To the world and now to the Philippines, here is NCT 127! On September 4, Pulp Live World brought NCT 127 to the Mall of Asia Arena for the much-awaited Manila stop of their Neo City: The Link tour. Prior to visiting the Philippines, the group stopped in Seoul, Tokyo, and Singapore. 

Photo by: Aurora (Dawn) Rose Carpio / Post-processed by: Francine

The Philippine stop came about two weeks ahead of NCT 127’s fourth full-length album, 2 Baddies, giving Filipino NCTzens more to look forward to after giving their favorite group a well-deserved green ocean. Even before Taeil, Johnny, Taeyong, Yuta, Doyoung, Jaehyun, Jungwoo, Mark, and Haechan took the stage, fans made sure to let their presence be known through roaring cheers and glowing lightsticks as their favorite NCT 127 songs play inside the arena.

Kicking It Off

With descending platforms and red-hot LCD displays, NCT 127 made a grand entrance and started the night off with their 2020 hit “Kick It.” Neo-bongs, or NCT lightsticks, colored neon green and red lit up the arena. Fans cheered at the top of their lungs, warmly welcoming the members for their first solo concert in the country.

Photos by: Aurora (Dawn) Rose Carpio / Post-processed by: Francine
Photos by: Aurora (Dawn) Rose Carpio / Post-processed by: Francine

NCT 127 did a great job in keeping the energy high as they showed their prowess through their performances of “Lemonade” and “Simon Says.” After the first three songs, the members took the time to greet their fans, expressing their hopes that they would be able to truly “link” or connect with the fans in the night ahead.

A Taste of Heaven and Another World

Moving towards the next segment of their setlist, NCT 127 quite literally elevated expectations. The members brought their fans to new heights with a sweet roster of side-tracks: “Elevator (127F),” “Dreamer,” and “Love Song.” These songs carry a lighter, more whimsical vibe, which allowed fans to sway and dance along as the members had fun and fooled around on stage.

Photos by: Aurora (Dawn) Rose Carpio / Post-processed by: Francine

The lights dimmed for a little bit, only to welcome a lone Taeil, who marked the start of the special solo/unit stages the NCT 127 members had prepared. The eldest member performed a rearranged version of “Another World,” which was shortly followed by a duet with youngest member Haechan for an unreleased track, “Love Sign.” While these two stages showed off NCT 127’s rich vocals, the “Run Back 2 U” stage led by Johnny, Taeyong, Yuta, and Jaehyun—who formed a predebut unit named “Bassbot”—highlighted their dance skills.

All nine members reappeared for their performances of the English version of “Highway to Heaven” and their Sticker b-side, “Breakfast.” Both performances allowed Philippine NCTzens to get a closer look at the members as they made use of the extended stage.

NCTzens got to take a quick break by watching the “Running 2 U” VCR featuring the nine members and a message that rang all too well: there is no cure for an NCT 127 addiction. Shortly after, Mark took the stage to dish out bars for his solo song “Vibration.” Then, leader Taeyong welcomed the latter half of the night with “Moonlight.” The two rappers joined forces to spit fire for their duo performance of “The Himalayas,” where Taeyong asked a roaring Manila audience to keep screaming.

Don’t Lose Your Focus

NCT 127 are bona fide masters of versatility, so it should come as no surprise that they were able to go from bombastic and electric to soft and sultry in the snap of a finger, or in this case, a VCR of “Lipstick.” This next segment was started by a solo dance performance to the same song by Jungwoo, who donned a hat draped with jewels as he grooved to his music. The MOA Arena stages oozed with extra sexiness as NCT 127 returned to perform a soulful rendition of their R&B side-track “Focus,” then making fans scream even harder Johnny’s shirtless dance to the instrumental of the aforementioned track.

