Imagine Dragons at Red Rocks, 5/16/13

Categories: Concert Reviews

Brandon Marshall. Slide show: Imagine Dragons and fans at Red Rocks

On stage at Red Rocks last night, Dan Reynolds couldn't get over the emotional weight of the moment. "This may be the greatest night of our lives," Reynolds declared after "Round and Round," the band's energetic opener. Later, he marveled, "This is the first time I've ever played a show and been able to see the moon." And then, right before a casual take on "Stand By Me," he thanked the crowd clumsily but sincerely for allowing the band "to do what we love."

See also:
- Slide show: Imagine Dragons and fans at Red Rocks
- Review: Imagine Dragons at Fillmore, 3/23/13
- Slideshow: Imagine Dragons at the Fillmore Auditorium, 3/23/13

Brandon Marshall. Slide show: Imagine Dragons and fans at Red Rocks

The superlative of the night came right before the final tune, an encore rendition of "Nothing Left to Say," when Reynolds announced: "This is our favorite show we've ever played." Thanks to a dynamic, energetic and heartfelt performance from Imagine Dragons, it was a pretty good night for the audience, too.

The obvious significance of Thursday's show for the band was endearing, if only for the fact that it spoke to an unlikely humility. As Reynolds talked about the band's struggles in the past four years, he said the band members were simply "nerds" and that the music was the most important part of the presentation.

But judging simply from the grandeur of last night's show, it would seem that playing a venue of nearly 10,000 would be no big deal for the band. The outfit came to Red Rocks prepared with a well-honed, big-budget stageshow that would have fit neatly into any stadium or any glitzy room in its native Las Vegas. The stage featured a massive screen that served as the backdrop for the entire stage, with a smaller, semi-circular scrim just behind the drum kit. Fake trees that boasted lights as leaves lined the back of the stage, while drums of all sizes dotted the front.

Brandon Marshall. Slide show: Imagine Dragons and fans at Red Rocks

The scenery played a role before the band played a single note. As the lights dimmed, the leaves on the trees blazed, and the amplified sounds of crickets and wildlife rang through the rocks, and pairs of glowing eyes popped up on the semi-circular scrim. The theatrics felt designed for Red Rocks, tailor-made to summon the feel of the wilderness surrounding the amphitheatre.

The cricket chirps morphed into a brief instrumental introduction from the band after they rushed onstage. The crowd rose for a catchy and captivating rendition of "Round and Round," and spot-on, danceable versions of "Amsterdam," "Tiptoe" and "Hear Me." Wayne Sermon's guitar and Dan Platzman's drums were infectious, and Ryan Walker's keyboard work and synth effects were bright and compelling.

All the stagecraft helped keep the energy up. The screens bore different images for each song. Scenes from a night sky, camera shots from a speeding train, underwater vistas and landscapes featuring lone trees all beamed behind the band. During "Tiptoe," Reynolds exhorted the audience to sing along to the chorus and offered visual aids. The line "Nobody else can take me higher" flashed in giant font behind him.

Brandon Marshall. Slide show: Imagine Dragons and fans at Red Rocks

Those touches only got more complex as the night wore on. Reynolds ran around the stage, banging on the different drums and moving up front to greet the crowd in the first row. After the first strains of "Radioactive" sent the audience into a frenzy, the screens turned red with scenes of burning suns and explosions.

After belting out lines about a "new age" and the "apocalypse," Reynolds suddenly took flight. Hooked up to a wire attached to the lighting rig, the singer flew into the air and rose to the top of the theater. He came to his apogee before hitting the stage lights, but not before unveiling yet another drum hidden by a black tarp and attached to the top of the stage. He banged out some rhythms for the guitar solo before descending to finish out the tune.

Brandon Marshall. Slide show: Imagine Dragons and fans at Red Rocks

Reynolds took to the sky again for "On Top of the World" and "Nothing Left to Say." During "Underdog," the band released giant balloons filled with confetti into the audience. In a rare lull between songs, Reynolds encouraged the entire crowd to forget their woes and invest themselves fully in the moment. All of it had the feel of a well-rehearsed and carefully planned stadium show, a spectacle that's likely wowed plenty of big crowds in the past.

But somehow, the carefully constructed effects and well-rehearsed antics felt entirely new. That came entirely from the obvious wonder of the bandmembers themselves. They beamed when they looked into the tiered sea of fans; their words of appreciation were heartfelt and off-the-cuff. When Reynolds confided, "This is a night that we'll never forget as a band, I promise you that," it felt genuine. That constant sense of awe from the stage helped create the same effect in the crowd.

Continue reading for a Critic's Notebook and more on the opening acts.

Location Info


Red Rocks Amphitheatre

18300 W. Alameda Parkway, Morrison, CO

Category: General

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