Imagine Dragons Live at the Pavilion

Imagine Dragons Live

Imagine Dragons have come an incredibly long way since their days of performing six-hour long sets for casino players on the Las Vegas strip. Since their debut album Night Visions was released last September, the album has spawned three massive hits (“It’s Time,” “Radioactive,” and “Demons,”), been certified platinum, and launched the band into multiple sold out tours. Now Imagine Dragons have launched into another major US tour that sees them headlining the biggest venues of their career, and the promising young group couldn’t have gotten off to a better start then they did at the Bank of America Pavilion.

Before Imagine Dragons took the stage, the night began with a pair of sets from X Ambassadors and The Neighbourhood, who seemed to have much in common with each other. Both bands have heavily dark and atmospheric music characterized by ominous synths and booming, tribal drums that seem to reflect humanity’s dark and animalistic nature. The two bands also had a sort of swagger normally found in Hip-Hop and R&B acts, as displayed by the confident stage presence of each band’s frontman and the far more prominent role the drums and bass played than the guitars. Yet this physical display of confidence is betrayed by an emotional sense of insecurity and sensitivity expressed through soft, clean vocals and troubled lyrics. What separated The Neighbourhood from X Ambassadors the most was the minimalist use of white lights and smoke machines during the former’s set to emphasize the atmospheric mood of their music in a way that recreated the image of dark clouds from the cover of their debut album, I Love You.

Whereas X Ambassadors and The Neighbourhood were dark and subdued, Imagine Dragons were bombastic, uplifting and put forth a magical spectacle of a set. It began with the sound of crashing thunder as a stage set-up featuring steel, flat trees was unveiled. After a lengthy, synth-driven intro the band finally took the stage and began their set with “Round and Round.” From the very beginning the audience was singing along to many of Imagine Dragons’ upbeat songs and the group was clearly having the time of their lives as they fed off the audience’s energy. Like the bands that opened for them, Imagine Dragons also had a tribal drum sound that was prominent throughout the show, while played on drums that were more massive in size. Yet unlike the drumming of The Neighbourhood and X Ambassadors, whose tribal sounds were ominous and animalistic, the drumming of Imagine Dragons sounded beautiful and natural when combined with nature-inspired backdrops depicting forests, starry night skies, oceans and the like.

In fact, Imagine Dragons’ set was filled with the kind of light displays, backdrops and theatrics that would make their home city of Las Vegas proud, but even in the face of all this flashiness the band displayed a very humble and human side that made their work all the more grand. About halfway into the set frontman Dan Reynolds spoke about how he and his bandmates were really just regular people who shared the audience’s love of music and the escapism music provides. There were also poignant moments like when the band dedicated their song “Thirty Lives” to a friend of theirs who lost his life to cancer at age 17. Later the band threw in a quick and modest guitar/vocal cover of Cold War Kids’ “Hang Me Up To Dry” and Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” while the group’s bassist was fixing an issue with his instrument. Reynolds even included some beatboxing!

As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the band ended their set with a bang when Reynolds was hoisted into the air on a pair of cables as Imagine Dragon’s performed their biggest hit to date: “Radioactive.” While touring keyboardist Ryan Walker played strings on his keyboard and the rest of the band banged on the huge drums on the ground, Reynolds flew high above the stage and banged on an additional drum that was hanging from the rafters. Then Reynolds flew back down to finish the final verse of the song before Imagine Dragons left the stage.

It seemed like a grand finale that would’ve been impossible to top, but the band returned for an encore performance of “Nothing Left To Say” that managed to do just that. During this last song, an inspiring track starting off in an ominous tone that later becomes triumphant, Reynolds once again put on a harness to be hoisted into the air. His body hung lifelessly at first, but then he did a series of consecutive backflips, plays a set of drums upside down and throws his drum sticks into the crowd before coming back down. The entire display was a testament to how music can give people the strength they need to push through troubling times, and even though everyone needed to go back to real life after the show, we should still carry on.

By Bond Collard
Photo by Libby Webster

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