Stray Kids Gives a Thunderous Performance in Chicago

As I take the train into Chicago, I get an overhead view of the massive lines of Stray Kids fans wrapped around the United Center late Friday afternoon. The Kpop group has made waves in the industry since their last world tour in 2019, and now sell out arenas on their second world tour: Maniac. 

Photo: (Stray Kids/JYP Entertainment)

The lights go down for the introduction video, yet the arena remains illuminated by several hundred lightsticks before a massive rotating lighting rig descends from the top of the stage, and the eight member boy group makes their entrance from beneath the stage. The screaming of the crowd gets louder, as fans cheer for the lines of their biases in the first song, “Maniac,” the main comeback track of the latest Korean release, Oddinary. The group takes to the walkway stage to follow it up with “Venom,” as giant prop spider legs twist and turn on the main stage, then performing the Bang Chan and Hyunjin track “Red Lights” featuring a full group choreography that made fans swoon.

After the first break and the group introductions, they launch into “Easy,” featuring more intense choreography, and the uber-catchy “All In,” which gets tons of loud sing-alongs for its chorus. The large LED screen background occasionally shows when songs use English lyrics, which is very helpful to those who want to join in on the fun and sing with the crowd. Even with this, it seems that a good deal of the dedicated American fans already know not just the English lyrics, but the Korean lyrics as well. They round out this set of songs with their 2018 debut track “District 9.”

The first costume change happens, and the group returns to the stage in more of a leather and punk style fit, starting out with “Back Door,” a funky and fun track that’s easy to dance and groove to. Throughout different songs, platforms come out of the stage, raising the members up to different levels for their performances. At the end of “Charmer,” the group returns to the smaller walkway stage to slow things down a bit and do some crowd interactions during “Lonely St.,” which they immediately follow-up with “Side Effects,” featuring a ridiculously heavy EDM-inspired dance break.

Another costume change occurs, and for this part of the show they’re accompanied by a live, four-piece band. They blast nonstop through “Thunderous,” “Domino” and “God’s Menu,” a trio of unbeatable performances. The crowd is jumping and singing along harder than ever before. This is the moment that I knew this show was going to make me lose my voice. The live band added so much energy to the show, giving the songs slightly different instrumentals from the originals, but still retaining the core of the tracks. The next songs, “Cheese” and “YAYAYA” featured more opportunities to sing along, while the group spent these casually dancing across the stage to wave and interact with fans in between their verses.

Photo: (Stray Kids/JYP Entertainment)

Four members stay on the stage for the next portion, giving a series of small covers and solo stages. Felix starts it off with “If the World Was Ending” by JP Saxe, with the crowd going absolutely wild for this softer performance. Nex, Han performed his solo track “Wish You Back,” before the first group left the stage for the next four members to come out and sing “Waiting For Us.” After the four-member track, the group talks a bit about their experience coming back to America to tour after three years, before moving to their solo stages, with Lee Know and I.N. covering Harry Styles’ “Falling” and Bang Chan covering “All of the Lights” while receiving “best leader” chants. The groups switch out once more, for the previous four members appearing and laying down funky beats and dancing for “Muddy Water.”

The group returns to their full formation accompanied by the live band to perform heavy-hitter tracks like “Hellevator” and “Victory Song.” It’s incredible how Stray Kids continues to perform their fast and crisp choreography two hours into the show with no signs of energy loss of any kind. They mention during a pause that not only does the crowd feed their energy levels, but the live band adds to it as well. During “My Pace” they make their way to the walkway stage, greeting fans once again, and begin shooting massive confetti guns as they launch into the powerful dance track “Miroh.”

After the final goodbyes and individual member recaps of the show, they give attention to their backing back, and finally round out the show with “Star Lost” and “Haven.” There’s no false ending and encore tonight, with the group having already performed over 25 songs. There was a nonstop feeling of energy throughout the arena for the night, from both the fans and the performers. Stray Kids offers an explosive and fun performance, as they move up in the Kpop world, well on their way to being one of the most popular Kpop boy groups, if they haven’t already accomplished that.

The tour is currently on pause following positive COVID-19 tests for three of the members. Follow Stray Kids on social media for tour updates.

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