Recently the award-winning rock band Imagine Dragons visited the New York City area. The Las Vegas group has seen great success since its formation in 2009, winning a Grammy for Best Rock Performance for “Radioactive” in 2014. The band has also released multiple hit singles and has been featured on numerous soundtracks for films since then. This year, they brought their EVOLVE Tour, named for their third studio album, which was released this summer, to the Barclays Center.
To say the least, I was highly impressed. The concert was profoundly entertaining from start to finish and showcased the incredible talent of the band’s members, Dan Reynolds, Wayne Sermon, Ben McKee, and Daniel Platzman, all four of whom sang and played multiple instruments throughout. I was dumbfounded when Platzman, the drummer, played viola during a heartrending acoustic version of “Bleeding Out.” The solos throughout the show stood out, which built to an explosive finale; a full-band drum solo during “Radioactive.” They performed several songs differently than on the albums, adding solos to some, and even playing an entire acoustic set on a miniature stage on the opposite side of the floor-level seats. I thought these live versions were even better than the original recordings.
The band has also improved considerably since their previous tour in 2015, entitled Smoke + Mirrors, based on one show date which was filmed and released as an official concert tape. Lead singer Dan Reynolds overcame a bout of depression since then, and this has had a noticeable impact on their sound and message. I was amazed at how much smoother and fuller the band sounded than on the concert DVD from two years ago, which was already good. Their tone was much richer this time, and their vocals were impeccable. EVOLVE is also slightly more positive than their other albums, which helped color the show with a more upbeat quality. They seemed to be having as much fun performing their music as we were listening to it.
Imagine Dragons’ concert, like their music, was as heartfelt as it was epic and fun. The band was humble and had an inspiring message to share with the crowd. Reynolds, the lead singer, spoke about his recovery from depression and how music has the power to heal people who are suffering the way it healed him. What he said about the diversity of the crowd was also moving, relating how all the trivial differences that divide us disappear “once we walk through those doors and we’re all singing the same song.” In a time when people are so divided, it’s refreshing to see a group that focuses on love, acceptance, and unity rather than getting caught up in the noise and drama of the music business and the world.
The crowd certainly was diverse, not only ethnically but also in terms of age. I noticed a mix of teens, young adults, as well as parents with children, and even some older couples which is reflective of the universal appeal of their music. My mother also enjoyed the show, saying that their vibe evoked the classic rock bands she grew up listening to.
The two artists that opened for Imagine Dragons, K.Flay and Grouplove, respectively, also put on good performances. I hadn’t listened to either of them prior to seeing them, so I was concerned that their style of music wouldn’t be in keeping with the headliners’. I was pleasantly surprised. K.Flay’s music was an interesting blend of rock and rap, and she was fun to watch. Imagine Dragons more recently released a remix of “Thunder” which she is featured on. Grouplove sounded similar to Paramore, only brighter and more upbeat. The classic rock theme was present in their portion of the concert as well; one song went into an interlude reminiscent of Led Zeppelin, and they finished with a mashup of one of their own songs and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” I’ve listened to both Grouplove and K.Flay since the concert.
I would also recommend the Barclays Center as a concert venue. It had good acoustics compared to other places I’ve seen concerts, where the sound warped during louder songs so that the performers could not be heard. The loudest songs could still be heard clearly during this show, and “Believer” literally made the air vibrate.
On the whole, Imagine Dragons put on one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been to a lot of really good concerts. They are fantastic live, and show all the characteristics of a band built to last–humility, a good work ethic, the ability to improv and improve upon their original song recordings, and camaraderie with each other and other artists. They are truly a multi-talented group with widespread appeal. The next time they play one of our fabulous NY venues, join me in rocking out to Imagine Dragons.