The story of Imagine Dragons and Radio 104.5 goes back to the very beginning when the band played a Summer Block Party in 2012 early in their career, this well before the chart topping success, multiple stadium/arena tours and more that they are known for today. ‘Radioactive’ went on to be the one of the biggest songs of 2012 with numerous singles to follow from ‘Night Visions’ and of course the two consecutive albums since their debut that were both loaded with successful singles. Radio 104.5 has been pivotal to the discovery of countless amounts of great talent over the years and has continued to actively promote both upcoming and established artists with their annual Birthday Shows. The station has also continued to grow their free concert series all summer long with the ‘Block Party Series’ and ‘Winter Jawn’ show in early January.
Few stories in alternative music are as good as the massive success of Imagine Dragons as the band has nominated the charts for the past 2 years. Their return to the area for night two of the Radio 104.5 11th Birthday show marked an incredible full circle moment for both the band and the station. Along the journey both the band and Dan Reynolds have evolved into the most committed activists in alternative music as they’ve become very outspoken for the LGBTQ rights movement. Doors were set to open at 1PM but the line in front of the venue spanned a long distance of Imagine Dragons fans who were ready to camp out in the pit for hours to come – many of them holding pride flags and wearing Imagine Dragon shirts proudly. The band and Reynolds just released a powerful documentary titled ‘Believer’ that was filmed in the past year of their efforts to support the LGBTQ community with both a festival in Utah and constant support from the band. Posters for the feature were set up in the lobby of the BB&T Pavalion but many fans ran right past to get the closets spots to the stage – conversations could be overheard later that seemingly many in attendance had already watched the freshly released film earlier that weak in anticipation for the band’s return. Before then fans of Imagine Dragons were treated to the most jam-packed Radio 104.5 show to date with some of the best band’s in the genre playing great compact sets.
The day was long, hot, sweaty and at times the air was so still it was almost unbearable as Camden was treated with the hottest day of the year so far with the main stage music that started at 2PM sharp with Philadelphia locals The Great Enough. It didn’t take long for fans to pack inside the venue from their cars/parking lots as many seats had already filled up as Missio took the stage to give the crowd a little taste of their unique artistry with their set. Originally formed as a two-piece band between Matthew Brue and David Butler, Missio gave the crowd of new music to come as they opened with the yet to be released ‘Temple Priest.’
Their set was short but jam-packed with action as they had the crowd off their feet with the infectious dance beat of ‘KDV’ and their 2017 chart topper ‘Middle Fingers’ at the end of their time. Brue was quick to thank the fans who came out early to party with them and thanked Radio 104.5 for their constant support as well – a theme that would continue all day long as Sir Sly took the stage shortly after them for their second Radio 104.5 event in the past year. Landon Jacobs stood tall next to a large pulsating LED brain branded with the band’s logo as he belted out a short set full of passion as the band jammed for over ten minutes on “&Run” before they ran off the stage to a massive roar of supporting fans.
AJR’s set that followed took the party that day in a different direction as their remix heavy set and second Radio 104.5 performance of 2018 focused on making sure the packed venue was on their feet dancing. The three brothers hailing from New York came together on stage to get every single person moving and they succeeded in their mission though Radio 104.5’s heavy support of their music on air had a lot to do it with the success of their set because everyone in attendance surely knew over half their set. AJR took the airwaves by storm this year with ‘Weak,’ ‘Sober Up’ and ‘Burn The House Down’ all in heavy rotation since their acoustic performance earlier this year at the Winter Jawn show at Xfinity Live.
This air time was certainly earned though as Jack Met was one of the most genuine and happy frontman the BB&T Pavilion has ever seen perform – I don’t think he stopped smiling once during AJR’s set and rightfully so as the band of three brothers have dominated alternative music without the support of a major label behind them. Sometimes all you need is a basement, creativity and passion as AJR showed us all with their 9 song remixed dance party set. It is no small feat to get 12,000 dancing but it is almost a miracle to get them dancing together in 98 degree summer weather – AJR will be back headlining the BB&T Pavilion one day, possibly as the next Radio 104.5 alumni to reach massive heights in their career. The next alumni to take the stage would be Judah and the Lion who did so in fantastic fashion but they weren’t the next band on the line up after AJR.
What followed AJR was 45 minutes of music that greatly over shadowed Judah and the Lion’s set directly before Imagine Dragons. Judah and the Lion are fantastic live, their stage presence was awesome and their inclusion of Jesse from the station for a cover of ‘Mr. Brightside’ was an incredible moment. The band has often called Philadelphia a second home with lead singer Judah Akers even going as far as wearing a Wentz jersey for their third Radio 104.5 performance in the past year but all of that greatness paled in comparison to Mike Shinoda’s time on the stage before their set. His inclusion on the show came late after the announcement and most of the tickets for the show had already been sold at that point but that didn’t impact the excitement in anyone. Shinoda is fresh off the release of his solo album ‘Post Traumatic,’ an album that came to fruition from his difficult past year following the tragic passing of Chester Bennington.
