LIVE: Dream State / Normandie / Behind Blue Eyes @ ULU, London

By Gem Rogers

As upward trajectories go, it’d be hard to find a band with a steeper line than Dream State over the last year – and it’d be even harder to find a band who’ve managed to achieve it more organically than the South Wales quartet. Their honest, open approach to songwriting and their relationship with fans, coupled with a ferocious live performance, has seen them gain a passionate and constantly growing fanbase, as well as play a key role in reawakening the British alternative scene. With their debut album released just weeks ago, tonight’s show at ULU is the cherry on top of a huge year – their biggest headliner to date in a sold out room is one hell of an achievement, and an even better way to end this six date tour of the UK, with eager fans cramming into the room as soon as doors open.

Dream State are staunch supporters of local and upcoming talent on their tours, and tonight is no exception as Londoners Behind Blue Eyes open the evening with some riotous metalcore. It feels ever so slightly out of place tonight, but there’s no denying that their high energy approach gets the crowd well and truly going – the room is already full, but there’s still plenty of space to get a couple of monster mosh pits going. It’s not a standout set, but the four make a solid start to the evening with big riffs and bigger vocals.

Main support on the tour comes from Sweden’s Normandie, though it seems more like a co-headline than support set – the four piece are familiar faces in the UK and their fans are out in force tonight, as the volume of singing voices quickly prove. Complete with a new intro and reshuffled setlist, Normandie aren’t playing it safe, and it pays off; this is a set that’s as entertaining as it is energetic, opening with a triple hit in the form of three singles from sophomore album ‘White Flag’ and harnessing that power to fuel the rest of their 40 minute slot. It’s a memorable show for more than just their captivating performance, though. Not only is it front man Philip Strand’s birthday – for which he receives a cake to the face – but also bassist Lucas Englund’s final show, and he could’ve picked no better show to close his time with Normandie. This is a band in peak form, from anthemic powerhouse ‘Ghost’ to the colossal breakdowns of ‘Dead’ and ‘Maniacs’, with an atmosphere of perfect and glorious chaos engulfing the room. A first outing of new music in the form of the perilously catchy ‘Jericho’ leads into the finale of popular singalong ‘Collide’, and it looks like Normandie (thankfully) have no intention of slowing down any time soon.

Any other band might have good reason to be concerned after such a strong support performance – but Dream State have not gained a reputation for one of the best live shows in the UK for no reason. Tonight’s show also sees the first outings for the majority of their recently released and incredibly well-received debut album ‘Primrose’, and there’s a special buzz in the air. For some, it’s their first time seeing the Welsh foursome – for others, it’s a chance to see a band they’ve come to regard as family reach a major milestone in their career.

That buzz quickly turns the packed room – quite literally, as bodies spill out into the bar and merch area at the back – into a sweaty whirlwind of limbs and moshpits from the instant album opener ‘Made Up Smile’ rings out, and there can be no doubt that these new songs are something special. As Dream State make their way through a mixture of both the familiar – the next song, single ‘Hand In Hand’, feeds swiftly into EP track ‘Help Myself’ – and the new, their quality as a live band is evident. It’s not just about their skill as musicians and chemistry together – though that is undeniable – but about their connection with the audience, and the depth of emotion that drives every song straight to the heart. With so many of their songs touching on the difficult subjects of anxiety, depression, and addiction, their messages of hope and positivity ripple through the audience; this is more than just a gig and, for many, there is a hugely therapeutic atmosphere tonight, fostered by a band who encourage everyone to let go, and have hope. There’s an intense feeling of catharsis, and it seems to be true of the band as well – vocalist CJ Gilpin harnesses this emotion as she allows the music to take her wherever she needs to go, frequently ending up in the hands of the crowd as she leans out and closes the gap between artist and audience.

While older tracks like ‘Solace’ and ‘White Lies’ are met with considerable appreciation, it’s the new songs that shine the most tonight, sounding nothing short of stadium conquering. ‘Twenty Letters’ is almost overwhelming in its strength, with melodies that soak into every pore, and when ‘Spitting Lies’ wins a crowd vote-off against ‘Out Of The Blue’ (though if we could’ve chosen both, we would), it’s a staggering combination of energy and power with Gilpin at her very best as she switches easily between passionate screams, spoken word, and pitch perfect vocals.

This is the kind of night that could go on forever, and nobody would complain. Passionate and elevating in every sense, seeing Dream State is to be part of an experience unrivalled anywhere in the live scene – and with one last descent into whirling chaos for an encore of ‘New Waves’ and ‘In This Hell’, we can be certain that we’ve witnessed a band well on their way to taking over the world. And if you ask us… it’s not going to be long at all before they’re there.