Photos and Review by Angela Leung
March 16, 2023
New York, NY
An evening with Epik High is an evening you wouldn’t want to miss out on. On March 16th, the South Korean hip-hop trio took over Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. Within a year of their Epik High Is Here Tour, members Tablo, Mithra and DJ Tukutz are back at it on the road bigger than ever. The All Time High Tour took the group across 30+ cities through Europe and North America.
The warm weather worked in favor of the attendees as they gathered en masse at the venue on a Thursday afternoon. Epik High has held several successful tours here in the past, so New Yorkers welcomed them back with open arms. With over 20 years of being in the music industry, these K-rap veterans have a strong discography under their belt. It is without a doubt that U.S. fans are extremely grateful to experience them bringing their old and new songs to life.
The clock struck with each passing minute as the crowd patiently waited for the show to start. Prepping things off was a VCR of Tablo with EN Management CEO Eddie Nam, a concert exclusive episode from The Tablo Podcast. The video was filmed specifically for the New York show as Tablo spoke about his fondest memories here including the job he had as an assistant director. He credited New York for being the birthplace of hip-hop and the reason why Epik High exists. The video ended with him quoting, “I want to hear that noise tonight,” which was returned with a round of vibrant cheers.
After a brief intermission, the dulcet tunes of the intro track “Strawberry” from the newly released Strawberry EP filled the venue as the dynamic trio took the stage. They started off with “On My Way,” a recent collaboration they did with Hong Kong artist Jackson Wang. All seemed to be going well at first, or so it seemed until they unexpectedly encountered some audio hiccups, prompting them to restart from the beginning. Needless to say, the trio handled it with grace as they arrived back on stage and greeted the crowd like it was their first time seeing them.
The energy didn’t die down one bit as the crowd roared with the breakout hit “Fly.” The snappy beats were enough to send everyone up on their feet and it was only going to get better from there. After the first three songs, it was time for their much-needed introductions. If you’ve been to their shows before, you are probably aware that Epik High never fails to make the audience laugh with their overdramatic, or rather “epik,” introductions. Tablo cited Tukutz as the father of K-pop and called Mithra the maknae (youngest member) of K-pop. When it was Tablo’s turn, Tukutz described him as Haru 아빠 (father) and the leader of Epik High, much to the audience’s amusement.
It was an evening filled with friendly banter as Tablo took a jab at Mithra for being a man of few words, even jokingly stating that there were times when he “hasn’t heard him speak in over a month.” Despite all that, Mithra delivered those rap verses one after another like the pro that he is. Tablo spoke about Epik High’s first memories of being in New York, one of them being an anecdote of Tukutz’s Empire State Building adventures. On a more serious note, he reflected on the personal struggles he faced while in Korea (referring to the TaJinYo case) and how he flew to New York to reignite that spark during those dark times. Through those experiences, he expressed his undying gratitude for this city, calling it a special place.
After his heartfelt speech, the fans made sure to return the love tenfold. The excitement never left the room as the group demonstrated their impressive rap skills in “Rosario,” proving them to be “legends who are here to stay” as quoted in the track’s crafty lyrics. When Tablo and Mithra commanded the audience to “소리 질러 (scream)” it was eagerly reciprocated. Although Tukutz spent most of the time working his magic at his DJ set, he stepped up front and showed off some rap skills of his own during “NO THANXXX.”
As with most rappers in the game, Epik High’s extensive discography features collaborations with a handful of notable artists. Tablo brought up another anecdote while introducing their next song, in a quite comedic manner, as it features a highly acclaimed artist. He mentioned that the said artist called him to check his email and that there was an email containing an attachment of the song the artist wanted him to be on. “I couldn’t figure out if I was still in a dream or not. I picked up my phone again and pressed play,” Tablo recounted, smoothly transitioning to “All Day,” a song he wrote with none other than RM of BTS.
While on the topic of notable collaborations, the fans were also treated to Tablo’s rendition of “Eyes, Nose, Lips,” a song originally by Taeyang of BIGBANG. Tablo credited the fans as one of his favorite collaborators, ultimately giving them the opportunity to participate in the performance of “우산 (Umbrella).” It was a song they’d never performed at any of their U.S. tours before as they thought the Korean lyrics would be difficult for U.S. audiences to follow. Tablo tweeted out the lyrics several weeks ago in preparation for anyone who will be attending their shows but he also took a moment to teach the audience the Korean lines (lesson time with teacher Tablo). The lyrics in Hangul and romanization were projected on the LED display, making it easier for everyone to sing along.
Soon enough, the audio of a ticking clock started playing, sending everyone into a wild frenzy at the iconic chart-topper “One.” The spotlight was on Tukutz as he rapped a verse and even flaunted his dancing skills with NewJeans’ “OMG.” This was a hit that was not to be missed as the venue rumbled with the infectious chant, “Time is tickin, t-time is tickin tickin.” The crowd passionately sang along while pointing number one finger signs in the air.
It goes to show that the three members are not only great musicians but also naturals at entertaining the audience. Some noteworthy moments were during “Born Hater,” where they stopped the performance after several verses to take photos with the crowd, throw a signed bag addressed to “뉴요RK” (their way of spelling out “New York” in Korean), and spray countless water bottles.
While the chants of “Epik High” filled the venue, the group returned for their encore stage. They closed out the night with the hits “Catch,” “Kill This Love” and “New Beautiful.” Tablo and Mithra walked up to the front to be closer to the fans. “You are beautiful!” Tablo exclaimed as fans were seen throwing finger hearts to the trio. The front rows were drenched from all the water bottles but their spirits remained livelier than ever. The only disappointment was that the show was evidently over.
To sum it all up, that show reached an “all time high” indeed. Epik High delivered a spectacular performance that left everyone in high spirits. If anyone is on the fence about seeing them live, we encourage you to attend as it will surely be E-P-I-K.