He and Linkin Park were in the midst of a career high when Bennington took his life – the results brought a tight fan base closer than ever before and their support helped fuel Shinoda to take the stage again as he worked through some of the most difficult emotions of his life. His set was one part Linkin Park, one part Fort Minor, one part solo material and full of nothing but heart as he performed truly solo with no other musicians. Shinoda told stories, he dove into the crowd, he gave the fans more songs that he was allowed to technically as he went well over his allotted set time but nobody was going to stop him. The sea of people sang along when he asked them to fill in for Bennington’s spots on ‘In The End’ as the song echoed through the venue that Linkin Park last played in 2014 together – an emotional moment that brought many to tears including Shinoda.
After a long day of fantastic sets it was time for the 25,000 fans to experience the return of Imagine Dragons with Radio 104.5 – a homecoming years in the making and never better timed. As the stage was set the house lights came on to reveal a diverse crowd of adults and children alike who were their to experience the best alternative music of this century. It is easy to get caught up in the statistics of Imagine Dragons with their numerous singles, their massive success touring and their incredible digital sales in an era that has shown signs of fatigue but their true appeal is their universe message of hope and love with their music. Reynolds has become the activist this generation needed as mentioned earlier but even before his outspoken outbreak the band had always managed to find beauty in the impossible and hope in the dark. This thread extends through their entire discography and is the unifying force that helped bring 25,000 to Camden on the hottest day of the year.
Imagine Dragons wasted no time that evening as the stage burst to life in orange light as the band rose from behind the drum kit as they played an original introduction to ‘Radioactive’ before Dan Reynolds came running down the thrust on the stage and Co2 burst around him to kick the night off in dramatic fashion. The band has come a long way their since Radio 104.5 debut under a white tent in the summer sun on a stage no bigger than a hundred square feet – though the fans remain the same as they jumped forward with joy from this first song to the last note of the last song. Reynolds took some time to both introduce the band and thank everyone including the radio station for coming to see them after the first song; it was then that he saw a fan in the front row holding a pride flag up that he reached out to grab for a few moments.
A brief but impactful message was delivered then as the crowd roared as Reynolds held the flag high above his head as he gave an strong message that asked for this concert to be a place of safety, inclusion and no judgement as fans were united by music. He kept the flag as he turned around to Wayne Sermon on guitar with a smile as they began a slow building version of ‘It’s Time’ to the approval of the crowd. Reynolds eventually went on to return the flag to it’s owner in the front of the crowded pit but the message remained the same all night long from the band and the show pressed on as Ben McKee on bass and Daniel Platzman on drums led the band into one of their more recent songs ‘Whatever It Takes.’
Across eighteen songs the band showcased their evolution as a band and a long the way treated the Radio 104.5 crowd to a truly beautiful performance. The show spanned their entire catalog but leaned heavily on songs from their newest album ‘Believer’ as it should have – these songs hold the truest to who Imagine Dragons have become as people and performers as well as translating into stunning tracks when performed live. A highlight of the set came just about midway into it as a passionate and emotional ‘Mouth of the River’ was bled into a very new song that was made with Kygo titled ‘Born to Be Yours.’ There was confetti rain, there were giagantic beach balls that fell from the ceiling, their was more confetti that was shot across the the entire venue and most of all their was hope. Reynolds has become a true frontman and no longer shys away from speaking his mind both on and off stage. While the band was performing ‘Demons’ he took some time to speak on depression and the importance of life as he asked no one to take their life from those who love them as a Make Chester Proud sign was displayed from the crowd on the massive split screens behind the band.
The night wasn’t somber or down, as Reynolds said he himself suffers from depression but it wasn’t about feeling down about it. The concert was about having the ability to move past that and live a great life. Radio 104.5 helped give Imagine Dragons the tools in their earliest days to grow to a band of this size and importance that has sold out almost every show across the country. The work that Reynolds and the band has done in the past two years has been remarkable but a lot of credit is owed to the stations like Radio 104.5 who took a chance on them from day one. The station has constantly put talented artistry first over the past eleven years and they did so yet again with Imagine Dragon’s homecoming being supported by such talented bands. It is hard to think about but harder to resist wondering where Imagine Dragons and Radio 104.5 will be in eleven more years – maybe by then the world will be a different place but if not I think they will be right where they are now fighting the good fight on stage with support from the best radio station around.