Imagine Dragons Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion September 26, 2013
It wasn't that long ago that I was typing that same band name into a headline, only it was followed by the words "House of Blues." It's a strange feeling to do so again so quickly.
The idea of Imagine Dragons graduating from shows in smaller venues to the massive Woodlands venue in just a few short months was both exciting and bittersweet to watch. When they announced their second tour this year, I felt a little like a protective mama hen; the boys who absolutely killed it at HOB would now be out in the big, bad world of amphitheaters.
I questioned the wisdom of a second tour just months after the first, especially with such a drastic venue change. Would their spark be lost in the sheer enormity of the venue? Would they start to get the dreaded ego issue of a band with overnight success?
I really shouldn't have worried. They killed the Thursday night's Cynthia Woods show, because of course they did. It's Imagine Dragons. Everything they've touched over the past year has turned to gold, including last night. It's just how they do.
As the band took the stage amid that massive setup of drums, drums, and more drums, it was immediately apparent that the leap from smaller digs had Dragons front man Dan Reynolds and company overwhelmed, and in a good way.
It's not every day that you see an artist's evolution from smaller indie band to massive mainstream attraction, and to watch them take it in from the front of that stage was utterly endearing. If you were there, you know what I mean. It was so refreshing.
I lost count of the number of times Reynolds stood there, staring out at the crowd while burying his face in his hands to get himself together and grinning all the while. Before the group ever hit the first note, he was visibly shaken by the sight of the thousands of fans staring back at him from across the lawn to the front of the seats to the pit. It was almost as good as the music. Almost.
Luckily, as endearing as Reynolds is, the band is even better musicians, so when they did finally hit that first note of "Round and Round," it was completely and totally on. Imagine Dragons' album, Night Visions, really doesn't do their live show justice; it's almost impossible to express just how incredibly percussion-heavy they are, but you'd never know how energetic and charismatic Reynolds and his cohorts are until you've seen them jump, drum, and strum out the tracks live.
As a front man, Reynolds is insane. I've never seen someone with so much energy. It's not that manic, overwhelming energy that comes from an energetic young pup, though. Instead he's managed to lasso that mania into a very controlled, poised aura, and it's pretty impressive considering how the short time they've really been on the scene.
With Reynolds, his duties at the front of Imagine Dragons don't stop with just the vocals. If he's not jumping on top of something, he's drumming with his entire body. It's almost a primal force, and an inspirational sight to see a front man get so into the drums.
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It's not just Reynolds who takes Imagine Dragons' musicianship to another level, though. From bass player Ben McKee and guitarist Wayne Sermon to drummer Dan Platzman and even touring member Ryan Walker on keyboards, these guys have a deep knowledge of not only their own instruments, but a number of others as well. How often does one see a drummer jump off his kit to bust out some wicked viola? Not very often, but it happened last night.
As Imagine Dragons ran through their set -- 14 songs in all -- it was strange to see how the same folks who took in their tour a few months ago aren't at all bored with the same songs at a show. The band is basically selling out Cynthia Woods with one album under their belt; it's not like they had a ton of material to pull from. But be that as it may, as they ran through hits like "Tiptoe" and "It's Time," everyone screamed along with the lyrics, enamored by the guys and those damn drums onstage.
And as redundant as "Radioactive" has become, thanks to it being blared across every radio station on Earth, it really was the standout of the night. Man, those drums. I have never seen a drum circle like the one that took place during that song. At one point during the song, every single member of the band jumped off his respective instrument to take his place among what seemed like hundreds of drums and that one massive bass drum. Then they beat the hell out of things.
I mean, seriously. Drumsticks were flying, beats were thumping through the Pavilion, and life was really good, even if it is another repeat of "Radioactive." If that's what it sounds like live, keep playing it again and again and again, boys. Forget the naysayers on that one. They just don't know that drum circle.
If this is what Imagine Dragons is capable of in a matter of months, I really am curious to see what they'll do over the course of a few years. Thursday night was one of the first times I've seen a relatively new artist take over the stage at Cynthia Woods and utterly dominate the shit out of it, so even if this album is getting so mainstream it's ridiculous, it's fine by me. I'll sell the hell out for them any day, and so should you. They're that good.
Personal Bias: Imagine Dragons was my first "real" review for the Press, so I feel like they should have a bit of a special place for me. And they totally do, because drums and all.
The Crowd: E'rybody and anybody. I was sitting next to the cutest little thing that couldn't have been older than six years old, and there were folks from six to 60 hanging out.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Wow. She really did just slap that guy in the face with her ponytail. I woulda cut the damn thing off by now." (Ladies and gents, please control your liquor or go home. It's obnoxious to be falling-over drunk while I'm trying to check out the goods of the dudes onstage.)
Random Notebook Dump: I don't even care that I'm going to get giggled at for fangirling because again, drums. I'm A-OK with it. Schadenfraude away.
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