Imagine Dragons tears the house down at Rogers Arena

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At Rogers Arena on Monday, February 10

Even though we’re only a month and a bit into 2014, Imagine Dragons has performed at the Grammy Awards and appeared as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live, but frontman Dan Reynolds doesn’t seem to be in any danger of becoming jaded by fame. Over the course of the band’s hour-and-40-minute set at the home of the Canucks, the singer repeatedly gushed about how happy he was to be there, at one point marvelling, “I can’t believe we’re playing tonight at an arena.”

Of course, it’s only fitting that the Las Vegas four-piece should be headlining big venues, since its epic pop anthems are tailor-made for arena-sized sing-alongs, and Reynolds’ charismatic stage presence means that he has no problem commanding the attention of thousands of fans. Not bad for an outfit that, less than a year ago, played at the much cozier Commodore Ballroom.

As the fans filed in, X Ambassadors set the tone for the evening with a selection of tunes that mixed slick, headbanging mega-pop with hip-hop rhythms. The melodies didn’t make much of an impression, but singer Sam Harris displayed an laudable range of talents by switching between a pitch-perfect howl and a soft falsetto, and he even played some saxophone during the instrumental breaks.

Next up, New Zealand’s the Naked and Famous delivered a crowd-pleasing set of synth-spiked dance-rock, capping it off on an energetic note with “Young Blood”. The song’s rapturous chorus served as the perfect warm-up for the main event.

After a short break, Imagine Dragons arrived on a stage that had been decorated with spiky cutout trees that resembled props from a Tim Burton extravaganze. During a spooky keyboard intro, a full moon rose on the massive circular screen that served as the backdrop.

This mood-setting overture led into the cinematic “Fallen”. Within scarcely a minute of emerging, Reynolds had already scaled the staircases that extended over the seats and it didn’t take long before the chorus was punctuated by jets of steam that belched from a row of small cannons.

Leading into the danceable “Tiptoe”, the slender Reynolds shimmied while venturing out onto a small walkway that stretched a dozen or so feet out onto the floor. Dressed all in black, he spent many of the instrumental passages pounding out rhythms on a variety of percussion rigs, and his midriff was visible every time he raised his arms above his head (which occurred frequently).

The rest of the players didn’t command nearly as much attention as the frontman, although guitarist Wayne “Wing” Sermon fired off a few twiddly solos on his nifty-looking metallic guitar. Bassist Ben McKee and drummer Daniel Platzman provided a solid backbone for the many soaring rock ballads, although the latter wasted a couple minutes of everyone’s time with a rather tedious drum solo.

The core quartet was joined by touring multi-instrumentalist Ryan Walker, who hovered at the back and pulled out a mandolin during the folk-tinged “It’s Time”, which made for an early highlight with its stomp-clap groove.

Not all of the songs were as satisfying. Since the band only has one full-length—2012’s Night Visions—it had to flesh out the set with material such as the forgettable bonus cut “Cha-Ching (Till We Grow Older),” which Reynolds introduced as being “about the meaninglessness of money”. This prompted a few cheers from concertgoers wearing freshly bought $30-plus T-shirts.

Meanwhile, many onlookers seemed nonplussed by a faithful cover of Rush’s 1981 single “Tom Sawyer”, a song composed a decade or two before many in the audience were born.

Thankfully, such misfires were forgiven during the string of hits that closed the main part of the set. The giddy bubblegum ditty “On Top of the World” was far and away the night’s highlight, as a swarm of massive balloons were let loose during the final chorus. These confetti-filled orbs had mostly popped with bursts of colourful paper by the time Imagine Dragons shifted into the Coldplay-flavoured ballad “Demons”.

After that, the Grammy-winning hit “Radioactive” tore the house down, as dubstep rhythms and canned strings culminated in a bombastic crescendo during which Reynolds hammered on a drum that was nearly as big as he was. Meanwhile, the cannons spewed out a steady stream of smoke and the fans practically drowned out the band with their singing.

By comparison, the encore rendition of the mid-tempo rocker “Nothing Left to Say” was a bit of a letdown, although fans were doubtless encouraged by Reynolds’ promises to return again soon. Considering Imagine Dragons’ success as of late, it will have likely expanded its catalogue with a few more hits by then; hopefully this means it will be able to omit a few of the deep cuts.

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