Running Man may be feeling the strain of the seven year itch, what with the changing of members and having ratings dropping to an all-time low this month.
But, for at least three hours at the Malaysia International Exhibition and Convention Centre last Saturday night, the stars of the South Korean variety show got to forget their woes and feel the love from their adoring fans in Malaysia.
For their second fan meet in Malaysia, the five cast members proved they are still as entertaining from the opening number Big Bang’s Fantastic Baby and to the final song of the night, Psy’s Champion.
Right from the start, Running Man members Lee Kwang-soo, Song Ji-hyo, Kim Jong-kook, Ji Suk-jin and Ha Dong-hoon (fondly dubbed Haha) had the 6,000-strong crowd eating out of the palm of their hands.
Senior member Yoo Jae-suk did not join the rest of his team members in Malaysia but, the void was ably filled by guest artistes like Taiwan-based Malaysian singer Victor Wong, South Korean pop singer Se7en (Choi Dong-wook), reggae artiste Skull (Jo Sung-jin) and rapper M. Tyson (Kwon Young-kyung).
Fans screamed their hearts out when Running Man members took to the stage impersonating K-pop royalty Big Bang: Haha as G-Dragon, Kim as Taeyang, Song as T.O.P, Ji as Daesung and Lee as Seungri.
Then came the fun variety show segment where 10 lucky fans joined the five members on stage. They played games like the physically-challenging Couple Jumping Rope and the rib-tickling Wish Box K-drama where they had audiences roaring with laughter as they reenacted romantic scenes from popular Korean dramas and films such as Descendants Of The Sun, Secret Garden, Goblin and the Temptation Of Wolves.
After pulling in the laughs, the show launched into concert mode, with solo and group performances from both the Running Man members as well as their guests artistes.
Lee, nicknamed Prince Of Asia, was tasked with warming up the crowd with That Man which is the theme from K-drama Secret Garden.
Ji proved to be a suave crooner as he sang the theme from Descendants Of The Sun, You Are My Everything and John Legend’s All Of Me.
Kim, a member of dance-pop act Turbo, serenaded fans with Bruno Mars’ Just The Way You Are, Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself and his own hit songs One Man and Retrospect.
Meanwhile, Haha was joined by his bandmate Skull and recent collaborator M. Tyson as they pumped up the jam with his own hit singles Reggae Smash and Ragga Muffin.
Unlike the guys, Song did not sing but instead wowed fans by dancing to K-Pop girl group Apink’s Mr Chu, JY Park’s Who’s Your Mama? and Twice’s Cheer Up. She was accompanied by Lee and Ji in drag, much to the amusement of the fans.
The hit variety show suffered several setbacks last year when it began to lose viewers’ interest due to many other rival programmes in South Korea.
Running Man lost one of its regular members last year when Gary quit the show to focus on his music career. And following that they nearly lost the SpartAce couple – Kim and Song – in a casting fiasco that drew so much a backlash from fans that the show almost gotcancelled in the process.
In a desperate attempt to rescue their flagging ratings, Running Man recently welcomed two new members – comedian Yang Se-chan and actress Jeon So-min.
Kuala Lumpur is the final stop for the Asian leg of the 2017 Running Man fanmeet tour, which already played in Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong and Thailand.