The Imagine Dragons sound is big on beats, both on record and on stage. So it’s almost expected that their encore of Radioactive climaxes with all four band members pounding on some type of drum. Less expected is the might of lead guitarist Wayne Sermon. Relatively low-key on their albums, in concert he’s as integral to the Las Vegas quartet’s sound as Dan Reynolds’ voice and, yes, even those pounding rhythms.
Not convinced? How about the long, fluid instrumental that echoes the vocal line on seismic set opener Thunder? Or the fiery noodling to ride out the victory march that is Gold? There’s the chiming U2-inspired riff that flows through the tranquility of The River. Or the shimmering disco-ball playing that quite simply lights up synth spectacular Shots. And what about the lowdown dirty riff of I’m So Sorry that accelerates and intensifies into a gritty solo of Royal Blood proportions?
But such shock and awe virtuosity would amount to nothing if the songs sucked. Obviously they don’t, and as one chart topper follows another at Roundhouse, it’s obvious why the group have managed to pick up a Grammy, five Billboard Music Awards, and 30,852,865 monthly Spotify listeners (placing them 13th in the world).
Not only do their biggest hits occupy the sweet spot between rock, hip-hop, and mainstream pop that the likes of Linkin Park are now eyeballing, as songwriters they have the ability to craft insatiable hooks and huge choruses made for headlining festival stages. And when delivered with as much enthusiasm as Reynolds, Sermon, bassist Ben McKee, and drummer Daniel Platzman can muster, it’s impossible for an audience to stand still and silent.
I Bet My Life, featuring an extended acoustic intro, explodes into a full-on carnival, while the dazzling On Top Of The World must rival Pharrell Williams’ Happy and Bruno Mars’ The Lazy Song for sunniest tune ever.
It’s Time, dedicated tonight to the people of Manchester, is an instant sugar rush that erupts into a mass singalong. A swaggering Demons sounds far more exuberant than any song about inner turmoil has the right to. And, after a bells-and-whistles rendition that pushes the song, the band, and the audience to the limit, Radioactive should probably be retitled “Radio-addictive”.
Unsurprisingly, the two new songs from forthcoming third album Evolve, are just as damn catchy. The alternately buoyant and intense Believer is edgier than the gleaming Whatever It Takes, but both find Reynolds embracing a vocal style verging on rap.
Of course the multi-hyphenate frontman pulls it off as well as everything else he puts his mind to: belting out rock songs, crooning, leaping and bounding, playing synths, hitting percussion, and being charming. Sharing his gratitude and ideals of “peace and love” at every opportunity, he’s clearly as upbeat as his band’s music. Considering London’s response to Imagine Dragons, he has every right to be.
Live review of Imagine Dragons @ Roundhouse by Nils van der Linden on 7th June 2017. Photography by Edyta K.