Jang Keun Suk – The Ultimate Entertainer
I’ve just finished watching Jang Keun Suk’s Endless Summer concert in Osaka. Held on July 19, at Osaka-Jo Hall, the concert was broadcast live by the Japanese paid cable station TBS to subscribers.
All I can say is Great Heavens! Jang Keun Suk really has become the ultimate showman & entertainer. He now rivals all the best from musical history, regardless of the country of origin. I was utter amazed at his extraordinary showmanship, his ability to connect with his audience, and the way he draws his audience in. I’ve watched many great singers perform before an audience – and Jang Keun Suk equals the best in the industry, including Tony Bennett who has often been hailed as the ultimate songster and entertainer before live audiences.
Jang, who is also an well known Korean Wave (Hallyu) actor with more 25 years in the acting profession, has always had the ability to connect with his audience. That is part of his appeal. When he decided to sing professionally, he chose to do so in Japan while doing all his acting in Korea. To connect with his Japanese audience, he first began by studying the language and the culture. He is not a standard entertainer who arrives, sings and leaves the stage. He talks to his audience, tells them stories, asks them questions, and often teases them. As a result, his concerts sell out with minutes. He has performed at Tokyo’s largest venue, the Tokyo Dome, to a sold out crowd of over 40K people.
The last couple of years he’s chosen to keep his concert venues down to around 10 thousand or fewer people to create a more intimate atmosphere…but even so the venue, like Osaka’s Castle Hall, is enormous. Viewers in upper seats virtually need opera glasses to see him. Fortunately, the entire show can be seen on large monitor screens behind the stage.
Having watched via video many if not most of his concerts, I can honestly say that Endless Summer in Osaka is his best concert yet. I thought his previous concert for his album, Monochrome, was his best. And it was to date. He had mastered his breathing and learned how to use his diaphragm to control his voice better while being physically active on stage. But everything about this new one is so much better. His voice is absolutely stunning!!! Utterly perfect. Each and every note on is on key, regardless of whether he’s standing still or dancing or bouncing around.
Often in his early live concerts, he had trouble reaching the higher notes of his older Korean Kdrama songs. His unique baritone voice, even with it wide range, struggled to reach the higher tenor notes, causing his voice to crack and go off key. However, thanks to his hard work and much vocal training, he’s been able master those songs for live performances. In addition, I noticed that many of those songs had been rearranged ever so slightly so he doesn’t have to stretch quite as much to hit those difficult high notes. The changes are extremely subtle and do nothing alter the mood or melody of the songs but suit his baritone voice so much better.
Adding to his unique personality is his ability to sing and converse in Korean, Japanese and English as he seeks to connect on a personal level with his audience. He even recorded two songs in Mandarin although he doesn’t speak the language. Moreover, he has this unique ability to set the tone and atmosphere for each concert that makes his concert goes want it to continue long after the time limit has expired. By comparison, Korean groups like Big Band and others that receive so much media attention, particularly in the US, are mediocre neophytes. Jang Keun Suk’s singing ability and his stage performances and presence far exceeds any Korean group in the current media spotlight. His ability to charm an audience is well known throughout Asia where he literally has millions of SNS fans. But lesser known is that he has created a fan base that extends across the globe to nearly every country.
He’s always had a unique charisma that drew his audience to him, regardless of how youthful and inexperienced he was. As a highly regarded experienced actor turned singer, he always grasped the necessity of understanding and interpreting the lyrics of a song. No matter how naturally talented a singer may be, if he or she cannot convey the emotions inherent in the lyrics to the audience, that singer will fail to become a great artist. Jang Keun Suk’s years of acting experience lent itself to his ability to put over a song in a way that his audience experiences and empathizes with the lyrics. Only truly talented singers are capable of this ability.
While watching the video of this concert, I kept thinking about what an extraordinary performer he’s become in just last few years. His singing is among the best I’ve ever heard and his acting, as noted in his latest Kdrama “Jackpot, the Royal Gambler” would likely win him an Oscar in the States.
To be quite honest, this young man is really far too good and far too talented to be just well known in Asia.
I’m not a fan girl by any means. In all of my decades of living, I’ve never written about or cared much about any singer or actor. But I do appreciate and respect a superior talent when I see it, especially a superior talent which is significantly under-represented in the vast media market.
Here are a couple songs from the Osaka Endless Summer concert. But you’s have to see the entire concert to understand why I praise him so highly.