In wake of recent events, this phrase is more impactful than ever — music is a universal language. Imagine Dragons reminded Denver of the important role that music has in the world at The Pepsi Center. There is usually a sense of skepticism when national chart-topping acts come through Denver. Jargon such as “sell-out” and “generic” is often thrown around and people typically expect an over the top production with all sorts of bells and whistles. Imagine Dragons proved just the opposite this weekend. Despite having a large repertoire of hits that have consistently peaked on The Billboard charts since 2012, the Las Vegas-based alternative rockers made Denver’s 18,000 seat arena feel like an intimate showcase.
Geometric prisms sat on the back of the stage and were succeeded by a full line of instruments and transparent drums. Three vertical screens dropped from the arena ceiling and displayed black and white news clippings mixed with distorted soundbites. The prisms lit up mimicking rainbow aesthetics while the slow hum of bass filled the arena. It wasn’t long before Imagine Dragons’ frontman Dan Reynolds walked onto the stage, grabbed the microphone and started the show. The visuals of the whole set told a story of a human figure falling through different layers of elements and colorful self-realization. The special effects of the evening, which included giant balloons in the crowd and even bubble machines (yes, bubble machines), complemented the diversity and power held within the music of Imagine Dragons. Reynolds verbalized the beauty of diversity when he spoke to the crowd about using love to conquer fear when terror is used to separate us.
“Amidst all the confusion, amidst all the divide in the world, amidst the loss that we’ve all felt – especially our hometown of Las Vegas – we come out on the stage every single night, I walk down and I see your faces. I see people of all different colors, all different cultures, people come here from different political backgrounds, from different religions. All the things that the world tells us should divide us… Why? There’s no reason for divide. (W)e will not be fearful. We will continue to create music. We will continue to come together.” – Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons
From “Demons” to “Believer,” Reynolds and his band passionately executed all of their hit songs and they did it with a smile. It was hard to spot bassist Ben McKee without a constant grin on his face. Reynolds’ ability to deliver screaming vocals on a consistent basis is an impressive skill to listen to on its own. Better yet, the talent displayed by the rest of the group was right on par with the frontman. Guitar player Daniel Sermon and McKee were both featured at separate times on center stage ripping guitar and bass solos respectively, exemplifying the talent within the group.
One of the most emotional moments of the show came when Reynolds took his time on stage to discuss mental health and it’s wrongfully taboo role in society. The lead singer admitted to suffering from depression at a very young age. Reynolds told the crowd how writing music allowed him to cope with his depression before singing the fitting first lines of the band’s 2012 hit “Demons.”
As the final stretch of the show reared its head, the five-piece ensemble ventured to the back end of the arena floor where another stage was set up with acoustic instruments. In honor of the late Tom Petty, the band paid their respects with a beautiful cover of “I Won’t Back Down,” which matched the triumphant theme of the evening quite well. The group delivered a consistent wall of sound from start to finish. The sound engineering crew was holding up their end of the show with an excellent mix of shredding guitar and thick yet concise bass.
Many music lovers attend concerts to experience the same music they love performed in a different way. With that in mind, the band put a compelling twist on their most popular song, “Radioactive.” Right before the last chorus, all five members of the band picked up drumsticks and stood in a group around center stage where each performer had their own set of acrylic drums set up (apart from the main drumset). Reynolds, McKee, Sermon and drummer Daniel Platzman began to all drum at the same time, making each impact shake the floors of The Pepsi Center. Backed by a string track of the song’s chord progression, this breakdown gave the popular hit a refreshing update suitable for arena performances.
It is common practice to see bands leave the stage to build tension before they return for an encore. Well, the Nevada-rooted quintet did away with the “norm” and went straight through their set with no breaks. Reynolds was explaining to the Denver crowd how making us wait for an encore would mean less time for music and how in the times of today, no moment should be wasted. The band wanted to give Denver as many songs as they could in their two-hour set. In the 50-plus concerts I’ve seen, I’ve never witnessed a mainstream artist do something as special as Imagine Dragon’s Denver performance.