Last month when I interviewed Imagine Dragons members Dan Reynolds and Wayne Sermon, no matter what I asked them they kept coming back to one idea; that they were a band that was meant to be seen live. Over and over again they would reiterate that while recording studio albums is great, their true passion was really in their live performances. “The best representation of our band is when you come to hear us,” Sermon had made sure to tell me. With all this self-satisfied chatter about how amazing they were in concert, even though I am certainly a fan of their music, I was a little hesitant to believe the hype.
About two seconds into their set at Los Angeles’ Club Nokia, where they were opening for the electronic rock band, AWOLNATION, I knew exactly why they were so insistent about the quality of their shows. In fact, after a few songs I was inclined to believe they had been underselling it during my interview. The knuckle-clutching intensity displayed on stage by the members of Imagine Dragons, and specifically Reynolds, was on par with a runaway bullet train speeding so fast the screws on the wheels start to fall off. While singing, Reynolds jumped around on stage as if all the kinetic energy coursing through his veins was just rattling inside the cage of his body trying to break free. And finally it did. Reynolds grabbed two drumsticks and began fervently slamming them with surprising precision on a single snare he had positioned next to his mic. He then frantically moved between furiously beating away on the standing snare, slamming the symbols on drummer Daniel Platzman’s kit, and thumping out thunderous echoing booms from a giant bass drum behind him.
The strength and the concentration of power on stage would have been impressive in its own right, but what truly made Imagine Dragons’ show so spectacular was that this in no way compromised the pure quality of their sound. With all this electricity pulsing between the members, it easily could have become messy or disorganized, but this never happened. Always in control, the unbridled momentum surging through the arena never once distracted from the overall integrity of their vocals, harmonies or unified style. The energy only served to enhance and embolden their songs already brimming with emotion. As they performed “On Top Of The World,” Reynolds belted out the lyrics overflowing with palpable sincerity and gratitude for the amount of success the group is now experiencing. While singing their hit single, “It’s Time,” (currently #7 on Billboard’s Alternative chart) Reynolds climbed on a set of speakers and pounded his chest like King Kong, which amped up the already frenetic audience even more. Giving a new understanding to the term, ‘beating on a drum,’ Reynolds pounded the drums surrounding him into submission, rumbling out a low and steady war cry while he attacked the lyrics to fan favorite, “Radioactive.”
This wasn’t a contrived or put on display of faux energy utilized in a cheap attempt to sway favor from the audience. Never once did Reynolds need to fall back on the patented singer move of shouting “come on!” to encourage crowd participation. Every member of the diverse mass of people, all age ranges and types was already right there with him, punching their fists into the air in communal appreciation. This was a pure artistic expression of angst, hope and resilience that exploded on stage. They finished their set with, “Nothing Left To Say,” which was the best song of the night. In an overwhelmingly all-consuming performance, Reynolds assaulted the drums so mind-blowingly fast and aggressively, like a baseball player on steroids knocking it out of the park, he broke one of his wooden sticks in half. Without missing a beat, he threw the splintered piece into the shrieking audience, picked up another stick and went right back to assailing the drums.
At the end of their show, after talking about how much he appreciated the support from Angelenos and the role they played in boosting their career, the singer was overwhelmed by the crowd’s reaction to their set, saying, “You’ve left me speechless tonight.” This was undoubtedly a mutual feeling. The only complaint I had about this show was that it was too short. This is a group that deserves to be headlining, and playing the encores that the audience is ready to scream for.
Reynolds once told me that, “Live shows are what converts temporary fans to life-long fans.” This couldn’t be truer. As soon as they left the stage I was already on my phone checking to see when they would be back in Los Angeles.
By: Darianne Dobbie