Imagine Dragons deliver a feast for the senses Thanksgiving weekend

Imagine Dragons at Rogers Arena, 10/8/17

Imagine Dragons @ Rogers
Photo by Peter Ruttan

Imagine Dragons had a spectacular performance in store for Vancouver just in time for Thanksgiving. The American rock-pop band stopped in Vancouver Sunday (Oct. 9) as part of their Evolve World Tour.

Las Vegas-born frontman Dan Reynolds started things off with a sort of devotion. “Tomorrow’s the day of Thanksgiving, right? I have a lot to be thankful for…music reminds us that colour is meaningless, religion is meaningless, class is meaningless, sex is meaningless. We’re human beings doing the best we can to be good to each other. Let it be a night of love. Let it be a night of peace”. Reynolds referenced the recent Las Vegas shooting at Route 91 Harvest festival, pledging that fear would not keep music from being shared in public.

The vibe at Rogers Arena was idealistic and optimistic with a noticeably young crowd. A number of inspirational pep talks from Reynolds throughout the night were met with wild applause. Say what you will about his skills as a musician, Reynolds is a fantastic showman. From his banter between songs discussing everything from love to depression to Canadian slang 101, he frequently checked in with the audience. He even ventured up into the stands between sets to dole out high-fives and snatched a young fan’s hat only to return it with an autograph. He’s an engaging performer. Using the catwalk to get up close with fans, he took the time to connect and encouraged sing alongs, letting the audience take over on fan favourites “It’s Time” and “Yesterday”. The crowd was eating it up.

His bandmates seemed in good spirits, with Wayne Sermon on guitar, Ben McKee on bass, Daniel Platzman on drums, and Elliot Schwartzman on keys. The band has lovely stage chemistry, with McKee making time for head to head jams first with Platzman, then Sermon.

Some music is made for foot stomping and on that front Imagine Dragons undeniably delivers. The band excels at the high-energy anthemic tunes it’s best known for. The band saved some of their biggest hits for last, playing “Radioactive” at the end of the night and delivering “Believer” as an encore. The band is not so good at the slow stuff. Their trek across the arena to a stripped down stage for three strings-heavy songs felt unnecessary. A cover of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” was well-meaning but underwhelming. Reynolds’ crooner-like vocals sounded a bit weak on “Bleeding Out”.

Imagine Dragons @ Rogers
Photo by Peter Ruttan

The stage was lit up with reflective pyramids and coloured bars in a nod to Evolve’s album art. The show featured fog effects, bubbles, and giant balloons that fell from the ceiling like beachballs at a music festival. A sea of fist pumping accompanied Imagine Dragons’ more anthemic songs and during slower songs cellphone lights specked the crowd like fireflies. Video montages of vintage video clips and sound bytes played intermittently. The video seemed arbitrary but it gave the band a chance to duck offstage for short breaks.

Reynolds’ sermon-like speeches and regional quips may be patronizing and the band’s music can verge on the generic but it’s hard to hate on a group that connects so well with their audience. A father and son belted out lyrics together, teen girls took selfies and sang along with gusto and a couple fully decked out in white Imagine Dragons merch were seemingly having the time of their lives. Imagine Dragons’ Las Vegas origins inform their spectacle-heavy performances. They may be reinventing the wheel but hey, that’s entertainment.