Imagine Dragons’ sophomore album Smoke + Mirrors has been out for just a month, yet the Las Vegas-based band has already announced a world tour and begun promotion in earnest. Stopping by Sydney for an exclusive one-night-only show, the Grammy award winners offered a tantalising glimpse of what to expect for its upcoming Australian shows in September.
The venue at The Star may be minuscule compared to the arenas the band will soon play, but a small but devoted crowd provided great company for this too short evening.
The setlist offered a good mix of tracks between the band’s first album Night Visions and its current full-length effort. Singer Dan Reynolds, drummer Daniel Platzman, guitarist Wayne “Wing” Sermon, bassist Ben McKee and touring multi-instrumentalist Ryan Walker clearly opted more for an organic sound for the stage than the overproduced arrangements custom-made for radio.
Latest single Shots proved to be a pleasant opener that excelled in its lower pitch compared to the studio version. The title track off the current album was a rare dull moment, as the standing-room-only crowd politely played along. Fortunately, fun sing-alongs came aplenty during Demons, the sparkly It Comes Back to You and On Top of the World (with a catchy chant worthy of arenas and stadiums).
The live version of I’m So Sorry was a furious hard-rock head-banger, marking a big deviation from the saccharine studio original and recalling Tame Impala (whose music played over the sound system before the concert). Platzman’s drum solo afterwards thankfully didn’t run too long, perfectly setting up the carnival-atmosphere of Rocks. At this point, there was no return as the crowd couldn’t keep their feet still and stop smiling.
Reynolds’ stage movements were a mix of charmingly comical and convincing for a frontman. During a rendition of It’s Time early in the set, he swayed his hips like a groovier, relaxed version of Ian Curtis and beat his thigh and chest to the beat, occasionally slapping an imaginary booty. He programmed the ominous opening keyboard sample and menacingly pointed a gun to his head with his fingers during the heavy Gold (on which Sermon’s solos reached their first peak during the night). Whenever he raised his arms, the slightest sight of his belly elicited giggles from female fans, with whom he kept good eye contact.
Banter in between songs highlighted a genuine affection for the island continent, as Reynolds had funny anecdotes such as failed attempts to pick up Aussie chicks on the Vegas strip. He challenged the crowd to shut their eyes and learn the chorus hook to the joyous penultimate song I Bet My Life. Of course, people peeked but it didn’t matter as the audience vigorously sang along anyway, prompting Reynolds to hop around like an overexcited bunny.
And what song other than Radioactive could finish the night on a powerful note? The closing percussion breakdown and guitar/drum duel had the band banging the numerous drums on stage and wailing away for dear life, before the crowd erupted with much-deserved applause. The challenge now is whether Imagine Dragons can recreate the same connection in bigger halls later in the year.
Smoke and Mirrors
I’m So Sorry
It Comes Back to You
On Top of the World
I Bet My Life