Live Review

Imagine Dragons Creates a World of their Own

Imagine Dragons on July 3, 2018

Dan Reynolds rises triumphantly from the smoke at Imagine Dragons Virginia Beach concert. (Photo by Ron Wray)

Imagine Dragons has created a world of their own, one that a lot of people, of all ages, want to enter. They have reason to, as the band does everything they can to facilitate an audience’s transportation to deeper levels of experience. When they finished their gig on Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show,” Fallon seemed awestruck, and told the band something like, “That’s the way you dooo it! Yeah, that’s the way!” Once again, on 4th of July Eve, Imagine Dragons took over the place, in Virginia Beach at Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheatre , while still on their extended “Evolve” tour, and provided a crowd of 20,000, paying huge dollars, musical emersion that kept everyone glued to the spot until the concert’s very end and the grueling chain of inching-forward traffic to the exit.

They showed how they won this year’s Grammy for Best Rock Performance with a combination of great vocals, stage and electronic theatrics, emotive movement, virtuoso playing, sexiness, storytelling, songwriting, covers selection (making them their own), lesson-imparting, multi-age appeal, staging up and down ramps and within the audience, and enormous creativity. They are one-of-a-kind, and to say the audience loved them, even at prices that ranged from $80 to $400, mostly in the $250-$300 range, would be an understatement.

Dan Reynolds is the center of attention throughout. The catchy, singalong, and painlessly meaningful songs are a surprising hit with children, who love them, with many of them singing along joyfully, knowing the words by heart. The adults, too, joining the kids in singing, swaying, clapping, and dancing along, with looks of passion and endearment, not to mention the enraptured looks of the woman friend I was with and several of her neighbors, who were just short of overwhelmed by Reynolds’ bare torso throughout the nights’ gig, the sweat glistening off of each ripple and tight inch of flesh.

Theirs is, indeed, rock music, but with undertones of folk, country, pop, rap, hip hop, and jazz. And Dan can sing it all, from the lowest to the highest notes, while his small core of bandmates are an extremely-tight playing and versatile trio of musicians, doing some harmonies, but mostly playing, extraordinarily, instruments, in any style called for, as long as the result was the highest, most intense levels of performance.

There was a parade of hits, including: “Next to Me,” “Radioactive,” ”Demons,” “Gold,” and “America.“ A number of crowd favorites were saved for the encore, including “Believer” and “Thunder.”

But, even on a well “hooked” song like “Next to You,” with a lot of pretty D and G chords. their lyrics have some weight:  Something about the way that you/walked into my living room/Casually and confident/lookin’ at the mess I am/But still you, still you want me/ politics and deficits/Late bills and overages/Screamin’ and hollerin’/But still you, still you want me.

And, there’s the awesome beat-driven sing-ability of a song like “Thunder,” starting with the hip hop sound of Just a young gun with a quick fuse, I was uptight, wanna let loose/I was dreaming of better things, and wanna leave my own life behind/Not a yes sir, not a follower, fit the box, fit the mold/Have a seat in the foyer, take a number, I was lightning before the thunder and the groove of the catchy chorus, Thunder, thunder, thun-thun-thunder/Thunder, thunder, thun-/thunder, thun-thun-thunder, thunder

They’ve been on tour so long for the new album Evolve, that several of the songs on it are standards by now.

Lyrics are attune to the song’s often catchy tunes, but with substance. “Thunder” laments a childhood spent out-of-sync with and somewhat bullied by fellow students but later getting the last laugh by becoming the big star he’d dreamed of being. This went with his later words of advice during a break he made in the song “Demons” to the many children and teens in the audience that they should never allow themselves to be overwhelmed by having bouts depression or doubt. He shared that he suffered from that as well, and seeing and talking to a therapist helped a great deal. He told all of the youth that such a path than will be beneficial to them, and they shouldn’t feel embarrassed.

At one point, the band disappeared, only to reappear on a second stage in the middle rear of the non-lawn audience, while huge balloons and confetti fell from the sky, and Reynolds danced into the crowd while he sang.

The band consists of frontman Reynolds, who founded Imagine Dragons with guitarist Wayne Sermon, bassist Ben McKee, and drummer Daniel Platzman, all of them high energy and inventive, impeccably following the frontman’s lead.

The band works to provide “rhythm-driven rock music that’s artful yet visceral.” Also, revealing the band’s dedication to keeping it homespun, their second album, “Smoke + Mirrors” marks the first release recorded in their new self-built home studio. Their first full-length CD was their 2012 full-length debut Night Visions, including the Grammy Award-winning single “Radioactive.”

Imagine Dragons expanded their sound by using instruments collected in their travels, adding even more texture and depth to the band’s already-intricate rhythms and melodies. The latest album Evolve, is taking their trip further and reaching still more people, including an 80,000 audience in Brazil.

Opening for Imagine Dragons, Grace VanderWaal, still in her mid-teens and the big winner of “The Voice” last year, pleased her younger fans, so many of them already there to see Imagine Dragons, but also many in the adult crowd, with her fine, ranging voice, good self-written lyrics, and on-stage charm.

The guys live in Vegas, and Dan is from there. They’ve bet all their chips on becoming a top rock band in a short period of time. With their Grammys, record sales and media hits, and huge following, they’ve come close to the jackpot. If you can, catch ‘em now, in the midst of their youthful zenith.