Featured Review : Imagine Dragons
This past Saturday Imagine Dragons returned to Philadelphia as part of the Smoke and Mirrors Tour, their first stop in the area since the release of their second studio album early in 2015. The band last came through the area on the tail end of their touring cycle for their debut album ,”Night Visions,” in March of 2014, after a well deserved break the band returned to the airwaves in the fall of that year as they dropped “I Bet My Life,” the first single off of Smoke and Mirrors. Imagine Dragons are no strangers to radio airtime but this album symbolized so much more than just colossal air time for the band as the album embodied many of the band’s experiences from touring for over 2 years on their last album. Smoke and Mirrors debuted at Number 1 on both the US Billboard 200 and the US Top Rock Charts, proving the band’s critics wrong once again as they flexed their muscle as band to show their staying power in the genre. In just a few short years the band climbed through the club circuit and has emerged as the front runners of the alternative genre, now packing arenas to capacity as they did at the Wells Fargo Center this past weekend.
It came as no surprise to the many fans in attendance that the band had upped their stage production since their last tour, in fact it was almost expected after Dan Reynolds did an interview prior to the start of the tour where he described just how much went into the stage, lighting and design for this run. On the subject of design, Imagine Dragons have again changed the game in terms of touring as they have brought their album artist for Smoke and Mirrors and all of it’s singles on the road with them.
That’s right, Tim Cantor was in the building showcasing his original oil paintings that went on to become the imagery that so many fans are now seeing on their iDevices when they listen to the band’s music. The band also released a special packaging of the album that contained lithographs of each artwork as well, adding to their incredible foresight for promoting the artists who surround them. More often than not the little guys who create this visual masterpieces that go on to be Platinum album covers are forgotten but the fans are well aware of who Cantor is as he had a line of people waiting to meet with him during the night as he signed many posters and even took photographs with countless fans of the band and his work.
It was a few minutes past 9PM when the venue lights clicked off the the massive white curtain obscuring the stage become transformed into a visual whirlwind of smoke, clouds, and other illusionistic effects. In between bursts of blinding light the band’s silhouettes could be seen on the massive curtain and as quickly as it all began the curtain dropped with a bang as Imagine Dragons kicked off the evening to a deafening roar from the Philadelphia crowd. Lead singer, Dan Reynolds, took off like a rocket down the stage thrust reaching the end of it near the fans before the spotlights could even turn on to illuminate him.
The band wasted no time diving into their new album as they kicked the show off with “Shots,” a single from Smoke and Mirrors that has seen plenty of radio time and is without a doubt a fan favorite of the album. Things would slow down for a second with a creative performance of “Trouble” but they picked back up after the Reynolds thanked the crowd for coming out at the start of “It’s Time.” His comments were met to a warm welcome from the crowd and the beginning of the song was met to an even warmer welcome as fans cheered for the popular tracks inclusion in the new setlist.
Imagine Dragons took the crowd through a whirlwind of a setlist that focused heavily on their new material but wasn’t afraid to look back in the past for some inspiration. Fans were treated to many of their favorite songs from the band’s last album including a few mash up performances including a stripped down “Bleeding Out” that turned into “Warriors” half way through, as well as a quick performance of “Amsterdam” that turned in “Tiptoe.” The band’s critical singles from “Night Visions” made the setlist as well but the truly memorable moments came from the inclusion of some of the new songs from Smoke and Mirrors.
“Hopeless Opus” and “Friction” showcase the evolution of Imagine Dragons over this past year better than any other songs on that album and the two tracks were knocked out of the park when played live. “Friction” actually had one of the best stage production set ups of the night with the red lasers cascading around the band that incased them into what looked like a massive cube on stage, truly remarkable. “Gold” was also a stand out while performed live as Dan Reynolds teased the crowd for a few seconds at the beginning of the song before he exploded into the lyrics as warm light enveloped the venue around him.
The full setlist for the Philadelphia show on June 28 is below :
Forever Young (Alphaville cover)
Smoke and Mirrors
I’m So Sorry
Bleeding Out / Warriors
Amsterdam / Tiptoe
On Top of the World
I Bet My Life
In just one year Imagine Dragons have gone being one of the biggest upcoming bands in the genre to becoming without question the biggest band of this generation. With just two albums they have done what many musicians struggle to do over an entire career, they filled the Wells Fargo Center to near capacity which is a feat that few artists ever achieve. I predicted on their last tour run that they would only continue to climb up the ladder and the Smoke and Mirrors Tour showed that the band has only just begun their long climb to the top, their next tour will need to be even larger arenas. Maybe a return to Philadelphia at Lincoln Financial Field across the street? Dan Reynolds told the crowd that they would be back soon and hopefully touring on a new album in a year or so, it is almost terrifying to see where this band will be in a year because they have come so far so quickly. There is no other artist out there to compare them to, Imagine Dragons have rewritten the book on success, artistry, and musicianship. This is the new age, and it is the age of Imagine Dragons.