Just two sleeps separate some 45,000 fans of K-pop group BTS from the concert experience of a lifetime. At the Singapore Sports Hub, where the boy band is set to play this Saturday (Jan 19), countless barriers weave around the stadium's 23 gates, ready for possibly the largest concert of the year.
When Channel Newsasia visited the National Stadium on Thursday afternoon, only a handful of fans were seen loitering among the crowd barriers, taking photos of potential meeting spots. One of them was Ilham Zhari, 21, who had travelled from her hometown of Penang, Malaysia, along with two friends from other states across the border.
"We just arrived in Singapore an hour ago and came here after dropping our bags in our hotel," said Ilham.
“We’re here to take a look at the stadium so it’s less stressful for us on Saturday. We want to take good pictures,” said her friend Asnah Ismail, 21, from Johor.
This is Ilham’s second time in Singapore. The undergrad spent more than 1,000 ringgit (S$329) on her Cat 1 ticket for the concert, which grants her access to the standing pens nearest to the main stage.
“We have more friends coming from Kuala Lumpur and we’re planning to come at 6am on Saturday,” said Asnah.
Together with her friends Asnah Ismail and Wan Nur Iffahana, Ilham will be joining another queue on Saturday in hopes of gaining access to the BTS Studio. The BTS Studio offers fans a chance to enjoy music from the group, and use the photo and video booths to take and print pictures with standees of the group members.
Given the capacity crowd expected, Singapore Sports Hub has "strongly advised" concert goers to use public transport and arrive early. To discourage overnight queueing, standing pen patrons have also been assigned queue numbers on their tickets, with gates opening only at 12.30pm on Saturday. To beef up security and strengthen crowd control measures, the 100PLUS Promenade encircling the National Stadium will be inaccessible to public from 6pm, beginning Jan 18.
The strict rules, however, have not deterred fans from walking the event grounds days before the concert begins. “We’re actually on our lunch break now. We’re just here to take a look, so we don’t get lost in the crowd on Saturday,” said Lizah, who only wanted to be known as that.
“We’re going to be here from 7am because the merch booth opens at 9am. I won’t be surprised if people are planning to queue overnight,” said her colleague Stephanie Tan. The 33-year-old and her friends have already purchased the BTS lightsticks online, but are still planning to queue from 7am on Saturday for T-shirts and other BTS merchandise.
Even among the younger members of the BTS ARMY, the connection they feel with their idols is evident.
“I’ve been their fan since I was in Secondary 1, which was five years ago,” said Beverline Goh, 17. “I’ve always wanted them to return to Singapore because I couldn’t attend their previous concert.”
For fans like Hoang Phuong Ang, 17, the K-pop band are like her “counsellors”, there to lift her spirits during tough times. “When I was preparing for my O-Levels, I was feeling very down because my grades were really bad. BTS was like a light to me; they cared for me and I got through my O-Levels because of them” said Hoang.
The BTS World Tour: Love Yourself kicked off in Seoul last August. The group is currently in the final leg of its world tour, having played sold-out venues in cities such as Paris, Berlin and New York City. The tour is set to conclude on Apr 7 in Bangkok, and would have performed for over 1.1 million concertgoers then.
(Additional reporting by Alif Amsyar)