SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

Three weeks into my first year at U of T, I attended a concert for the first time. My friend invited me to the BTS Highlight Tour in Toronto with her when last-minute general admission tickets went on sale. Her enthusiasm, combined with my inability to say no to people, as well as my greed for not missing out on good deals, led me to agree. Though my knowledge of BTS’ music was limited to their title songs, I decided that it would be a highlight if I went to my first concert in my first month at university.

Seventy dollars, seven hours spent camping outside Phoenix Concert Theatre, and several screams at the seven men entering the building later, my friend and I entered the venue at around 7:00 pm.

We exited the venue an hour and half later with blistered feet, zero footage of the event — the company managing the tour had a zero-recording policy — and a shared wish that BTS would return to Canada with a proper concert soon. They had only performed four songs in this poorly managed tour, in front of a partly-broken screen, but to a fully enthralled audience.

Three years later — three weeks into my fourth year at U of T, and with $311 from my budget, I attended my second BTS concert, Love Yourself. It had taken BTS seven comebacks, three world tours, two Billboard Awards, and one American Music Award performance to finally return to Ontario.

BTS announced the world tour dates and venues on April 26. I bought the tickets the day they went on sale on May 7, with much difficulty, but it wasn’t until a security guard scanned my ticket and ushered me into the FirstOntario Centre on Sunday, September 23 that I realized that I was going to see BTS live.

I could finally smile back at the faces that had smiled at me from my phone and laptop screens for the past three years — except this time, I didn’t need to worry if people thought I was deranged!

I could finally sing along to the the melodies and harmonies that had soothed me during bad days and hyped me up on good ones — sans the fear of getting the lyrics wrong or sounding off-key.

I could finally return the confession of love to the group who had taught me what it was — even if I lost my voice in the crowd of 16,000 people.

And lose my voice I did.

The concert started at 6:00 pm. Doors opened at 3:30 pm, and I was in my seat by 4:00 pm. The two giant screens in the venue were playing BTS’ music videos in chronological order.

The concert hall had not even filled up completely and the audience’s singing had drowned out the speakers. When I sat down, I was met with BTS’ 2014 “Danger” music video, which was oddly fitting. “Danger” was the first BTS music video I had ever watched.

“Danger” faded into “War of Hormones,” which gave way to the music videos from BTS’ The Most Beautiful Moment in Life trilogy, followed by the “Wings” series, and finally their Love Yourself trilogy.

By the time “Fake Love” ended, the audience’s singing was deafening, my vocal cords were weakening, and the concert hadn’t even started yet. Unfortunately for my vocal cords, the moment the lights went out, the familiar beats of “Idol” reverberated through the venue, and BTS stepped onstage.

I screamed.

From that point onward, I alternated between gasping, chanting, screeching, shout-singing, and screaming, but I was never silent. I would later regret this, not because it hurt to swallow for a week after, but because it rendered all my videos of the concert unshareable. Though I tried to blame most of the shouted off-key singing in the background on my sister, I knew that I wasn’t without blame.

Despite having already performed the show twice in front of Canadian audiences, BTS gave us a perfect show. Every costume change was stunning — literally, because many of their costumes involved sequins. All the transitions between songs were smooth, and the choreography was splendidly synchronized.

With every strobing of stage-lights, every colour change of the Bluetooth-controlled ARMY bombs, and every moment of fanservice BTS bestowed on us, I fell deeper in love with them. Ironic, considering the name of the concert was “Love Yourself.”

BTS told us that we were their 10th show of this tour and made for a “perfect 10” concerts in North America. They gifted us with their logo reshaped into the Canadian flag. They said that they loved Canada and would love to come back. And I love them back.

‘Love.’ No other word could have expressed my adoration, adulation, and admiration for this group who have helped me — and many of my peers — love ourselves through these taxing, tumultuous, and tear-stained university years.

BTS’ success and growth both astonish me and delight me. The boys I saw three years ago performing in front of a broken screen have become superstars. Now, the only thing broken behind them is new ground. They are reaching heights that few foreign artists, Korean or otherwise, have reached before.

Their long list of accomplishments in three short years is evidence of their dedication, drive, and decision to love themselves — something I am determined to emulate.

I’m learning how to love myself thanks to BTS.

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