Photos by: Aurora (Dawn) Rose Carpio / Post-processed by: Francine
Photos by: Aurora (Dawn) Rose Carpio / Post-processed by: Francine

Filipinos are known for singing loudly and proudly, which was why Jaehyun removed his in-earpiece to hear Philippine NCTzens’ singing along to his self-composed track “Lost.” The main vocalist was so moved by his fans’ beautiful voices that he asked them to sing along with him once more during one of his speaking segments. The fans were rewarded with more serenades from NCT 127 through performances of their R&B ballads “The Rainy Night,” “White Night,” and an acoustic version of “Back 2 U.”

The final vocal-centric stages included Doyoung’s solo stage “The Reason Why It’s Favorite,” where he showed off his belting abilities. Meanwhile, the last stage of this segment was a performance of “Favorite (Vampire)” by all nine members, which ended with a bang…of confetti flying across the entire arena.

Jaws on the Floor

While it has been mentioned that the Ilichil members are masters of versatility, this knowledge could not stop NCTzens’ surprise every time NCT 127 switched things up. After another round of heartfelt ments reciprocating the fans’ vibrant energy, Yuta sang and danced to “Butterfly” for the last solo performance. As the night got darker, the boys lit up the crowd through electric performances of their bombastic tracks “Bring the Noize” and “Love on the Floor.” Then, the audience was once again met with a VCR showing letters NCT 127 had personally written as they prepared for the next half of the set.

Once the boys got back, they made the most out of the extended stage through performances of their cuter and softer songs “Paradise,” “Touch,” and “Love Me Now.” For “Paradise” in particular, they tossed signed balls towards different sections of the arena which were received by lucky fans. Meanwhile, for “Love Me Now,” the guys played with their Neo-bongs, and Taeyong was stunned by a display of a bald image of him lovingly made by a fan.

One More Time…

After another round of ments from the NCT 127 members relishing in Filipino fans’ warmth and energy, Mark sadly told the fans that they had two songs left. Johnny responded to this by begging the former not to say it, showing his own refusal to leave Manila so soon.

Regardless, they put out explosive performances of their hits “Cherry Bomb” and “Sticker,” proving that they will be the biggest hits on whatever stage they step foot on. Filipino NCTzens energetically sang and rapped along to the boys’ iconic lines. For “Sticker” in particular, fans seemed to scream “roll up to the party” louder than NCT 127 themselves.

Once the “Sticker” performance came to a close, the lights dimmed once more, which made fans feel like the boys had already gone their separate ways. Thankfully, that was not the case, as NCT 127 made one last return after presenting a VCR about NCT and their personal relationships with dreams. 

Speaking of dreams, NCT 127 performed “Dreams Come True” for an encore stage, making fans swoon and sway along the way. They then shared their final statements, with Johnny asking why this was the first time they had a solo concert in the Philippines. It was clear that the members were completely enamored with the energy of their Manila audience. Mark even wished to have a two or three-day concert in the Philippines, and Yuta promised to come back to Manila as soon as they could.

NCT 127 ended the night with a final heartfelt performance of their song “Promise You,” capping the night off on quite a wistful note, with promises of quick returns to the city that welcomed them so warmly. They waved to fans and made their last goodbyes—or more optimistically, they bid Manila genuine see-you-soons—before they disappeared into the cloudy LCD screen and descended using the same platform stage they made their entrance on.

Going Faster

As bittersweet concert goodbyes always are, it is crystal clear that NCT 127’s one night in Manila was one to remember for weeks to come. According to the members, they will still hear the unwavering cheers of Filipino NCTzens on their way back to Seoul

The night was also filled with good fun and goofy antics, showing that the boys had an amazing time here. While the concert only lasted for three hours, September 4 was a full-day event for Filipino NCTzens, starting with fan-led events and freebies in the morning and ending with an afterparty later into the night.

While NCT 127 and Filipino NCTzens gear up for the group’s fourth album, 2 Baddies, out on September 16, one thing is for certain: the warm and lovely memories they have made at the MOA Arena will stick with them.

Photo by: Aurora (Dawn) Rose Carpio / Post-processed by: Francine

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