Thanks to 'Radioactive' Hit, Imagine Dragons Are Wallflowers No More: Concert Review

Imagine Dragons The Wiltern Color - P 2013
Chris Godley

Imagine Dragons The Wiltern Color - P 2013

The Las Vegas alt-rock band converts their recent radio success to an energized live show.

“I went to a lot of concerts when I was young,” Imagine Dragons singer Dan Reynolds told the sold-out crowd at Los Angeles' Wiltern Theatre on Wednesday night. “I was always the guy in the back. I was a bit of an introvert, and I never thought I’d be the guy on the stage.”

How times have changed for Reynolds -- and presumably the other members of the Las Vegas alt-rock group. Imagine Dragons, whose debut album Night Visions came out last September via KIDinaKORNER/Interscope, have made seismic waves at Alternative radio and sold out this Wiltern show far in advance. The group is something of an amalgam of 30 Seconds to Mars and Linkin Park -- at least live -- brandishing grandiose pop hooks and epic sing-along choruses. And Reynolds, the self-proclaimed former wallflower, is central to the boisterous, energized effect the band has on an audience.

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Imagine Dragons might only have one album (although they have several EPs as well), but their live show is already polished and tight, a gleaming production worthy of an artist with a deeper discography. The Wiltern’s stage boasted giant cut-out trees and a moody, shifting backdrop, as well as several massive drums placed out in front of the band. These became a focal point of the show, particularly on the group’s hit single “Radioactive,” which was transformed from a radio song to a massively expansive rock number onstage as Reynolds howled the chorus and bashed a drum twice his size.

The idea of how a radio smash can be translated to the stage seemed to be a common denominator throughout the evening. Australian rock band Atlas Genius, who took the stage after Nico Vega’s opening set, did their best to showcase the non-single tracks off their recent debut, When It Was Now, but received the greatest applause for their closing number -- and current radio hit -- “Trojans.” If fans come because they heard a song on KROQ, how can an artist best convince them that there is far more to them than just one song?

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For Imagine Dragons, the answer is making every live number seem like a single, infusing each one with the surging power of “Radioactive” and their closing number “Nothing Left To Say.” Despite a slight lull when Reynolds performed quiet, acoustic number “Thirty Lives” in the wake of the “Radioactive” mid-show climax, the band managed to create a powerful, urgent performance that could enliven even those audience members who came purely for the hits.

“We’ve seen the show before and you haven’t seen the show,” Atlas Genius singer and guitarist Keith Jeffery told the audience during their 40-minute set. “So we know what you’re in for and it’s amazing.”

This sort of laudatory banter might normally be pushed aside as typical opening act praise for the artist taking them out on the road, but something about Jeffery’s statement stuck. Imagine Dragons’ ability to perform was solidly skillful and notably epic, making this alt-rock show somewhat unexpected, perhaps because the band members seemingly haven’t been around long enough to make these sounds quite so tight. Sure, they’re a radio rock band and the crowd that packed into the Wiltern reflected this audience, but if Atlas Genius and Imagine Dragons are the current state of FM rock, then it’s all the more reason to reach for the car radio dial rather than your smartphone.

Set list:

Round and Round
Hear Me
30 Lives
Bleeding Out
On Top Of The World
It's Time
Nothing Left To Say

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