'Aunty killers' have them swooning

Given the onslaught of hot young K-pop boy bands over the past few years, Shinhwa must surely be seen as "uncles".

More so since the group members are in their early 30s, a decade or more older than the current crop.

But the pioneering grand-daddy of K-pop boy bands, who made their debut 14 years ago, shouldn't be counted out.

They've still got it.

And they have indeed lived up to their name Shinhwa, which means"legend" in Korean.

They have just reunited after a four-year hiatus, when they took turns finishing their mandatory military service, At the Compass Ballroom of Resorts World Convention Centre on Saturday night for their concert, The Return, Eric Mun, 33, Lee Min-woo, 32, Kim Dong-wan, 32, Shin Hye-sung, 32, Jun Jin, 31, and Andy Lee, 31, exuded manly charisma and confidence that only age and experience could provide.

Their vocals were wonderful as they belted out classics like T.O.P, Eusha! Eusha!, Wild Eyes and Hey,Come On.

Their 21-song repertoire also covered songs Venus, Hurts, On The Road and Re-Love from their 10th and latest album, The Return.

Their dance moves were stylish, though not as crazy and energetic as those by younger performers.

And the 5,000-strong, mostly-female audience, lapped it up, screaming and waving orange flags and light sticks once the concert began.

The reaction certainly rivalled that of last Friday's Boyz Nite Out concert featuring teenybopper idols SHINee, Jay Park and Teen Top, which was attended by about 3,000 fans, a surprisingly lower figure.

But what was most attractive about Shinhwa was their being man enough to show their love for one another. Over the course of their 21/2-hour show, they hugged, held hands and even kissed one another on the cheek.

They were also unafraid to make jokes at each other's expense.

In the first of three English subtitled witty video clips shown, Jun Jin spoke animatedly in Korean of each of his fellow members.

He said of Kim: "I heard he sells Shinhwa's pictures when times are bad."

In another video, Mun told the audience of how Jun Jin "tied his nose hair into braids" in the past.

The latter then flew into a dramatic rage in the video and Mun apologised, promising not to say hurtful things about the members any more.

The sextet also bantered at length in Korean with their fans - and proved that they still wield power and popularity in an industry known for its fickleness.

Filipina Charity Nagrampa, 36, a product manager from Manila, said Shinhwa's strong camaraderie after all these years also extends to their fans.

She had flown to Singapore with more than 20 others from the Philippines just to catch the concert. Each spent about $2,000 on the trip.

Miss Nagrampa told The New Paper: "It's all worth it. I like them because they show love and friendship to their fans. When they perform, they connect with the people."

Shinhwa's longevity on the music scene also means their fans' ages range from the teens to the 50s.

Mrs Chong Siew Lin, 55, a housewife has been a convert for five years, after first listening to Shin as a solo artiste.

She has since influenced her two sisters-in-law into becoming fans as well, and all three, together with Mrs Chong's husband, attended Saturday's concert.

Mrs Chong loves their music so much that she even flew to Korea in March to catch Shinhwa's two comeback concerts.

"I always feel good and happy after watching their concerts. Shinhwa have the experience, the vocals and the harmony. And they have aunty-killer looks," she said.

At the other end of the age spectrum, students Carmen Chan, 14, and Debbie Luo, 19, said they took note of Shinhwa after listening to their older songs some three years ago.

Said Debbie: "The fact that they have such a strong following even though younger K-pop groups abound, means they are really good and unique."

Ms Jessica Lim, a 32-year-old media planner who has been loyal to the group since 2001, added: "Age doesn't seem to have affected them much and they've kept themselves really well.

"Their vocals and dance moves are definitely still there. They are even better now because I really like their aristocratic look on the new album, and the cool dance moves for the song Venus."

At a pre-concert media session, the group said they were thankful for their 14 years in showbiz.

Said Lee through a translator: "We have known each other for 15 to 16 years and we have always stuck together like real brothers and supported each other."

Mun added that they are not focusing on competing with the younger K-pop groups because they are "standing on totally different starting lines".

He explained: "Instead of competing with them, we should guide them and be good role models to them.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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