NCT Dream live in London: the once-permanently youthful septet are re-introducing themselves as adults

OVO Wembley Arena, March 28: To a sold out crowd that kicks off their European tour, the boyband are getting to enjoy a future they never expected

For whatever reason, NCT Dream have always been looked at through a younger lens. Maybe it’s because they were literally children when they first hoverboarded into public consciousness in 2016, or maybe it’s because of the DNA of their unit, a once-rotational group intent on staying as adolescent as the fans who found them. Despite the end of that graduation system – and the septet all firmly nestled into their early twenties, they’ve never quite been able to shake that boyish sheen. But that’s all changing with ‘The Dream Show 2: In A Dream’, their current world tour which kicked off its Europe leg in London on Tuesday (28 March).

Before the group kick off their almost 3-hour show at the OVO Arena Wembley, fans are already thrumming with excitement. NCT Dream’s concert is momentous already for a few reasons. Not only is it their first-ever show in London, but the first time the group are performing in this part of the world as seven. That rare moment in life, of being able to experience something for the very first time, is palpable as the group emerge in a palette of army grey and black, adorned with harnesses and shiny leather. This isn’t the NCT Dream we were first introduced to (they even make a joke of their two-wheeled debut in the opening VCR), this is NCT Dream grown up and ready to be known as such.

NCT Dream live in London
NCT Dream in London. Credit: SM Entertainment

The show starts with one of their latest singles, the 8-bit fever dream ‘Glitch Mode’, before cycling quickly through a back-to-back whistle-stop tour of ‘Stronger’, ‘Dreaming’ and ‘Déja Vu’. This first section of the concert is the group at their most abrasive and imposing, all harsh edges and powerful, coordinated choreography. They want you to know how the future can look for NCT Dream as they continue to trudge into adulthood, all while reminding us of what they’ve given us so far.

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Despite silky vocalist Chenle telling the cooing crowd that they’re suffering from jetlag after arriving from Hong Kong the day before, there’s no hint of fatigue as the group perform over 25 songs from their varied discography. Roughly segmented into what can only be described as “vibes”, there’s little chronological cohesion to the way songs are positioned in the set. For example, sickly sweet debut crowd pleaser ‘Chewing Gum’ is followed by the charming ‘ANL’ from 2021’s ‘Hot Sauce’, while euphoric anthem ‘Hello Future’ is side by side with 2018’s sugar high ‘We Go Up’. While it’s hard to grasp on to the exact flow of the show, no one can say NCT Dream don’t have the range!

NCT Dream live in London
NCT Dream in London. Credit: SM Entertainment

‘The Dream Show 2: In A Dream’ is all about reintroducing NCT Dream to the world – which may sound redundant after so many years together and a sold-out arena full of people in front of them – but feels like an important move. The group, and their label SM Entertainment, are keenly aware that the world lost years of time to a pandemic that ground live music to a halt. That time also overlapped with formative years for the members, moving from teenagers to adults as life existed in stasis. There’s also the fact that the entire building blocks of the group changed in that time, going from an ambitious mercurial concept to a permanent structure.

The giddiness that the members feel about being able to freely celebrate their time together without a countdown in the distance is palpable, as the show descends quickly into a game of who can hug the most people in the span of three hours. There’s a clear shorthand within the group, something that really only exists between people who have navigated the murky waters of teenagerdom together, and that symbiotic bond is felt through moments of candid playfulness and tandem choreography (a particular set piece involving perspex boxes during the song ‘Quiet Down’ is a perfect example of this and will be a highlight or lowlight of the show depending on where you fall on the comfort scale of NCT Dream being overtly raunchy).

NCT Dream live in London
NCT Dream in London. Credit: SM Entertainment

While some concerts wind down, NCT Dream turn their final moments (no, not when they say it’s the last song because there are about 5 more to come) up to eleven. Crowd pleasing favourites like the English-version of ‘Beatbox’ and ‘Hot Sauce’ ignite a chorus of cathartic sing-screaming that can only come from that distinct NCT vein of sound.

That then makes way for last thoughts from the group as they individually, one by one, address the crowd, alternating between Korean and English. Each member echoes the same sentiment: that they’re so excited to be there. Sure, it’s not a groundbreaking notion, but there’s a weight to their words. In an alternate universe, there’s no version of events where all seven of them would be on stage together at London’s OVO Wembley Arena in 2023. With that weight lifted, there’s now a buoyancy to them that goes simply beyond jangly tunes and sugary sweet melodies, it’s a levity that’s infectious from the stalls.

After almost 3 hours it’s hard to imagine how the group has any more energy to give. But they end the show on an ultimate high with ‘Candy’, the song acting as a celebration of how the past and the present can exist at the same time. It feels like a fitting metaphor for NCT Dream as they navigate an uncharted path towards a future they were never promised. They’re no longer children meant to be encased in amber for eternity, they’re adults finally able to grow freely in front of our eyes. Being there at the start of that journey is an exciting place to be.

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NCT Dream played:

‘Glitch Mode’
‘Countdown (3, 2, 1)’
‘Stronger’
‘Dreaming’
‘Déja Vu’
‘My First and Last’
‘Bye My First…’
‘Love Again’
‘To My First’
‘Sorry, Heart’
‘Puzzle Piece’
‘Chewing Gum
‘ANL’
‘Dive Into You’
‘Irreplaceable’
‘Saturday Drip’
‘Quiet Down’
‘Diggity’
‘Ridin’’
‘Boom
‘Hello Future’
‘We Go Up’
‘Trigger the Fever’

Encore:
‘Hot Sauce’
‘Beatbox (English Version)’
‘My Youth’
‘Walk You Home’
‘Candy’

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