Some bands are made for arenas and Imagine Dragons are one such band. Their music comes alive in the expansive main arena of the O2 in Greenwich and in lead singer Dan Reynolds they have the perfect front-man for the job; he effortlessly mixes just the right amount of humility with the bouncing spinning cheerleading that a rock band requires in a 20,000 capacity venue.
The first time Imagine Dragons played London it was at the fantastic Dingwall’s, the small venue in the heart of Camden that has played host to Coldplay, the Mumfords, Coldplay and the Foo Fighters in its 500 capacity room. Dan recounts how they played to just 100 people so that will give you some idea how far they have come since then. I first saw them on a single date in late November 2013 when they played Brixton Academy and they were magnificent that time too. Now, two years after that Brixton date and two huge albums later they still deliver their music with the same infectious passion which quickly gathered up the crowd and took them on a 90 minute sixteen song journey. They have become the arena band they always deserved to be.
The Dragons opened with Shots which had everyone jumping from the get go and then moved straight into ‘Trouble’, a song with definite undertones of fellow Las Vegan Brandon Flowers before the familiar opening claps of Night Vision’s ” It’s Time” whipped up the already party atmosphere. The Dragons are a band that seems to make people smile and this was evident throughout the evening. Then it was into an excellent acoustic cover of Alphaville’s ‘Forever Young’ which gave everyone a chance to catch their breath before the band embarked on a tour of both their second album ‘Smoke and Mirrors’, and favourites from 2013s ‘Night Visions’. In fact, the only criticism I could possibly offer was that with the impressive catalogue they already have they could easily play a longer set but that would be splitting hairs as they generally always play a set of around fifteen songs.
Talking of splitting hairs, and that really is a tenuous link, Wayne Sermon on lead guitar, who Dan described as looking like an angel with his flowing hair, played guitar with verve throughout and had great ongoing chemistry with bass man Ben McKee. Along with drummer Dan Platzman, this American four piece seem to be embarking on their Smoke and Mirrors Tour in good spirits. There is a great balance with lead singer Dan almost exclusively owning the runway into the midst of the O2 crowd with his band staying on the main stage providing everything he needs.
Dan had a great rapport with the capacity crowd and dedicated the latest single, the beautifully acoustic, ‘I Was Me’, to refugee children across the world who deserve a home. The band recently visited a refugee camp in Germany and were moved into donating all proceeds of this track to help in their plight. Throughout the evening Dan had great interaction with the crowd and happily clapped hands with anyone near the stage. This climaxed in the uplifting anthem ‘On Top of the World’, incidentally the song that first introduced me to the band when I heard it on the FIFA game soundtrack (a great way for bands to quietly enter our consciousness without us really noticing), during which he leapt from the stage and wound his way to the back of the auditorium to climb to the “top” of the lower seated area before returning to the fold after several hugs and high fives ; he really gives the impression that the band as a whole are fully appreciative of their journey from Dingwall’s to the arenas of the world.
The concert ended with the huge crowd pleaser ‘Radioactive’ with its communal drumming that left the audience breathless with delight and screaming for more. The Dragons dutifully complied and returned to the stage to perform, ‘The Fall’ from their latest album which seems to bring the two albums together in a perfect anthemic conclusion to a wonderful evening.