JEDDAH: To the delight of their fans in the Kingdom, K-pop superstars Super Junior finally took to the stage in Saudi Arabia on Friday evening and gave the crowd a night to remember.
In return, the audience of E.L.Fs (or Ever Lasting Friends as fans of the band are known) gave their heroes a welcome they are unlikely to forget.
The previous night, the group, which has become a musical phenomenon around the world since it debuted in 2005, was greeted upon arrival at King Abdulaziz Airport with cheers, gifts and an outpouring of love.
But that was just a taster for the main event, as the band brought their Super Show 7 world tour to King Abdullah Sports City, as part of the Jeddah Season festival.
Many in the audience brought Super Junior light sticks and other official merchandise to show their love for the band.
Some had made posters that included personal messages in the hope that their heroes would see them.
One of them expressed the feeling of disbelief, felt by many, that the band had finally come to Saudi Arabia, something that seemed so unlikely for such a long time: “Nine years ago I never thought I would see you.”
When the audience had filled the venue, the lights were dimmed, light sticks were raised and screams of excitement erupted as band appeared the stage, launching into performances of the songs “Black Suit” and “Mamacita.”
The language barrier did not matter, as fans knew the words to every song by heart. Many sang along and a few brave souls even attempted to copy some of the dance moves.
Between the songs the band members displayed the the fun personalities they are known for as they took turns to greet and thank their fans. They had written down some Arabic greetings and read them out as a gesture to help them connect even more with their Saudi fans, and also yelled phrases such as “yallah habibi” (let’s go my dear) and “assalamu alaikum.”
“We are the first South Korean band to perform here in Saudi Arabia and I am so proud to be performing here,” said band member Siwon.
The concert was a musical masterpiece, alternating between upbeat songs that made fans jump and scream to ballads that made some shed a tear. The stage included an extension that stretched the length of the venue, allowing members to run out into the crowd, so that as many people as possible had a chance to see them close up.
They performed many of their hits, some of which were given a fresh twist. Their biggest hit “Sorry Sorry,” for example, added a special drum solo performed by band member Kim Hee-chul. “Mamacita” included an extended vocal solo from Kim Ryeo-wook.
When the music stopped and the stars left the stage after saying goodbye to their fans, the audience remained in place, hoping their heroes would return for an encore — and they were not disappointed, as the band reappeared to perform fan-favorite song “Devil.”
Some members of Super Junior will perform at the same venue in the band’s spin-off subgroups D & E, and K.R.Y on Saturday night, alongside K-pop group Stray Kids, also as part of Jeddah Season. As a teaser for this, stars Eunhyuk and Donghae (D & E) performed their songs “Oppa Oppa” and “Can You Feel It?”
They whole band then performed a one final song, specially written for the fans, called “Shining Star,” before collecting gifts brought for them by the audience and leaving the stage for the last time.
“We promise to come back,” they said as they went.
After the gig, the fans departed, raving about the show, and some still found it hard to believe it had happened at all.
Saja Al-Wafi, 32, who has been a fan since 2009, said: “I felt like it was a dream. I kept hugging my friend and I wanted someone to pinch me so I could believe I was actually here."
Rawan, 23, said: “This is my first K-pop concert, despite being a fan for the longest time, and I am so happy I don’t even have words to describe it.”
Mohammed Al-Sulaimani, a 22-year-old fan who flew from Taif to Jeddah for the concert, said: “In middle school I wanted to be them; I would style my hair like them and act like them. I grew up with them and I have so many memories with them — when I heard they were coming I couldn’t believe it. The tickets were sold out, too, and I had to work so hard to get one.”