What would be a better way to spend Thanksgiving weekend than spending a night full empowerment and unity with Imagine Dragons? Concerts are getting more and more political as artists use their platform to bring the issues of the world to light. Even on a world stage, this is a trend that’s really starting to influence performances, like A Tribe Called Quest’s very politics-driven Grammy performance and Logic’s recent performance at the VMA’s.
I got to my seat in time to see a set of crude teeth being inflated as the backdrop for Grouplove’s set that engulfed the stage. They hit the stage with the energy of a child and did not shy away from attempting on-stage acrobatics, which included ill-attempted cartwheels and simply rolling on the stage and getting entangled in each other, fully embracing the title of Grouplove. There wasn’t a member with hair that stopped above their shoulders which made perfect for synchronized head-banging. Frontman, Christian Zucconi told the crowd how he grew up a Canucks fan so playing in the arena meant a lot to him as he pointed out the retired number 10 of Pavel Bure hanging in the rafters.
People were thrown a bit off-guard as the live sound of Grouplove is much more punk-rock as opposed to the indie-rock sound of their recordings, but that differences in sound didn’t have very much of an impact on their hit songs like “Tongue Tied”, “Ways to Go”, and their closing track, “Colours”.
The production of Imagine Dragons set was grade-A, they played in front of a maze of clear glass prisms that lit up to the music and had brief intermissions where a screen would drop and project the evolution for which the album and tour was named after, it even featured a sample from Charlie Chaplin’s infamous “Great Dictator” speech. The show was very driven by politics, after opening with “I Don’t Know Why” lead singer, Dan Reynolds, began a very preachy speech beginning with how thankful he was for that night and how it was an escape from the issues of the world. You could hear the emotion in his voice as he talked about the tragedies of his hometown of Las Vegas, he said, “Thank you for having the courage to be here tonight despite the flaws of mankind.” This all lead into the song “It’s Time” where he would pat his body according to the drums and hold up the microphone stand for the chorus that sent a feeling of empowerment throughout the arena.
At one point he looked so overwhelmed with emotion he fell to his knees on stage just to take it all in. His interaction with the crowd was impeccable even as he would simply walk around the stage he kept low as he tried to meet the eyes of everyone in the front row and occasionally reaching out to hold the hands of fans. He got the crowd into the song “Yesterday” with fists thrusting into the air alongside chants of “yes-ter-day!” He told the audience how he struggled with depression his whole life and if you’re struggling with depression he said not to run away or hide or be ashamed but to seek help. “Music heals,” he said as he led into the song “Demons” that brought out a sea of cellphone flashlights throughout the arena.
It was at this point he introduced the band saying that bass is the most underrated member of the band, “bass is the glue that holds us together,” he said. He then exchanged banter with the drummer about his New Year’s themed Chewbacca shirt, he said “You know it’s Thanksgiving right?” They then proceeded to play “I’m So Sorry” which brought out the head bangers in the crowd and featured so smoke effects projecting from the front of the stage. The theatrics didn’t stop as massive balloons released into the crowd for “On Top of the World” and Reynolds seemed to enjoy this more than the fans as he would run around popping them with his drumstick.
The band made their way through the audience to a small stage at the other end of the floor where they payed tribute to Tom Petty with a solemn take on “I Won’t Back Down” and played an acoustic version of their own song, “Bleeding Out”. As they were making their way back to the main stage, Reynolds returned and signed a hat that he had taken off a young man on their first trip to the stage.
When they got back to the main stage, inflatable cliffs replaced the backdrop and they closed out their set with “I Bet My Life”, which got the crowd jumping, and an extended version of “Radioactive”. Reynolds was feeding off the energy of the crowd and giving it right back with an epic finale as they all hopped on drums and made a very smooth transition as band members moved from one set to another with ease. The thumping bass of “Radioactive” could be felt in your chest and was accompanied by a series of smoke and lasers that would’ve left the audience satisfied even without an encore, but as expected, they shortly came back out and finished with their radio hit off their Evolve album, “Believer”.
This show was about more than just the music, and that was especially evident in the clips that played throughout the set and the way Reynolds carried himself and the way he interacted with the crowd. It’s rare to see an artist connect with people like that and it definitely sent people away with a different mindset than they went in with.