Tomorrow X Together are no strangers to making history at Lollapalooza. Last year, the band became the first K-pop act to ever perform at the Chicago festival and dazzled a huge crowd with live band versions of some of their most alternative-leaning tracks. Tonight (August 5), just 12 months on from that late afternoon set on one of Lolla’s smaller stages, TXT are back – and this time they’re making their mark as the first K-pop group to headline here.
Returning with a live band again, the five-piece have built their set around two themes, those of “youth” and “rock”. “If you think of those two keywords, they remind you of Tomorrow X Together right away,” Hueningkai tells NME backstage before the group head over to the Bud Light stage. He’s not wrong, and tonight’s performance only reinforces that point, racing through a setlist full of big riffs, angst and giddy joy.
The latter begins early. After the opening two songs – fiery versions of ‘0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)’ and ‘Dear Sputnik’ – the members take a moment to introduce themselves to the crowd. As the camera pans to Hueningkai, he lifts his microphone to his mouth and, mimicking what is now becoming an inescapable tradition at K-pop shows in the US, ignites the first fervent round of barking. Moments later, Yeonjun looks out over the drizzle-soaked audience and declares: “The rain can stop, let’s fucking enjoy it.” The rain does not, in fact, stop, but that doesn’t prevent Grant Park from pouring all its energy into doing as the rapper says.
The idea of youth is ever-present throughout the setlist, the collection of songs shared tonight encapsulating all sides of it. It represents flirtations with temptation via an intoxicating ‘Devil By The Window’ and the world-ending feeling of a first break-up in ‘Good Boy Gone Bad’, which comes with a new and extended, jaw-dropping dance break. As Beomgyu does his now-traditional lighting of a rose and tossing it nonchalantly over his shoulder, huge flames burst up in front of the stage and the group launch into yet more intricate choreography.
But there are also the happier, warmer sides of youth showcased here too. Synth-pop banger ‘Thursday’s Child Has Far To Go’ might feature some of TXT’s least complex dance moves but, as Taehyun, Beomgyu and Soobin deliver them with exuberant grins on their faces, they feel like some of the most joyous. ‘Cat And Dog’ remains the group’s cutest song, while ‘Blue Spring’ – an unreleased song penned by all five members premiered during their Act: Sweet Mirage tour – captures the magic bond of friendship through the tumultuous time of growing up.
While TXT might not have been readily associated with rock when they first debuted, in recent years, they’ve leaned more and more into heavier sounds, with many of those songs aired tonight. ‘Wishlist’ is full of pure pop-punk buoyancy, the crowd head-banging along even as the rain gets heavier. ‘LO$ER=LO♡ER’, a song that always feels full of catharsis when it’s being screamed by thousands of fans, amplifies that release with an extended ending that becomes dizzyingly jubilant.
The live band help turn ‘Can’t You See Me?’ into a sludgy sledgehammer of a song that hits incredibly hard, sonically at least. That the group performs most of the song by standing still in a line across the stage feels like a missed opportunity to make this new rock version as ferocious as it can be. A return to the choreography at the end helps, but it can’t save it from feeling like the only flat part of the set.
TXT’s Lollapalooza headline moment might come in the midst of their Act: Sweet Mirage world tour, but they mix things up from that setlist and song arrangements to give Chicago plenty of surprises. There’s a ludicrously euphoric rendition of ‘Magic’ that finds the group upping the speed midway through for a high-octane dance break and a reunion with Coi Leray for ‘Happy Fools’ (plus a snippet of her own track ‘Players’). ‘Do It Like That’, the group’s recent collaboration with the Jonas Brothers, gets unveiled live for the first time, although the trio aren’t present to help out (“It would be awesome if they made it to perform it with us, but there’s always next time,” Taehyun says after).
Although this is TXT’s time to shine – which they do, blindingly – they make sure to give those who help make the performance what it is their flowers, and in full HD. Early in the set, they put the spotlight on their backing band, each musician’s name broadcast on the back screen as they take on a solo. Later, they do the same with their dancers, allowing them the chance to show off their moves while the crowd learns their names. It’s a humble gesture, but one that speaks volumes.
In their new Disney+ documentary Our Lost Summer, Yeonjun reflected on TXT’s last appearance at Lolla, saying they weren’t sure if they deserved their place on the bill. While they proved that to be wrong in 2022, this headline set shows they are more than worthy of this new, elevated slot on the line-up. Their performances are tight and impactful, their vocals phenomenal, and their stage presence nothing short of rockstar status.
As they wrap things up, Yeonjun describes the set as “a dream come true” before Taehyun asks the crowd to “follow us for the rest of our world tour, our new album and more amazing stuff”. To do that, though, TXT first need to leave the stage, but they linger on it for minutes after a final, thrilling ‘Sugar Rush Ride’ and after gold fireworks light up the sky in celebration of their huge achievement, thanking fans and initiating more barking. History never felt so giddily great.
Tomorrow X Together played:
‘0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)’
‘Can’t You See Me?’
‘Good Boy Gone Bad’
‘Lonely Boy (The tattoo on my ring finger)’
‘Thursday’s Child Has Far To Go’
‘Cat & Dog’
‘Sugar Rush Ride’
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