Back on another world tour, the alternative/ indie rock legends Imagine Dragons bring their third album ‘Evolve’ (2017) to sold out arenas across the UK. Supported by the genre-defying K.Flay, both artists create an unforgettable night.
With her iconic, almost breathy vocals, K.Flay showcased her ability to instantly transition between the calmer indie vibes of songs like ‘Can’t Sleep’ from ‘Life as a Dog’ (2014) to rapid fire rapping in ‘Champagne’ and ‘Blood In The Cut’ from her second full length release ‘Every Where Is Some Where’ (2017). Her limited amount of previous publicity meant that the high energy of her indie electronica hip-hop was slightly lost on the audience, but her diverse and unique sound didn’t fail to make a strong impression.
Despite being one small figure on the stage, K.Flay’s performance wasn’t visually underwhelming, with lights alternating from blue to white on every beat of her first song ‘Made Me Fade’ making her wild dancing across the stage impressive enough to fill the extremely large venue.
“An unnecessary disjointed feeling”
The classical music played between the acts may have been used to stop the crowd from getting uncontrollably rowdy with anticipation, but it was more than a little out of place. Not only did it spoil the building excitement, it also created an unnecessary disjointed feeling to the whole night.
This disjointed, separated feeling was resolved towards the end of the concert, when Imagine Dragons welcomed K.Flay back onto the stage to perform the remix of the song ‘Thunder’. Since Imagine Dragons don’t include collaboration on their albums, the opportunity to hear one live was something special, even if K.Flay’s vocals were drowned out slightly by the pulsing electronic beats on the track.
Imagine Dragons’ third album ‘Evolve’ (2017) celebrates the band’s development since their first album ‘Night Visions’ (2012), creating a theme which the entire performance was based around. The band’s set opened with a scientific video discussing the origins of life on earth being displayed on the electronic screens behind the stage, before the band entered. This video was continued between songs throughout the performance, creating an impressive cinematic effect.
“The energy in the crowd went through the roof”
The energy in the crowd went through the roof from the very beginning of the band’s performance, only increasing as they broke out into the first track of the night ‘I Don’t Know Why’. The unbridled enthusiasm from the audience made Dan Reynold’s speech following the song even more effective. By speeches, I’m not just talking about two-minute trivial discussions about the city they are currently playing in. This band takes the opportunity when standing in front of 16,000 people to try to make a positive impact on the world, spreading messages about, love, unity, acceptance and the importance of destigmatising mental health.
That’s part of what this band is about. They are not concerned with writing hits, making money and being rock stars. Throughout the course of the concert, lead vocalist Dan Reynolds made three heartfelt speeches. In 2015, when Imagine Dragons last played in Birmingham, Reynolds addressed the Paris attacks, stressing the importance of unity by saying:
“No one can control us, no one can make us hate, no one will make us have eyes that see colour, that see race, that see religion, that see different countries, different sexual orientations. We see each other just as one, and no one can take that away from us.”
This time was no different, with Reynolds addressing the most recent shootings in America with a heavy heart, stating that “It’s Time for Change”, before moving into a heart-wrenching rendition of ‘It’s Time’.
At one point, the band began to play the start of 2004 hit ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’ as a tribute to The Killers, stating that “If it weren’t for bands like them, I don’t know if we would have ever made it out of Las Vegas”. Before playing ‘Demons’, a song written during a dark time for Reynolds (and that never fails to get everyone waving the lights on their phones in the air), he talks about the importance of destigmatising depression and anxiety, sharing his own story and asking the audience to make a difference:
“We must love, we must accept. It’s a simple concept. We must accept all people, we must be equal, we must give complete and total acceptance to our LGBTQ youth. They need us. They are the most at risk of depression, anxiety and suicide. So, may we continue to love endlessly.”
“Sent the crowd wild with euphoria”
With so many popular songs to choose from, it’s not unheard of the band to blend multiple songs into each other. The band started playing their latest single ‘Next To Me’ (released only three days ago on the 21st), before the release of giant white balloons indicated a smooth transition into the band’s most upbeat and perhaps most widely adored single ‘On Top Of The World’, which sent the crowd wild with euphoria.
Part way through the performance, whilst another video clip on evolution was being played, the band moved to a smaller stage by the sound and lighting control desks in the middle of the arena’s audience. From this more intimate space framed with white spotlights, they played acoustic renditions of ‘I Bet My Life’ from the band’s second album ‘Smoke + Mirrors’ (2015) and the slow-burning start of ‘Warriors’ which then went into ‘Bleeding Out’. The fact that the band sound just as impressive acoustically in a smaller setting as on the large arena stage, shows just how adept Imagine Dragons are at filling whatever space that is available to them with emotion.
Seemingly finishing the set with ‘Believer’, Imagine Dragons graced the stage once more after a lot of foot stamping and cheering from the crowd, with their encore of ‘Walking The Wire’. As the band began to play ‘The Fall’, fans were convinced that the concert would end in the same was as their performance in 2015 did. This was a ruse however, as they soon moved into their famous song ‘Radioactive’, which sent the audience as crazy as one might expect when a chart-topping hit is played by one of the few bands that sounds even better live.
“The emotion that this band elicits from an audience is astonishing”
Even if you’re not a hardcore fan of Imagine Dragons (although I’m not sure why you wouldn’t be), the emotion that this band elicits from an audience is astonishing. What they stand for is just as beautiful as their music. I can’t recommend taking the opportunity to see them live enough.
By Celeste Adams
Images Courtesy of Celeste Adams