Imagine Dragons - House of Blues - March 19, 2013

Imagine Dragons - House of Blues - March 19, 2013
Mary Bell / OC Weekly
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Imagine Dragons and Atlas Genius
House of Blues
March 19, 2013

For a band that's had, at least on the surface, a meteoric rise, Imagine Dragons sure know how to play things cool. Playing to what they said was the smallest venue on their North American tour, the Las Vegas-natives demonstrated that they have a strong catalog beyond their two hit singles and have the rare ability to make a crowd swoon, while entertaining them in the process.

Though they were formed four years ago, 2012 was the year when a larger audience took notice of the band. First with "It's Time" and more recently with "Radioactive," Imagine Dragons have won their share of both the radio listeners and hardcore fans.

Mixing these two types of fans is challenging for anyone, but for a band with just one full-length to their name? Well, on the surface that would seem difficult, but much to my surprise, the crowd consisted primarily (and by primarily, I'll estimate it being about 90 percent) of loyal fans. Not just your run-of-the-mill loyal fans, but hardcore we-know-every-word fans. Impressive.

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Backed by an oval shaped projection screen along with a tree-styled set up to hold up their numerous lights, the band was tight and managed to get stronger over the course of their 90-minute set. Singer Dan Reynolds switched between bashing a stand-alone drum and singing, sometimes both. When he wasn't banging on the drum like Animal, the sweaty (and mulleted) Reynolds was thrusting his body, flailing his arms and showing off his pretty good dance moves. Body movement aside, the thing that stuck most about the singer was his earnestness and genuine appreciation of both his fans and the moment.

As a tour winds down, a band usually is hitting peak form, but they can also see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel and it would be understandable to go through the motions. Not Imagine Dragons.

"We always like playing where we can see your faces," the singer told the sold-out crowd. "It feels like home."

Reynolds may think that small venues are like home, but they won't be after this tour. Their song structure and their ability to entertain is similar to another Las Vegas band that hit the big time: The Killers. With punchy drums (having two guys playing the drums is always a bonus), fiery guitars and sneakily creative ways to fit in a mandolin and synths that aren't annoying, Imagine Dragons are on the fast track to arena stardom. Even on slower songs like the gentle "Thirty Lives," the band showed that there's more to them than the tunes people are familiar with.

While they appeared to be packed tightly on-stage at House of Blues, Reynolds announced that the band is returning to Anaheim soon, playing in a much larger venue. When that will be is anyone's guess, but the singer did acknowledge the obvious: last night was the last time people will the band in a small club like the House of Blues. And everyone was okay with that.

 

Opening band Atlas Genius wasn't too bad either. The Australian tore through a 45-minute set that felt too short. Singer Keith Jeffrey bounced like he had an imaginary pogo stick, even ending up in the crowd for an extended guitar solo. It was keyboardist Darren Sell's birthday, so in between gulps from his Heineken bottle, Jeffrey led the crowd in a spirited version of "Happy Birthday" for the amused Sell. While "Trojans" elicited the biggest response, the other songs weren't bad in their own right. If the indie rockers can string together another solid album, things are looking bright for them as well.

Critical Bias: I went in feeling uninspired about seeing Imagine Dragons because I was so sick of hearing "Radioactive" on every fucking radio station, terrestrial and satellite. However, their live show won me over.

The Crowd: LOTS of teenage girls. If they're at a show, these guys must be doing something right.

Random Notebook Dump: When Reynolds asked the crowd what it was like to live in Anaheim, the big dude standing next to me said, "no one lives in Anaheim." Hmmm, that's a new one

Set list:

Round & Round
Amsterdam
Tiptoe
Hear Me
Cha-Ching
Rocks
Radioactive
Thirty Lives
Bleeding Out
Demons
Underdog
On Top of the World
It's Time

Encore:
Nothing Left to Say

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