Imagine Dragons are this generation’s U2.
Like the iconic Irish band, the Dragons built a devoted, fervent fan base from the ground up, declining to open for big bands in big venues, instead preferring to play smaller spaces for folks who wanted to hear their music. It was just three years ago the indie rock quartet made its Boston area debut at tiny TT the Bear’s Place and has steadily graduated to the larger Brighton Music Hall, House of Blues and then the Pavilion. Earlier this month, the Dragons nearly filled the TD Garden in Boston, just two albums into a career that continues to build momentum.
It was a thrilling 90-minute extravaganza, the best-produced show I’ve seen in many years. Great songs, great band, incredible lighting design. Welcome to the new age, indeed. Imagine Dragons absolutely owned the Garden, and impressively kept it an intimate affair.
Like U2, the Dragons have a charismatic, talkative frontman. Dan Reynolds is in constant motion, zipping from the main stage to a second stage and even into the crowd. During “On Top of the World,” which provided cathartic release for an all-ages audience eager to sing along, Reynolds ran deep into the crowd and stood on a chair, where he finished the song standing amid a sea of starstruck fans.
And like Bono, Reynolds isn’t afraid to climb on a soapbox. After referencing the Boston Marathon bombing, the Charleston, South Carolina church shootings and other heinous events, he admitted he was “ashamed to be an American at times” but had faith that this generation would make the world a better place. “I’m not a political person, but a person who loves people and believes there’s a great future ahead of us.” That drew a “U.S.A.” chant from the crowd.
His bandmates, Berklee College of Music alums all, are a talented bunch. Wayne Sermon shredded on guitar like Eddie Van Halen one minute (the hard-rocking “I’m So Sorry”) and gently played an acoustic the next (”Trouble”). The rhythm section of Ben McKee (bass) and Daniel Platzman (drums), with an assist from recent Berklee grad Will Wells on keys and other instruments, kept the proceedings moving full-speed ahead.
The hit single “Radioactive” was, of course, a fan favorite. At the Pavilion in 2013, Reynolds, attached to a harness, flew over the crowd like Peter Pan and banged on a drum hidden on the tent’s ceiling. He kept his feet on the ground this time; it was the crowd’s sprits that reached heavenly heights, never more so than during “Demons,” with its “This is my kingdom come” chorus. It was the night’s loudest group hug.
The sky’s the limit for Imagine Dragons. What’s next? Three- or four-night stands at the Garden, like U2 will do later this month? Comedian Albert Brooks once joked that Three Dog Night announced they would no longer play stadiums, they would play only states. The band would get in a plane, fly over like Utah and everyone on the ground who saw the plane would have to pay. “Appearing tonight, in Massachusetts, Imagine Dragons.” Far-fetched? You never know; these guys are special.
What: The rock group is stopping in the South Sound on its Smoke and Mirrors Tour. Opening acts are Metric and Halsey.
When: Performances start at 7:30 p.m. Friday (July 31). Doors open at 6 p.m. Approximate set times: 7:30 p.m. Halsey; 8:15 p.m. Metric; 9:30 p.m. Imagine Dragons.
Where: Tacoma Dome, 2727 E. D St., Tacoma. $25 cash-only parking in Tacoma Dome lots, opening at noon.