Imagine Dragons House of Blues February 12, 2013
I've been wracking my brain to find the words to summarize last night's Imagine Dragons sold out show at House of Blues, and the only thing phrase that seems fitting comes from no other than Lil Wayne:
Smack it like a muthafuckin' bass drum.
An unlikely reference, yes, but the Imagine Dragons are anything but ordinary, so it's fitting.
Judging from the ass-to-elbows crowd in House of Blues, the Dragons have managed to garner a crazy huge fan following in the short time they've been playing together. Known for their acoustic-laden tracks and wicked use of the mandolin, the Las Vegas natives inflect their feel-good tunes with a synth-based alt-pop sound that incorporates heavy drums and hook-filled harmonies.
The acoustic-laden tracks on Night Visions, the Dragons' debut album, have launched them into massive commercial success, earning them the highest charting rock album since My Chemical Romance's Black Parade in 2006.
Despite the recent mass critical acclaim, I'd taken the hype about this band with a grain of salt; their music is a solid mix of alt-pop that plays well on the radio, but I wasn't sure how the infusion of dubstep and electronic undertones would translate into their live show.
Well, the hype was right. This band is badass live.
Taking the stage amidst what seemed to be every damn drum imaginable, front man Dan Reynolds, guitarist Wayne Sermon, Bassist Ben McKee and resident percussionist Dan Platzman dove head first into the set with ease.The excitement that the band has for the stage was immediately apparent, and they spoon-fed the audience a dose of energy that exploded as the heavy wub of the bass drum pounded with anticipation.
During the opening number, vocalist Dan Reynolds made it clear that he's a big part of the band's mass appeal as he bounded from one end of the stage to the other, the band roaring behind him. Reynolds is much more than just a one-trick pony, though; he is, in addition to lead vocals, an unlikely source of the majority of the percussion.
He pounds alternatively on the snare drum and the enormous bass, all while roaring out pitch-perfect vocals. Seriously. Sounds impossible, but he manages to multitask with impressive ease.
There's a richness to Reynolds' voice that isn't drowned out by the roar of the heavy percussion beats. That's a big feat, considering the amount of melodrama flowing from the bass drum in nearly every song.
His vocals were at their best on the Dragons' hit "Tiptoe," with the cleanliness of his voice bouncing against the chanting of the audience. "Bleeding Out" and "Demons" were unexpected standouts with the crowd; as fan hands flew into the air as if on cue.
The African-sounding chants, xylophones, and grandiose piano slams were coupled with a massive drum architecture to push the sound much deeper than the friendly choruses.The band's use of percussion was, at points, unrelenting, and it poured vibrations into the crowd on some of the heavier numbers with massive strength.
As expected, the bass-heavy hit "Radioactive" pushed the audience into overdrive as the melodic rhythm of the snare hummed against the wobbling electronic beats, with both Reynolds and the fans simultaneously exploding into the chorus. Despite my reservations about the track's heavily electronic sound, the deep bass lines and dub flirtations managed to translate into an energetic, honest live performance.
"It's Time", the Dragons' uber-popular track, followed up some of the heavier numbers to close out the show.The folksy, mandolin-laced song has a very different sound from the explosion of percussion heard on the other numbers. The feel-good tune's emotive powergrab had mass appeal, earning a sea of hand clapping from the crowd.
Kudos, guys. I left the venue with the sense that I had just experienced Imagine Dragons, rather than just watching them.They performed their asses off and bled out a solid show worthy of all the hype.
Personal Bias: I tend to like bands with synthesizers and New Wave influences. It's the '80's kid in me.
The Crowd: Impossible to categorize; every walk of life was there... even middle-school kids.
Overheard In the Crowd: "I don't know what song this is, but this band is awesome."
"So just throw your arms up and pretend you know the words."
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Random Notebook Dump: The two-man bass drum moment was fantastic.