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The moment you walk into an NCT DREAM concert, an iridescent sea of green greets you. It’s the first time that the seven boys—MARK, RENJUN, JENO, HAECHAN, CHENLE, JAEMIN and JISUNG—have performed together in the U.S., and they brought the heat (and the hot sauce) to their first show at Newark’s Prudential Center on April 5, 2023.
In 2016, NCT DREAM debuted as the third sub-group of SM Entertainment’s biggest boy group project NCT after NCT U and NCT 127. Rolled out in their hoverboards, the young boys glowed with their effervescent smiles in their debut single “Chewing Gum.” All of them were under the age of 20 at the time and NCT DREAM had a graduation system where when they reached 20 in Korean age (19 in international age), they would leave the sub-group. Mark was the first and only person to leave the group in 2018, but he returned in 2020 once SM announced that DREAM would be a fixed seven-member group.
Since then, the group has encountered success on every level and their brotherhood and bond grew stronger than ever. “We’ve become the best work partners you could ever have!” RENJUN tells STYLECASTER in our exclusive interview with the group. Most of the members have known each other since they were trainees in SM Rookies as even younger teenagers. THE DREAM SHOW2: In A DREAM tour marked their first international tour for 7Dream since their debut. MARK and HAECHAN just recently ended another world tour as part of NCT 127, where they also graced the stage at the Newark arena. But this time, their performance was even more special and extraordinary.
The seven members were introduced with stunning strobe lights behind them. One by one, they walked down the extended stage and stood around in a circle until they launched their heads and bodies into the sharp “Scratch that bring it back” intro of their single “Glitch Mode.” Each member’s moves became undeniably synchronized to the simple beat, and their raps and vocals were ferocious while transitioning into “Countdown (3, 2, 1)” and “Stronger.”
High-energy moments didn’t solely define the concert, however. During “Bye My First,” the members were laid-back on a set of stairs and tender with one another. JAEMIN and RENJUN constantly paired their hands together to make two halves of a hand heart; JENO sat behind CHENLE and hugged him from behind while the latter sang his heart out. The support for each other was visible from every corner of the stage, making NCTzens (affectionately called Czennie by the NCT members) endlessly swoon. CHENLE asked MARK, “What is love?” and he responded with a relieving sigh: “Love is here in Newark.”
Closer to the end of the concert, the group turned the dial over a hundred with “Boom” and “We Go Up,” with the latter song being introduced by a series of exercises for proper preparation of exuberant stamina. “Hello Future” gave a unifying feeling for both the audience and the members, when they all came together and held each other’s hands in a row and jumped effortlessly into “Big dreams and big thrills / Flying high, imagine the absurd / A star rushing over in front of your eyes / Grab it and set it on fire.” The intense performances reached even higher with “Trigger the Fever” with calculated backward jumps from the members and especially JISUNG, whose unbound energy was the ultimate highlight of the song.
As the ending mentions arrived, the members donned white shirts with their names on them. MARK delivered a touching speech about the audience coming together from different backgrounds. He shouted out Korean-Americans who attended the concert and then reflected on his time as a young boy in Canada, back when he looked up to K-Pop idols from Korea before becoming one himself. RENJUN proudly celebrated their work: “We really ripped up the stage tonight. I’ve always wanted to come to Newark and being able to come makes me really happy. I hope you guys all had fun. I hope when you’re having hard times you think back to tonight and it makes you a little bit happier.”
In an email interview with STYLECASTER, NCT DREAM talks about the journey together as 7Dream, their first world tour, and what keeps them youthful.
You’ve all grown up together from being SM Rookies to one of the best-selling K-Pop groups in the world. Now that seven years have passed since your debut, how would you describe your bond with each other?
MARK: It feels like brothers from the same neighborhood got together on a boat and found the treasure we were looking for. It’s a life blessing to have success with the people you love and truly bond with on a brotherhood level. We’re planning on doing what we’ve always been doing – chasing after our aspirations and always showing gratitude towards the people around us who have helped us on this journey. Especially with our fans.
