Crooked trees, oversized drums and scenes of furious skies surrounded Imagine Dragons, creating an atmosphere akin to the unpredictable and often volatile world so effortlessly described in its debut album, “Night Visions.”
The apocalyptic set design juxtaposed Imagine Dragons’s powerful performance at the Marquee Theatre on Feb. 8, giving a sold-out crowd hope of feeling a little less lost in its personal abysses.
A diverse crowd of middle schoolers, college students and middle-aged hipsters welcomed the first act, Nico Vega, a tough-looking brunette in a leather getup and an entourage of rock ready band members.
The L.A.-based band has previously toured with Blondie and Neon Trees, groups that more accurately reflect the rougher sound of Nico Vega. Although the band’s punk edge differs from Imagine Dragons’s alt-rock approach, the audience encouraged the change, smiling through the 30-minute set.
Lead singer Aja Volkman commanded attention onstage with her clear vocals, adding a fresh element to an edgier track. On one occasion, Volkman recorded a series of breathy “mmm’s” and “ahh’s” onstage, building a solid beat to sing on. Volkman also took advantage of her a cappella abilities and incorporated them into a few songs.
Standing on top of a drum while pounding another strapped to her back, Volkman successfully pumped up the crowd with her electric presence and exited the stage to the dismay of the audience.
Atlas Genius’s no-fuss style was apparent as soon as the band entered the stage. The lighting was minimal — just red and green accent lights illuminated the outline of the instruments. Simple keyboard and folksy vocals lifted the music up, but a focus on drums and electric guitar kept Atlas Genius from losing the audience to dreamy Australian accents.
The set moved forward slowly, paying close attention to repetition and movement. Even with the unhurried pace, the audience was mesmerized, singing along to “If So” with more vigor than the lead singer.
An energetic crowd thrived off of the band’s decision to focus heavily on instrumentals toward the end of the set. Several false endings ensued and the audience battled the band to be the loudest entity. The crowd heaved itself closer to the stage as Atlas Genius ended its portion of the show, hoping for a chance to catch the set list and also to prepare for the main musical event.
Fifteen achingly long minutes passed before the thunderstorm began.
A wolf howled under the storming sky of fog and purple lights. Imagine Dragons calmly entered the stage amid the chaos, as lead singer Dan Reynolds belted, “Round and round / I won’t run away this time / Till you show me what this life is for.”
The first show of a sold out tour, Imagine Dragons barreled through “Tiptoe,” a song that takes advantage of Reynolds’s vocal range. His live voice is softer than the album version but no less powerful.
A monster truck wheel size drum aided Reynolds in his show of bravado as he pounded it periodically throughout the concert.
“You guys wanna dance?” Reynolds asked the crowd in the middle of the set, to which they answered with a cacophony of sound and dance moves that refracted in the ensuing strobe lights.
“What is with you / I’ve never seen this side of you,” Reynolds crooned just as security snaked its way to the middle of the crowd and plucked out a man wearing his girlfriend’s red bra.
The “sky” behind the band changed with each song, turning vibrant shades of red, yellow and orange for Imagine Dragons’s popular single “Radioactive,” a punchy track that utilizes the drop method found in electronica and dubstep. The crowd was inconsolable, producing eardrum-shattering applause that usually comes at the end of a show.
Reynolds beamed at the audience: “Arizona, I have a feeling the two of us are going to get to know each other pretty well.”
Grey clouds formed behind the band as “Demons” started out soulful and slow. Even members of security discreetly hummed the chorus as the keyboard, drums and vocals came together for the obvious favorite, “It’s Time.”
Two blondes serenaded a security officer. He mouthed the words back.
The audience was in ecstasy as Reynolds joined them in the crowd and sang to fans.
Then it was over. The band left the stage until the audience demanded an encore. It was more of a jam session between the members than an extended concert.
The sky behind the band went black and the flashing lights were the only remnants of the thunderous concert that occurred.
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