Live Music Review: Imagine Dragons
On Monday, I attended the Imagine Dragons “Smoke + Mirrors” tour in Anaheim. Normally, this is a concert I would skip. However, I went for free! (The tickets were a birthday gift for my girlfriend from her mother.) It’s not that I dislike Imagine Dragons; I actually like quite a few of their songs. However, a big stadium concert experience rarely excites me, especially when the lineup is made up of three pop artists to whom I don’t normally listen. I’m glad I went, though. Imagine Dragons actually puts on a pretty spectacular show.
This stop on their Smoke + Mirrors tour was held at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, which is where the Ducks play hockey. I had been there once before for a very disappointing MMA event. It’s a pretty standard, corporate stadium; If you’ve been to one, you’ve been to all of them. Maile and I arrived just in time for the first act.
The first act was a singer/songwriter named Halsey. Strangely enough, her name was mentioned to us on Saturday as an act to check out. Even stranger, she’s from Washington, NJ; a town less than ten miles away from where I grew up. (I never met her; she was eleven years old when I moved out of the state.)
Considering she just had her wisdom teeth taken out two days prior, she sounded great. (Both she and Imagine Dragons mentioned her recent surgery.)
The stage was pretty sparse, it consisted solely of Halsey, a drummer, and a keyboard player. There weren’t really any bells or whistles in the form of set decoration and the lighting was pretty basic. Halsey had to bring in the audience solely with her performance, and I think she did a fine job. Her voice is very strong and unique, and her movements/dancing helped keep the audience’s eyes on her. It helped that she’s pretty flexible. She did a couple of backbends during her performance.
Her music is poppy mixed with alternative rock. During one song, she sang about a generation raised on Biggie and Nirvana, and you can hear both influences pretty clearly. Basically, I liked her, though I’m not going to run out and buy her album. She’d be a welcome act at another concert, however. A solid performance, if not amazing. She’s still young, so I think she could have a long career ahead of her if she avoids the music industry’s many shady pitfalls.
Setlist: Castle | Empty Gold | Roman Holiday | Hold Me Down | Ghost | New Americana | Hurricane
Sound: ★★★★ out of 5
Energy: ★★★ out of 5
Live Performance: ★★★ out of 5
Overall: ★★★ out of 5
Up next was a band called Metric. I’d heard of them, but I had never heard their music before. They are another pop band; three guys fronted by a female vocalist. They were talented musicians; I just didn’t like the music. (Maile didn’t either.) It was too repetitive for me, and I thought they were (unsuccessfully) trying to be the next Blondie. I like pop music better if it’s mixed with a bit of rock. Metric is a pretty straightforward pop band.
The first song held a lot of promise. The introduction was intriguing and properly built up anticipation. Unfortunately, the music that came after just didn’t do it for me. I especially hated the last song. The singer probably sang, “I want it all” about 862 times. (That’s a rough guess.)
The performance was decent, the energy was adequate, I just didn’t care for the music. (Sorry.)
Setlist: Stadium Love | Too Bad, So Sad | Black Sheep | Help I’m Alive | Cascade | Synthetica | Gold Guns Girls | Breathing Underwater | The Shade
Sound: ★★★ out of 5
Energy: ★★★ out of 5
Live Performance: ★★ out of 5
Overall: ★★ out of 5
Finally, it was time for the headliner. Imagine Dragons is a pop rock band from Utah, but you probably know them. They have quite a few radio hits, including It’s Time, Bleeding Out, and Radioactive, which I’ve embedded below, for your convenience. (I aim to please!)
My first reaction when the band took the stage was extreme caution. The lead singer was wearing a shirt that had long tassles on the end. It looked like a hula skirt, and frankly, was pretty douchey. I thought, “Oh no, this is going to suck.” Thankfully, I was wrong. Very wrong. (It’s not good to judge by appearances.) As I mentioned in my introduction, Imagine Dragons puts on a pretty spectacular show. If you get a chance, I recommend it. The sound was excellent, the musicianship was tight, and the visuals on stage were phenomenal.
The band actually sounds better in a live setting. Maile played me their new album, and whoever did the mixing/production did them a disservice, in my opinion. The album is a lot more poppy and quiet than the exciting audio assault of the live show. An exception is the song Friction, which is surprisingly heavy in both the live and album versions. (Unsurprisingly, it was my favorite track of the evening.)
The visuals were fantastic, from the lighting to the stage set up. My favorite aspect was the support columns in back that showed videos related to the song. They displayed images of space travel, nature, leaves falling, and trippy abstract patterns. (You can see what they looked like in the embedded photo, above.)
The only disappointment of the night was that the band combined Bleeding Out and Warriors into a medley. Bleeding Out is Maile’s favorite song of theirs and she would have liked to hear it in full. However, as this was the Smoke + Mirrors tour, they understandably focused more on the new album.
Setlist: Shots | Trouble | It’s Time | Forever Young (Alphaville cover) | Smoke and Mirrors | Polaroid | I’m So Sorry | Gold | Thief | Bleeding Out / Warriors | Demons | Hopeless Opus | On Top of the World | Friction | I Bet My Life | Radioactive
Encore: The Fall
Sound: ★★★★★ out of 5
Energy: ★★★★ out of 5
Live Performance: ★★★★ out of 5
Overall: ★★★★½ out of 5
All in all, it was a very satisfying evening of music. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, which is always a nice surprise. All three bands mentioned something along the lines of music bringing people together, and I think that’s really true. Music, even “throwaway pop” music is ultimately timeless as long as it has an audience and people to enjoy it.
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- Black Sabbath (feat. Andrew WK)
- Vampire Weekend (feat. Beirut)
- Fit for a King & For Today
- ††† (Crosses) (feat. Omniflux & Spirit in the Room)
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- The Smashing Pumpkins & Marilyn Manson
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- Imagine Dragons (feat. Halsey & Metric)
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- Red (feat. Wolves at the Gate, Message from Sylvia, Death Therapy) (coming soon)
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- Pixies (coming soon)
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- Rise Against (feat. Deftones, Thrice) (coming soon)
- Dead Cross (feat. Neil Hamburger, Ho99o9) (coming soon)
- Banks (coming soon)
- Between the Buried and Me (feat. The Contortionist, Poluphia, Toothgrinder) (coming soon)
- The Offspring (feat. Well Hung Heart) (coming soon)
- Russian Circles (feat. MGR) (coming soon)
- Our Lady Peace (feat. Smashing Hearts) (coming soon)
- Animals As Leaders (feat. Periphery and Astronoid) (coming soon)
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