Imagine Dragon’s “Evolve” Tour At Madison Square Garden, Tuesday, June 19th, 2018, Reviewed
The Las Vegas rock band Imagine Dragons, who added EDM production values and songs by committee to their leaving Las Vegas alt -y roots back in 2013 when “Radioactive” broke through, are no more a product than Camila Cabello or 5 Seconds of Summer, or a dozen other musicians by committee. Which means they are a hybrid and if Imagine Dragons had something to sell out to other than their pop aspirations, sell outs they would be.
Last night, Imagine Dragons’ lead singer, the beyond buff Dan Reynolds, told us “My only hope is your heart is open, your mind is open.leave it all at the door, no politics, no religion. That this is a place of safety, equality, for all people, that your mind be free…”Since Dan is a Mormon, who has been processing the place between his religious beliefs and his cultural beliefs, his point is a little sharper than it might otherwise appear to be. Also, since a close look at Imagine Dragons audience finds white bread parents and their children out for a night out, there is also a sense where Imagine Dragons’ musical confusion, a once unique blend of the Killers and the Chainsmokers, now an alternative lifestyle with an exit ramp, Dan was at least being careful by not dealing with that underlying tension.
The most admirable thing about the evening wasn’t opening act wunderkind, the fourteen year old ukulele fan, America’s Got Talent winning, big piped Grace Vanderwaal. Dancing barefoot with an endearing, age appropriate awkwardness, and a clutch of not quite good enough songs including big hit “I Don’t Know My Name” and bigger hit “Moonlight,” she was stuck with a way too long 45 minute opener on a tour she couldn’t have fitted in less, Grace handled herself well enough. Anyway, the best thing was that she got on at 7pm and Imagine Dragons arrived at 815pm. Yes, folks, that means Imagine Dragons left the stage half an hour earlier than Dwight Yoakam reached the stage at the Beacon last week. If you have ever sat on your thumbs for an hour between sets wondering why you’d been punished by God, you’ll second my pleasure and admiration for Imagine Dragons timely start. Maybe it has something to do with their Vegas vibe, where nobody is ever late because the punters need to be kicked back out to the casinos with all due haste. Dan came out without a shirt and with his square headed Aryan Nation Helmut Berger as a robot vibe and didn’t stop moving from the beginning till the end of the evening. It is an energetic little piece of fronting, and carries the band on his back even when he invites them in for cliched mike sharing, but he doesn’t have many moves, and not a one is original. The first time he stands on the lip of the T neck and opens his arms wide it is both egotistical and a little, well, disarming, the tenth time you’re watching your clock.
The band opens with their breakthrough hit courtesy of Alex da Kid, “Radioactive” and it was always a very commercial song and more, Alex gave it an 808s beat, very modern pop sound. On stage, the production is devalued and Imagine Dragons sound like a normal rock pop band with an ear for the anthem, Poppier and less deep than even Coldplay, this is still the child of Coldplay vibe. The first three songs includes two hits but they hold back on the rest till the end, and that makes for a long stretch in the middle that gets longer with every passing song as you realize Imagine Dragons have no other tricks up their sleeves. By the time you reach the acoustic set three quarters of the way through, the band have outstayed their welcome and you are well reminded what a shallow little thing they are. Dan suffers from depression and while that is bad, his songs are just too simplistic to really deal with anything.
The current Evolve is a huge hit for them, and you can hear well as they deftly add personality to endemic generic fluff and insult no one as they perform these less than good songs. By the end they return to their hits and I guess that will do it. In 2018 this is what rock stardom sounds like, better than some of their contemporaries but nothing very special and done by 10pm