo intro to his leap into the arms of the backup dancers. The very Michael Jackson-y “Black Mirror” was up next, and it was just the start of the range that ONEUS would put on display as they moved through their set.

They showed a more seductive edge during “Intro: Who Got the Joker?” and the R&B-ish “Full Moon,” which put a much-welcomed spotlight on “golden kid” Xion. And then came their more playful side with the more pop-rock “Stupid Love” (which has an absolutely addictive flip from the pre-chorus vocals to the talk-singing chorus) and the feel-good “Skydivin’.”

An always exciting part of a K-pop concert, the special stages, followed. First, the group killed a cover of BLACKPINK’s “Pink Venom,” and then ONEUS’s sexy line (Seoho, Leedo and Hwanwoong) appropriately took on Justin Timberlake’s 2006 hit “SexyBack.” Finally, the group came together again to perform their Top Gun Stage Break. Add me to the list of people who never expected to see a Kenny Loggins dance break at a K-pop concert, but it is utterly delightful. The section wraps up with OneRepublic’s “I Ain't Worried” and Otherwise’s “Soldiers,” which seemed tailor-made for Leedo, showcasing his powerful performing ability.

As ONEUS moved back into their own catalogue, they slowed things down with “Red Thread,” “Youth” and “Incomplete.” Each member shined, but Seoho – the group’s all-rounder – really got to show off his vocal prowess. To be fair, he did throughout the concert, reminding fans that as excited as they are to see him fulfill his destiny and rap more often – his vocals are absolutely stunning. The next set of songs were the dreamy “Intro: Eden” and ONEUS’s most recent title track, “Same Scent,” the staccato rhythms and sensual feel of which are undeniably ear-pleasing.

The group’s two most traditionally Korean-inspired songs, the exquisitely dignified “Luna” and the get-the-party-started “Lit,” were paired together. Judging by the audience’s reaction, “Lit” is possibly their most dynamic and hype song – with the most exciting dance break – and ONEUS was easily able to exploit TO MOON’s love of shouting “옹헤야 얼쑤 얼쑤.” They kept the energy up with “To Be or Not to Be,” an angsty number that features more of ONEUS’s high-flying choreography.

Side note: Their choreography is sprinkled with lifts, leaps and throws, not to mention floor work. It's going to be a sad day when they hit that point in their career where they stop doing all the stunts, because no one else does it quite like them.

The last three songs were “No Diggity,” an absolutely manic track that Leedo seemed to perform with a little extra swagger; the so-cheesy-it’s-actually-uplifting “Life is Beautiful,” and “What You Doing,” the last song which they sang running around the venue. It was a sweet, celebratory end to the concert.

When it comes down to it, ONEUS boasts top-tier music and choreography, incredibly talented performers, and the ability to put on an excellent show. That said, the camaraderie between the individual members, as well as between the group and their fans, was palpable and went a long way to making it memorable. It should also be noted that the undisputed MVP of the night was Keonhee, who’s energy level was off the charts both while performing – lovely solo vocals and sonically a perfect complement to his groupmates – and especially during the ments (those talking bits that happen between songs). He was on all night and it showed.

Personal Bias: None of your business.

The Crowd: Head-over-heels in parasocial love.

Overheard in the Crowd: The crowd may not be comprised of the hysterical tweens a judgmental outsider might expect, but they do skew younger – exactly how young can be approximated by the following exchange.

TO MOON #1: “She went to see Depeche Mode?!”

TO MOON #2: “Maybe it was a cover band. They might be dead.”

TO MOON #1: “Oh my God, they’re not dead!”

Random Notebook Dump: “RV absence not felt at all!”

For context, this is unpleasant, but it must be explained: There's an elephant in the room, and if he could speak, he would say, "It's ya boy, RV." As previously stated, ONEUS is now five members, but they used to be a sextet with former member RAVN, who left the group back in October under…circumstances. The crazy thing about it is that while he was present in spirit (in that he’s all over their music as composer, lyricist and producer, and also in how obvious it was that he was completely excised from a montage of ONEUS in their early days), his absence was totally not felt on that stage. It’s really a testament to the remaining members, their talent and their perseverance, as well as the team behind them, that they’ve so completely filled the gaps. So yes, unpleasant, but it adds just one more layer of impressiveness to the concert.
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Natalie de la Garza is a contributing writer who adores all things pop culture and longs to know everything there is to know about the Houston arts and culture scene.