RENJUN: We met at a young age and though it was a bit awkward in the beginning, we became such great friends. Since we’ve been working together for a long time, we’ve learned to overcome our differences and now we’re not just friends but family. We’ve become the best work partner you could ever have!
Is there anything that you’re still surprised to learn about one another?
JENO: It’s surprising to see how serious we get when we’re working or making important decisions since we’re usually having fun and playing around with each other. There are moments that make me realize, “Wow, we know how to get serious”. It does feel awkward at times but it’s a good type of surprise.
JAEMIN: There are some relationships where times make you become more comfortable and used to each other. With NCT DREAM though, our relationship and trust in one another have only grown stronger with time. More so than learning new things about each other, these are the moments that fascinate me.
You’re currently on your THE DREAM SHOW2 : In A DREAM tour. How are you feeling so far?
CHENLE: It’s a really exciting moment, and is our first time having a concert together with our U.S. fans as 7DREAM. That’s why we were looking forward to it even more!
HAECHAN: It’s something we were all waiting for. I’m very grateful for all those who have been waiting for us, and that’s what makes me work harder when I’m on stage.
What are you looking forward to in terms of performing across the world?
RENJUN: It’s an honor being able to perform around the world and is something I’ve wanted to do for a while. Each city always feels new and exciting! I’m very thankful for the love and support from our fans around the world and hope we can give back with greater music and energy.
JISUNG: This is our first large-scale tour since the pandemic. It’s a time of getting to meet our fans around the world in-person and up close so I’m very much looking forward to it.
You released the Candy EP while on tour. What was it like to finally perform those songs live for the first time, especially with a very fun concept?
JENO: Our overseas fans might not be as familiar with the original “Candy” track [by H.O.T], but we felt it was a refreshing take that showed a new feel to K-Pop. I liked how we were able to present a wider range of performances since the track and concept are very cute.
HAECHAN: “Candy” was already popular in Korea. We were given the great opportunity to do a remake and I feel like we received so much love for it. I’m grateful we were able to share such a great track with people far away too.
What’s the one song or stage that you always look forward to performing on each date?
MARK: “Dive Into You.” I genuinely feel happy when performing this track, and one of the philosophies I have is that the person who is performing has to be happy for the fans and audience to feel as happy as the performer. I genuinely feel happy when I’m performing “Dive Into You.”
JAEMIN: I always look forward to performing “Saturday Drip” because it’s one of my favorite tracks. “Trigger the Fever” is a nice one as well since the reactions are always great.
What do you think NCTzens will look forward to the most in your tour and why?
CHENLE: A stage that’s not only for us but for our fans to create with us! I hope they’ll look forward to becoming one by singing and dancing together.
JISUNG: I hope they look forward to the energy from our stages and getting to see our faces in real life (laughs).
The connection between NCT and NCTzens is very sacred and enlightening. How do you keep fans engaged on this tour?
MARK: Staying connected through social media is essential these days, and always trying to stay present is very effective. It’s about staying present through whatever way we have. Fans like to see us try and we really have our hearts to our fans. We want to make them happy.
HAECHAN: There weren’t many chances for us to communicate together so we placed a lot of meaning in doing so especially through this tour. It’s meaningful getting to connect with our fans during our performances. We’ve worked hard to be able to show the sides of ourselves that our fans may have wanted to see.
You all keep this youthful energy in your performances and songs. What do you do to maintain this energy?
RENJUN: I’d have to say that the youthful energy that’s shown comes naturally to us. We’re always focused on being ourselves and expressing what we’re feeling in those moments through our songs and performances. We will continue to work hard and remain true to ourselves!
JAEMIN: Personally, I make sure to work out and take my vitamins in order to keep up that energy. I’ll use face masks as well, and I believe it’s important to take good care of yourself.
Did MARK and HAECHAN give the rest of the members advice on touring? If so, what were the encouraging words?
JENO: They did tell us we’ll be busy preparing for the shows and on the road often so to take care of ourselves since it can be physically tiring. Regardless of all that though, they mentioned how it’ll be a meaningful moment that’ll remain in our memories forever.
