Between the booming bass thumps and intricate choreography of Blackpink’s sold-out concert in Newark Monday night, there were moments built into the show for the K-pop powerhouses to catch their breath, sip their water bottles and chat with the Prudential Center crowd.

But later in the set, Jennie cracked a joke about how she and her group-mates — Lisa, Rosé and Jisoo — were being too quiet on stage.

“Are you nervous?” Jennie asked Jisoo. “Yeah,” Jisoo admitted, demurring a little.

Jennie addressed the crowd: “If we seem quiet on stage, it’s because for some reason we’re nervous and shy,” she said, going on about how the foursome wanted to make sure their return to Newark was a great show — especially since they just made their MTV Video Music Awards debut performance at the arena back in August.

K-pop superstars Blackpink perform at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, Nov. 14, 2022. (YG Entertainment)

Now, this whole “oh, we’re nervous” bit could’ve been an act, especially considering how Blackpink stands heads, shoulders, skirts and platform boots above their K-pop girl group constituents, especially in the U.S.: They’re the highest-charting K-pop girl group of all time — their sophomore LP, September’s pulsing “Born Pink,” made them the first of their cohort to hit No. 1 on Billboard. They are also the first such group to sell one million albums on a single release (2020′s debut record “The Album”), they’re the first to play Coachella, the first to notch five music videos totaling 1 billion views — each — the list goes on.

And now, on their biggest North American run yet, including two instantly sold-out nights in Newark, one would think the swaggy stars are leagues beyond stage fright.

Then again, the pressure to deliver quality products to their droves of deeply devout fans must be unfathomable: The high-octane songs, the exorbitantly high-budget music video and the culminating live performances. In Newark, feverish fans began to line up in the November cold a full 12 hours before show time Monday to score the best spots on the floor and snag early merchandise — the glowing pink LED mallets, complete with blinking hearts on both ends, were particularly popular, and painted the arena a shade of carnation across the group’s fiery one-hour, 45-minute set.

As expected, this “Born Pink Tour” date was heavy on production value — four full costume changes, flames burst in columns along the stage, fireworks shimmered overhead, a troupe of 14 dancers joined the group for a list of heavily rehearsed routines, the best being their latest smash single “Pink Venom,” (the song they performed at the VMAs, and had Taylor Swift up and bouncing).

The buzzing crowd chanted along, holding signs like “Jennie my MVP” and “Lisa just give me a chance” and bopping to the bass-drop hooks of “Pretty Savage” and explosive opener “How You Like That.”

Several songs were performed from a second stage in the center of the arena, connected to the main stage by a ramp, where the women could more readily engage with fans, waving to them and blowing kisses. While a few tracks include swear words, their show (and image) is kept more or less squeaky clean. They sing about love and heartache, but the only vaguely explicit moment Monday came during their solo showcases — each got a song or two — when Lisa twirled playfully around a pole-dancers’ pole for her popular solo single “Money.”

It was clear from this Newark show why Lisa, who handles much of Blackpink’s rapped verses, has enjoyed the most solo success of the group so far, winning Best K-pop at both the MTV VMAs and MTV European Music Awards this year as a standalone artist (“Money” has more nearly 600 million listens on Spotify alone). While all members were consummate professionals and exciting entertainers Monday, Lisa had the intangibles, the X-factor, the magnetism — it’d be no shock to see her solo tour at this venue in coming years.

K-pop superstars Blackpink perform at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, Nov. 14, 2022. (YG Entertainment)

But for all the gloss of a Blackpink show, the night’s greatest moment, which finally portrayed the group as human artists, was during the encore, when they emerged in their own tour merch — comfy sweats and t-shirts — and were markedly more at ease, hugging each other, playing with the cameras on stage, just breathing a merciful sigh of relief as they gleefully sang “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.” It was their moment not to be polished products but goofy girls in their twenties (Jisoo is oldest at 27) having fun.

K-pop superstars Blackpink perform at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, Nov. 14, 2022. (YG Entertainment)

And this was the moment I suspect keeps fans coming back, not the larger-than-life personas but the glimpses into who the artists really are, no different than any other genre. Hook ‘em with the addicting choruses, keep ‘em with the authenticity.

Blackpink’s setlist

Nov. 14, 2022 — Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.


Bobby Olivier may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @BobbyOlivier and Facebook.