During Imagine Dragons’ concert on Wednesday night at Spectrum Center, frontman Dan Reynolds shined brightest while beating on drums – both literally and figuratively.
Literally, he repeatedly stepped away from the mic to hammer on a drum during the climaxes of songs like “I Don’t Know Why,” “Whatever It Takes,” “Start Over,” “Walking the Wire” and “Radioactive”; he even tapped at an electronic drum machine near the end of “Gold.”
Then between songs, Reynolds banged the drum for everything from fortitude to living in the moment to – and this was arguably his most forceful message – suicide prevention.
“When I was in middle school, I felt very lost, I felt very confused, and I felt very out of place,” the 30-year-old Las Vegas native told the crowd almost midway through the show. “The reason I share this with you is there’s something that’s stigmatized in our culture today that I think is very dangerous. That is depression, anxiety, and (having) a therapist. I was diagnosed with depression many years ago. ...
“I can tell you that if you or someone you know is feeling that numbness, that grayness, and you feel like you don’t want to talk about it ’cause you think it might make you weak or broken, (just know that) it does not make you weak, it does not make you broken. ...
“Please turn and talk to somebody. Find a therapist, talk to an adult, go talk to your friend. Don’t be alone in it, don’t hide it. It does not make you a broken person. It’s not you screaming for attention. It’s an actual thing, and it’s real. I promise you that though it may be dark in moments, though it may be numb for a long time, I promise you: You can get through it. ...
“My therapist – yes indeed, I have a therapist still to this day – is incredible, has helped me so much. It’s so wise to know when to turn to somebody. It does not make you weak to say, ‘I need help.’ Your life is always, always worth living. Every single day.”
And that message was apropos of something: The band then broke into 2013 hit “Demons,” which is about acknowledging and trying to cope with self-destructive behavior.
At another break in the 20-song set (half of which consisted of tracks off of new album “Evolve”), Reynolds teed up new song “Yesterday” with an equally un-subtle segue.
“My entire life I’ve been quite obsessed with the subject of time,” he said. “Always hoping that I would be younger, always hoping that I would be older, always hoping that I could rewind to yesterday and do something different, always hoping that tomorrow I could do the things that I couldn’t do now.
“Yet I realized I spent so much of my life looking at tomorrow, looking at yesterday, sitting in my regret, and it served no purpose. Mistakes are good – you fall, you get up – I understand that concept. But regret, it serves no purpose. I’m done with it. I’ve let go of it. It has no purpose in my life. And today, I step on stage and only am I thinking about now. ... So tonight I invite you: forget about school, forget about work, forget about tomorrow. Now!”
If you’re starting to get the sense that the whole evening had a bit of a self-help vibe, yeah, I mean, I guess you could say that. But if you’ve been to an Imagine Dragons show, you’re probably aware that, more than anything else, they have the air of a worship band on steroids (i.e. with a bigger budget and better songwriting chops).
It’s not a worship band – not officially, at least – kind of in the same way that Live isn’t a worship band. That is to say it sometimes seems like it wants to be a worship band (peep the frontman who seems to be in a perpetual state of euphoria, the musicians who look like they spent half their childhood in an arcade, the uplifting message delivered in a squeaky-clean package), but doesn’t seem to want anything to do with the stigma of being a worship band.
(Years ago, lead guitarist Dan Sermon said in an interview, “We’re not a religious band. Dan and I are religious people and the other members are agnostic, so I think we come out somewhere in the middle. I like to think that we connect with people on a spiritual level with our music in some way, but we do our best to keep religion as separate as we can. We’re not ashamed of it, but we just don’t want to alienate anybody.”)
So we can relate to any first-time Imagine Dragons concertgoers who walked into the show blind and got two minutes in and looked at their date and went, “Hey, remember that band Switchfoot?”
But by God, it works.
Reynolds’ voice soars in a live setting, his joy for being on stage is infectious, and every time he picks up a drumstick or two and proceeds to start pounding, a jolt of electricity courses through the crowd. And the huge storm of bubbles, the oven-sized balloons, the lasers, the strobes, the bursts of smoke, the geometric prisms, the vertical screens hanging over the stage all serve to remind that these guys take the business of being arena-rockers seriously.
It’s a business, it should be noted, they won’t be scared away from.
“We live in strange days. Strange days, indeed,” Reynolds said to the crowd – and though it felt like he might be heading in a political direction, it quickly became clear he was talking about the mass shooting in Las Vegas and not his feeling about, say, the president.
“We live in a world full of people who try to put fear into our hearts about coming together and meeting in places like this to listen to music in a mass, in unity. People who try to put fear into our hearts about coming on this stage and performing. Well, I know in my heart, it’s part of my journey – no one will ever, ever take that away from me. No one will ever put fear into my heart. And obviously, nobody puts fear into your heart. Here you are tonight, in the thousands, to listen to music. ...
“Thank you for being here tonight. Thank you for being fearless. Thank you for bringing your hearts. Peace, love, equality, unity, for all.”
Imagine Dragons’ setlist
1. “I Don’t Know Why”
2. “It’s Time”
4. “Whatever It Takes”
5. “I’ll Make It Up to You”
6. “Mouth of the River”
8. “Start Over”
10. “Rise Up”
11. “I’m So Sorry”
12. “On Top of the World”
13. “I Won’t Back Down” (Tom Petty cover)
16. “Thunder” (with K.Flay)
17. “I Bet My Life”
19. “Walking the Wire”