JISUNG: More so than words, it’s important to actually experience those moments yourself. The greatest guidance I received from them, was really just getting to watch and learn from them throughout the process.
Is there anyone you would love to collaborate with while on tour?
MARK: When it comes to questions like this, my number one answer is Justin Bieber. I’d love to work with Justin Bieber.
CHENLE: There are a lot of artists I’d like to collaborate with but I’d have to say Bruno Mars. I watch many of his videos and learn from him. If we ever had the chance to collaborate, it’d be such an honor.
You rerecorded “Beatbox” in English to connect to global NCTzens on your tour and it’s the first English track you’ve released. What was it like to revisit the track in another language?
HAECHAN: When we first received the “Beatbox” demo track, it was in English so we all thought that if we had to release an English one, this would be it. That said, I feel like we really brought out the vibe with this version. Though many of the fans might be more familiar with the Korean version, we wanted to prepare this as a present so we hope everyone likes it.
JAEMIN: The “Beatbox” English track is quite special to us since we wanted to make it happen. It’ll be fun listening to the different nuances between the English and Korean version and because we recorded the English version afterwards, I feel like it sounded better.
CHENLE’s ramen recipe is forever iconic and changed the course of NCTzens who are also foodies. Do you have any new food creations that you’ve made recently or food you’re looking forward to on tour?
CHENLE: I’m always having Chinese food during tour and have been working to upgrade my cooking skills since I enjoy cooking. I’ve made several new recipes but unfortunately it’s not something I’m able to show on tour. I’ll try to share these later on!
JISUNG: I really like pizza and heard that Chicago pizza is famous so that’s something I was looking forward to.
What songs do you listen to that describe how you feel on tour?
MARK: I don’t know if these describe how I feel on tour but songs that I’d like to suggest would be “Why are Sundays so Depressing” by The Strokes and ‘Feel Good’ by Slowthai.
JENO: I would have to say “무대로 (Déjà Vu; 舞代路)” is a song that expresses how I feel on tour well. We start off on stage and end on stage so it holds a lot of meaning to it. There’s also this intro sound that plays right before the show begins and it gives this grandiose feeling since it lets people know the show will begin shortly.
CHENLE: The first track would have to be “Better Than Gold (지금)” because right now is the most important moment and it’s something we’ve always been dreaming of. ‘Trigger the fever’ is also good as it overflows with such great energy which I feel captures our youthful vibes well.
RENJUN: From our songs, I’d have to say ‘Trigger the Fever” because it explodes with energy and really tugs at the heart. “Perfect” by One Direction is also a good, refreshing track that makes you feel like you’re driving through a bright city on an evening night with the windows down.
HAECHAN: Our debut track “Chewing Gum” expresses how I feel on tour. When we’re preparing for or singing the track, there’s this sense of excitement from marking our ‘start’. With this being our first U.S. tour, that feeling holds true. I hope many will look forward to the growth NCT DREAM will continue to show.
JAEMIN: There’s quite a lot but I do like “That’s What I Like” and “Our First Time” by Bruno Mars. I believe concerts are a place where excitement and happiness exist at the same time. Just like how listening to good music on a good day can lift up your mood, I’d like to suggest these tracks to our NCTzens because they always look like they’re having a great time at our concerts.
JISUNG: Amongst NCT DREAM’s tracks, I’d select “ANL.” It’s music that shows off our playful, happy side well, and the next would be “오르골(Life Is Still Going On).” It suits being on tour because there’s no stop to music!
NCT DREAM Playlist
Listen to NCT DREAM’s tour playlist below.
- “Why Are Sundays So Depressing” by The Strokes
- “Feel Good” by slowthai
- “무대로 (Déjà Vu; 舞代路)” by NCT DREAM
- “Better Than Gold” by NCT DREAM
- “Trigger the fever” by NCT DREAM
- “Perfect” by One Direction
- “Chewing Gum” by NCT DREAM
- “That’s What I Like” by Bruno Mars
- “Our First Time” by Bruno Mars
- “ANL” by NCT DREAM
- “오르골(Life Is Still Going On)” by NCT DREAM