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Epik High’s All Time High... in London

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

by Nilza

The date was February 12 and, exactly 196 days after their previous visit (at the MIK festival on July 31 2022), Epik High returned to London.

The band was greeted by a packed Troxy for the fourth stop of their 2023 European tour and, considering this was one of the first K-Artist concerts of the year in the city, the crowd’s excitement was palpable.

Image credit Epik High

After what felt like hours of waiting, the dim-lit blue stage turned purple and we began to hear the intro to their 2023 hit featuring Jackson Wang, 'On My Way'.

This song is part of Epik High’s latest EP, Strawberry, an album that marks a new chapter for the trio, and that confirmed their previous release Epik High Is Here 下, Part 2 was indeed a farewell – but only to the first 20 years of their career.

As the music got louder, Tablo, Mithra Jin and DJ Tukutz made their way into the stage and were welcomed by a loud cheering crowd that was nearly immediately silenced once Tablo began his rap line “I’ma need u to shut up for a minute”. This was very fitting considering the song’s first line has Tablo letting us all know that they are on their way and on their “villain arc” to continue most likely to push, even harder, against convention (with their music).

Soon, Tablo was joined by Mithra on the mic and, together, they continue to rap about the inevitability of endings:

In the end, parting is something that can’t be avoided / Birth becomes death / Where the flowers bloom, the snowflakes bloom, and light becomes darkness”.

They end ‘On My Way’ and go on to assure us that with endings come new beginnings and that we “can fly” towards our dreams through ‘Fly’, the famous title track of their 2005 album Swan Songs, which was also featured on the FIFA 07 game.

After taking a brief break to introduce themselves in typical Epik High style, the trio continues to perform the setlist they prepared for us with ‘Map the Soul’ - the first single from their 2009 album with the same name, and the first one, released under their own independent label, Map the Soul Inc. - followed by ‘Acceptance Speech’ featuring ex-label mate B.I.

Through their performance of ‘Acceptance Speech,’ Epik High continues to walk us through the ups and downs in their career - highlighting that, while their success and glory was mostly up on display, it’s the hard work and struggles behind scenes that have been moulding their identity.

This was emphasised by Mirtha’s opening verse where he says he’s built a wall to keep away "fake friends ready to cut him open as soon as he turns his back" and Tablo’s mention of the “poker-faced mask” he was forced to create for so long he started to forget his true self.

Their choice of B.I (or Kim Hanbin) for the featuring role - who returned through this collaboration after a nearly two-year long hiatus following a drug scandal that lead to his departure from YG and his original group, iKon - gave the song a new dimension as he, like Epik High, came to an acceptance of the turbulence in his life as another symbol of growth.

The song came to an end with their understanding that the world is neither all good nor bad and that, though their status forces them to have the public’s strict moral standards imposed on them, they can only attempt to break free from those constraints and look after themselves so they are able to move forward on their own journey "home" - where they’re not trapped, since the “show goes on and on and on”.

Moving away from the gloomy feeling, they follow up performing two concert favourites 'Rosario' and 'BURJ KHALIFA' - two self-affirming songs where the trio thanked the struggles and those who hurt them (while pushing it all away), as it all became the fuel which led them to the status of legends "paving the way to others that are also paving the way".

These two songs had the crowd singing along in nearly perfect harmony, in good UK school assembly fashion, which probably allowed the audience to enjoy the moment to the fullest, leaving their own problems and struggles behind.

It was also during these two performances that both Tablo and Mithra decided to cool the standing audience down by splashing us all with water (a refreshing moment indeed!).

Taking time for a longer break, the members (led by Tablo) told us how they missed London; how enjoyable their previous performance at the MIK festival was; and asked those present at Troxy, how many had also gone to watch them perform in 2022.

Tablo then went on to ask the audience what they liked about Epik High and their music, (maybe because he could see that there were a lot of younger fans?!) and voices from the crowd shouted several reasons including:

‘it’s timeless’,

‘because of the album memes’,

‘Because you are Haru appa!’

which brought all members to laughs.

They then talked about experiences while collaborating with other artists, seeing as they have worked with basically everyone in the Korean music industry.

This made Tablo share the story of a ‘younger artist’ that called him one day at the early dawn (around 2-3am) asking him to check a track the latter created with Tablo in mind. He told us all he could really say when that happen was "I need to be awake at 6am to get Haru ready for school" (so real parent responsibilities!) which caused a general laugh…

Finishing the story, Tablo went on to say it’s not always easy to pick the right artist to collaborate with but that “sometimes there are artists that also make great choices…” and the crowd went wild as the initial intro sound to ‘All Day’ - a song from RM’s critically acclaimed 2022 album Indigo which Tablo featured in - could be heard. This performance of ‘All Day’ was met with an electrifying atmosphere as we all basked in the understanding that Tablo had just shared with us how he was invited to feature on the BTS leader's latest release.

