Review: Lee Moon Sae Concert in Toronto

Lee Moon Sae concert in Toronto
Lee Moon Sae concert in Toronto

When I first heard that Lee Moon Sae (이문세) was coming to Toronto in June to perform one of three North American concerts, I was excited – the other two were in New Jersey and Los Angeles. Even though I wasn’t really a fan, nor overly familiar with his music, I had of course heard of him. It would be impossible to listen to a wide variety of Korean music and especially to write about it and not know who he was (or know at least a few of his songs).

Now I’ll be honest, I first heard of him because Big Bang did a cover of Sunset Glow (붉은노을) back in 2008 but Lee Moon Sae has been performing for three decades. All that experience has left him a consummate performer with an incredibly long and varied repertoire of songs. One of the things that has stuck with me the most from his recent Toronto concert was the variety of genres he does so well. And speaking of the concert, let’s move on to the review. ^^

Lee Moon Sae concert in Toronto
Lee Moon Sae concert in Toronto

Lee Moon Sae in Toronto

While the entire concert was amazing and Lee Moon Sae certainly has a beautiful voice there were certain songs that really stood out for me. So much so that I wish I had a set list as I’d buy those songs – or even the album they’re on. Interestingly enough, even though I didn’t think I knew his music well beforehand (other than the song Big Bang did); I recognized more of his songs than I expected.

He is a fantastic performer – and I’ll talk more about that later – but it’s his voice that rocks and drew me in. I’ve heard him on YouTube and Korean TV before but his voice is even better live – it’s such so beautiful and powerful. I was especially impressed with how long he could hold the closing note of a song. Not just hold it but hold such a pure, strong note.

Lee Moon Sae concert in Toronto - the crowd
Lee Moon Sae concert in Toronto – the crowd

The crowd adored him

I don’t think I’ve ever seen an older concert crowd – most were over 40 – do coordinated dancing (in their seats) before the show ever started before. And it wasn’t just a few people, everyone was. It was neat to watch! Once Lee Moon Sae arrived on the stage… the energy and excitement from the crowd was palpable. Everyone was clapping, dancing (more of the coordinated dancing as well) and singing. A quick note about the demographics – I would say the crowd was primarily Korean and over 40, although there were some families there as well. There were literally only a handful of non-Asians there.

Lee Moon Sae concert in Toronto
Lee Moon Sae concert in Toronto

The performance

He would sing a set of songs – 5 or 6 – and then chat with the audience for a while. He was definitely extremely comfortable on stage and quite funny (even with my limited Korean, I caught some of the humour like when he joked about getting flowers from a male audience member). In fact, it’s shows like his that really make me want to study Korean more because I know I missed a lot.

During one of his chatting breaks, he named a “Miss Toronto” and a “Mr. Toronto” from a contest (this is where my bad Korean is a liability – I’m not exactly sure what the contest was but if I was to guess, it had something to do with the dancing before the concert). The lady who was named “Miss Toronto” won an iPod Mini and the guy who was named “Mr. Toronto” won $1,000. Interestingly, “Mr. Toronto” was one of a handful of non-Asians in the audience.

Lee Moon Sae concert in Toronto
Lee Moon Sae concert in Toronto

I loved the showmanship and pageantry of the concert, and the venue worked well with his show and for the crowd. One of the most interesting parts of the concert was the use of the giant stage-wide screen. It was used for several songs but using it to make it look like he was performing in the rain was particularly cool.

The drummer (or rather the one on the right side of the stage as it appeared that there were two) and the middle guitarist also sang/rapped which was interesting. Now it’s not unusual for band members to sing backup but I found it a little neat that they left their instruments to sing and dance around the stage with Lee Moon Sae for a while.

Lee Moon Sae concert in Toronto - singing the Korean national anthem
Lee Moon Sae concert in Toronto – singing the Korean national anthem

What did he wear?

There were 6 costume changes – although you can’t see if from the pictures as it is standard at concerts for media to only take pictures for the first three songs. What did he wear? The concert started with a white & black tux (for Korea’s national anthem) and continued with a fabulous black suit with purple flowers painted/embroidered on it (I adored it) – both of which can be seen in our photos. The outfits you can’t see from our pictures are a jazzy blue suit; red jeans & a black shirt; an all-white ensemble; an all-black ensemble; and finally a plain black suit.

Lee Moon Sae concert in Toronto
Lee Moon Sae concert in Toronto

Final thoughts

The entire concert was almost 3 hours! The audience definitely got their money back with an amazing, long and fun show. Lee Moon Sae is a consummate performer and I can totally understand how he’s had a 30 year-long career after seeing him in Toronto. If you ever get the chance, go see him.

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Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

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