On her 14th anniversary since her debut, IU performed at the Seoul Olympic Stadium, and is the first South Korean female artist to headline the gigantic venue. In the 14 years since her debut, IU has built a career unlike any other and it is hard to find any artist – Asian and Western – that could rival her cultural and commercial impact in the same way that IU has in South Korea and the rest of the world. And this legacy can be seen in the concert movie ‘IU Concert: The Golden Hour.’
If you were unable to make it to the 2-day affair in September 2022 (like many of us fans) or are interested in finding out more about the the South Korean superstar’s music, the movie is a breathtaking presentation of her charisma, her range, her talent, her impact, and her power. The two-and-a-half concert is short compared to IU’s usual performances. She’s known for an extensive encore performance and even a post-encore performance and she can sometimes sing for 4 hours at every stop. But due to COVID-restrictions and the venue limitations, she jokingly and very candidly kept mentioning that she had to shorten her spiels and try to move things quickly along or else “they’d close the curtain on me,”
With over 40,000 people in attendance on each day, the movie makes sure to capture IU in angles that shows her tiny frame facing the massive audience before her. It presents the scale of these shows and when it switches to her face, not in any one moment do you see fear or trepidation. The concert marks not just her 14th year in the industry but also the year she turned 30 and she strides across that stage with all the confidence in the world. Just that image alone is such an amazing thing to see. And we all know that if it weren’t for COVID-restrictions, they could have filled that stadium to its full capacity (both shows were reportedly sold out within less than a day).
And what a show it was! The 25 songs she sang ran through a lot from her discography but is just barely scratching the surface, usually just choosing one song from a range of EPs and albums she’s released since she was 16. She opened the concert with ‘Eight,’ her 2020 hit song with Suga while suspended in the air on a crane. She sang the first verse in acapella before the band joined her and it was a flex like no other. That voice is maintained throughout the whole show, while rapping in ‘Palette,’ singing ‘Strawberry Moon’ while on a hot air balloon as it sails across the crowds on the second and third row, going all her pop glory in with the one-two punch of ‘Hold My Hand’ and ‘Blueming’ and even singing her biggest hit ‘Good Day’ at merely the half mark of her show.
The first two parts shows IU at full control of her pop star persona. She learned a few steps to dance along with in the second act’s closer ‘Lilac’ and she even adds a touch of the sentimental as she shares that she is “graduating’ two of her popular songs: ‘Palette’ and ‘Good Day.’ According to her, it would not work for her, moving forward, to sing those songs again in a live performance. Now that she’s 30, her approach to the world and to making shows have to change as well.
If the first two acts show her pop star persona, Act 3 and her first set of songs of her encore shows her as a vocal diva, singing ballad after ballad, complete with an orchestra. An hour and half into her show and singing the vocally demanding ‘Good Day’ just prior did not deter her from a salvo of songs that show off her vocal range and her much-lauded technique. Never once does her quiver and the audio mix is such that you can hear her every breath, letting us know she’s singing live all-throughout.
When she returns for her first encore, she’s dressed in a long gown, complete with crown and she even pushes further by singing ‘Love Poem’ and my favourite song from her whole discography ‘My Sea.’ By the end of this all, IU has completely shed the young woman who rose through South Korea’s entertainment industry and by the end of ‘My Sea,’ she is the mature legend in full control of her persona.
And if that wasn’t enough, after what was over two hours, she again returns and this time it’s at her most relaxed – a red flannel shirt and baggy jeans and she sings the bouncy, infectious ‘Ah Puh,’ and then the charming songs ‘Heart’ and ‘Drama’ before finishing with the aptly titled song ‘Epilogue.’
As concert films go, ‘IU Concert: The Golden Hour’ is a showcase of what has made IU such a fixture on K-pop – it’s the intersection of her charisma; her musicality that crosses over various musical genres; her authenticity as pop star; and her incredible vocal skills that allows her to sing these incredibly demanding songs without fail – and the movie captures all of this. Through its editing and how it arranges it shots, it manages to show the full scale of this concert and how IU, who is at the center of all it, is in full control of her audience, of her instrument, and her legacy.
As a fan, this is a concert movie I can watch over and over again. And if you are curious about her, this is the perfect way to get to know her.