We then dived into Epik High’s rendition of TAEYANG’s 2014 massive hit ‘Eyes nose lips’ (where the original singer also featured). Confirming its global success (both of the original song and of this adapted version), the crowd was able to follow along effortlessly once again proving that UK crowds can indeed deliver.

The ‘Eyes, nose, lips’ cover was followed by (in my humble opinion) the most touching and beautiful performance of the evening, the ‘Rain Song’ featuring Korean R&B singer Colde (though their long-time collaborator, Younha, also made an uncredited appearance on the track).

This performance changed the previously electrifying atmosphere into a more solemn one, with every member of the audience turning on their phone’s flashlights and waving their arms to the beat.

Following the ‘Rain Song,’ the trio asked the audience to teach them a few colloquial phrases or expressions, and the mood shifted once again. This time into a more chaotic (mainly) London slang open class where you could hear THE Tablo say anything from ‘peng ting innit’ to them being taught what a ‘roadman’ was.

As the show had to go on, next up on the setlist was ‘1 Minute 1 Second’ (see what I did there?!), a breakup song featuring Korean indie singer-songwriter Taru, which tells the story of those unable to let go of the past, even if it caused them pain - while trying to tell the listeners that they shouldn't be trapped in the past, but move forward, as even the most painful happenings will one day become nothing but memories.

As if forcing us to let go of any past that may be trapping us and wake up to the ‘now’, the signature “Time is tickin'. T-Time is tickin', tickin' / Time is tickin', T-Time is tickin' away…” prelude let us know the next song would be ‘One’ from their 2008 studio album Pisces, Part one.

As the electrifying performance to ‘One’ came to an end, Tablo prepared us for the last song with another witty remark, letting those who were planning to leave earlier to beat the traffic (during the final song) that they clearly had “never been to a concert” - otherwise they’d know that the encore stage would be coming after the last song.

Finally, as the loud distorted bass beat was heard from DJ Tukutz’ mixing table, we were taken through a shorter version of ‘Born Hater’ the title track of their eighth Korean studio album, Shoebox. This way, they wrapped up their ‘story of Epik High’ by telling us exactly what they think of those haters they had encountered throughout their career (like the TaJinYo group) while teaching us to laugh after hardships - and they couldn’t have chosen a better way to end the concert!

It was also during that performance that both Tablo and Mithra got their ‘payback’ from the standing crowd, who also threw water at them once they decided to ‘cool us all down’ from the excitement.

As a leaving present before the encore stage, the trio threw a signed white towel (or T-shirt as I couldn’t tell) each to the standing crowd, to the joy of those that were able to secure them… as I wasn’t one of the lucky ones, I could only be happy for them (while trying to contain my jealousy).

And then they left the stage.

As ‘seasoned’ concert goers, we knew the encore performance was coming up next and the general excitement was immensely felt through the ‘EPIK HIGH, EPIK HIGH, EPIK HIGH’ chants from the crowd that became louder by the minute.

After roughly 5 minutes of wait - which hopefully allowed the trio to take a well deserved breather - Tablo, Mithra and Tukutz returned to the stage and immediately begun the encore stage with ‘Catch’, also from their Strawberry album featuring MAMAMOO’s Hwasa.

Through ‘Catch’ we were told once again that they’re proud to claim their rightful place (in the music industry) in public while ‘dealing with their struggles in private’ - through Mithra’s verse “Even when you stumble and fall to the floor, dance in despair” - and a warning to those haters was made as Hwasa says “Don't worry about me, even in the dark / I'll shine like a diamond / You'll never catch me”. As Hwasa is also a singer that has waged her own wars against haters on songs like ‘Maria’ and ‘I’m a 빛’, we couldn’t contest that it felt right to have her on a track like this.

As Tablo ended the song assuring us he’ll ‘catch us when we fall’, they kept our energy levels extremely high with the two very final encore songs, ‘Kill this Love’ and ‘New Beautiful’ - both from their seventh studio album 99 - transforming Troxy into an Epik club.

At the All Time High moment of the night, Epik High tells us to let go of all regrets, bad memories and focus on the present while moving forward and to believe in and love ourselves - because

You’re not ugly / The world’s standards are too high / You are beautiful.

Even after they said their very final goodbye and left the stage, most of the standing crowd (myself included) couldn’t seem to want to leave the venue. They probably also wanted to continue absorbing the exciting and positive energy the trio shared with us during the concert, or simply dreaded facing the wintry weather outside Troxy…

Anyhow, the All Time High tour in London was nothing short of an exhilarating night and, even though there may come a day we will have forgotten exactly how the concert went, I'm confident all of us that were in Troxy that night, will never forget that Epik High was here!

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