Alternative darlings, Imagine Dragons, pack U.S. Airways Center
Recent Grammy winners play to exuberant crowd

Imagine Dragons
Photo by Sharlene Celeskey
Lead singer Dan Reynolds plays percussion intermittently during Imagine Dragons concert at U.S. Airways Center, downtown Phoenix, Ariz., Feb. 17.

When I agreed to take my son to see the new hit hip alternative band of the year, “Imagine Dragons,’ I never dreamed I had purchases floor tickets. “Oh no, “I shouted when I pulled the tickets out of my special golden Erte box. Floor tickets, which are standing tickets, can make for a difficult concert experience. Then I read an online article on Music Machinery about gender specific listening habits, stating that “Imagine Dragons” were more popular with males than females; so I am unprepared for the audience I encounter on the floor of US Airways Center on Feb. 17. The gender ratio in the audience is more 50 -50, and I spy as many families with small children here as I have seen at a KISS concert, the only difference is the children do not have their faces painted like the band members. Since “Imagine Dragons” recently won the Grammy for best rock performance, I expected the tween, teen and college crowd but I am not prepared for the peppering of preschool, kindergarten and elementary-aged kids. Immediately my fears of an unruly crowd disappeared, and I am pleasantly surprised that I have personal space and a clear view of the stage. Height wise this is the shortest audience I have stood in.
Although this young Las Vegas band has only released one album, “Night Visions,” they garnered a following after their single, “Radioactive,” hit number one. Their band of alternative rock appeals to a wider audience that the typical indie-hipster crowd. I am impressed that people who usually listen to the overproduced pop and hip hop that dominates the airwaves today are coming to real music where the members write their own songs and play their instruments. I am interested to see how an upcoming band with only a little over a dozen songs can fill and entertain an arena audience on the strength of one album and a few hit songs.
What I find that sets “Imagine Dragons” apart from other new alternative bands is their percussion-based interludes. Although they are all proficient musicians that play catchy upbeat tunes, their ability to all play drums adds a great sense of rhythm to their shows. As the song “Fallen ” begins, the drums set the beat and lead singer Dan Reynolds plays drums along with the drummer, Daniel Platzman. I am then surprise to hear the influence of Pink Floyd as they play the instrumental introduction to their next spacey feeling song, “Tiptoe.” The feel of the music is not the only Pink Floyd influence from the icon band as their circular screen backdrop projecting videos is a direct copy from Pink Floyd’s shows. When the laser lights shoot their sharp beams of bright colors through the arena, I feel immediately transported back to the ‘70 s to a Pink Floyd show.
Reynolds tells the audience how much they enjoy playing Phoenix and tonight is all about the music, forget about school and work and just enjoy the music. As I listen to “Hear Me ” I notice the band sounds highly similar to the popular British trio “Muse,” but I enjoy the performance, and this time the laser lights accompanying the music are reminisce of a “Muse” concert. The audience’s enthusiasm is not dampened by the oblivious influences of older alternative bands like “Coldplay ” and “The Killers.” I decide to forget that the songs may sound similar to previously released songs and just enjoy the show. I even put my hands it the air and clap a bit with everyone to “Who We Are.” Lots of screams from the audience for this song.
When “Imagine Dragons” slows down for “The River ” and “Cha-Chung,” guitarist Wayne "Wing" Sermon and bassist Ben McKee get the chance to demonstrate their proficiency and also showcase their drumming skills intermittently throughout the show. When someone hands Reynolds an American flag, he holds it and says, “We may not always agree over politics and religion but this is a beautiful flag. And more importantly than that, this a beautiful country and we love the USA.” Loud cheers and claps echo through the stadium.

When Reynolds introduces the very slow song “30 Lives,” the mood becomes somber as he dedicates the song to his friend Tyler Robinson who passed away last year. He relates that Robinson was always happy as he believed happiness is a mindset. Reynolds stated that in comparison to Robinson’s our problems are small and we have so much to be happy for; we are here together experiencing a good time.

One of my favorite parts of the concerts is when the band plays Rush’s hard rock hit “Tom Sawyer.” I am surprised at how closely they cover the song and how Reynolds captures Geddy Lee’s very distinct vocals. The crowd loves the song and I wonder how many have heard it before since it came out in 1981.
The band covers most of the songs from their lone album, “Night Visions, “leaving their most popular songs, “Demons ” and “Radio Active,” until the end of the show.
I hear a thunderous roar from the crowd when “Imagine Dragons,” starts their number one biggest hit, the apocalyptical themed “Radioactive.” The audience enthusiastically sings the chorus along with the band. The interlude where all band member stop singing and playing their instruments to passionately play the drums together is the another highlight of the concert. It really adds something special and is interesting to listen to and watch.
The band comes back onstage for a one-song encore, “Nothing Left to Say,” a clever title for an ending song. The band stands in a sulphureous hue made by the yellow lights bathing the stage. “Imagine Dragons ” play a much longer version than their recorded version by adding an extended instrumental piece, which they play with lots intensity and energy.
Although the band did not think they would be playing large stadiums after only being together for five years, their music, lights and set work well in a large arena. “Imagine Dragons ” does not sound new, inventive or edgy, but I highly enjoyed the concert and their enthusiasm and positive music. They really throw themselves into their performance and appreciate their fans. And I did not mind having floor seats and was thankful because we were right up front.

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