SALT LAKE CITY — “Imagine Dragons” has come a long way since it won BYU’s “Battle of the Bands” in 2008.
It’s no surprise that the multiplatinum band, globetrotting this year with its “Smoke + Mirrors” tour, sold out its Salt Lake City stop at EnergySolutions Arena on Tuesday night —although frontman Dan Reynolds seemed sincerely gracious and humbled.
“We have so much love for Utah, I cannot even tell you,” said Reynolds after opening with the band's latest hit “Shots,” in which the audience visibly came alive. “We would not be a band without you. This is our favorite place to play. Seven years ago were playing at the Velour in Provo. Utah was the first place that ever played us on the radio. And we want you to know, this never gets old to us and it’s more than we could ever ask for.”
Folks needed a shot in the arm after two hours of opening acts, the first being Halsey, a punk-edged electro-pop singer whose clear and penetrating voice earned her vigorous applause, especially while singing crowd-favorite “New Americana.” Her awkward and rehearsed banter with the audience, however, was a sticking point that hopefully time and experience will remedy.
The second opening act, Metric, hit a few bumps as well. The band's electronic rock beats in the large arena were unfortunately soupy sounding, and the audience didn’t respond warmly to frontwoman Emily Haines' “Jazzercise”-like dance moves. Luckily, people perked up during the recognizable “Gold, Guns, Girls” near the end of the set.
When Imagine Dragons graced the stage, however, everything else disappeared. The Grammy-winning, Billboard-topping band that sprang up in Provo but relocated to Reynolds' hometown of Las Vegas to play the more plentiful lounge gigs has realized incomprehensible fame. Neatly packaged by music circles as a digitized indie-rock cross between Coldplay and Mumford & Sons, in all truth, Imagine Dragons defies genre or comparisons. Its chart-toppers include anthemic, addictive ballads such as the foot-stomping “It’s Time” and “On Top of the World” and the darker, synth-folk mashups such as “Radioactive” and “Demons.”
The band’s second album, “Smoke + Mirrors,” is an undeniably higher-voltage experience, thanks to the influence of famed hip-hop producer Alex da Kid. The album bounces from one genre to the next. During the concert, as with the album, it was not uncommon to go from a head-banging hard rock number like “Friction,” with its over-the-top guitar ballads, Middle Eastern riffs and stuttering rhythms, to an all-acoustic, soul-stirring number like “Amsterdam.” But most plentiful were the folksy, fist-pumping ballads like “I Bet My Life” and “Shots” — delivering hooks that percolate in the brain for days.
Although Utah and Vegas feud over the band’s true origins (the band calls itself Vegas-based but has often nodded to Utah as its home), the EnergySolutions crowd undoubtedly seemed to feel it was rooting for the home team.
And what a diverse crowd it was: twenty-something hipsters that would have fit right in at an after-party with the band, clean-cut fathers and sons sporting their BYU gear and looking better equipped for a Scout camp than a rock concert and love-struck tween girls who swooned as if Reynolds were a member of “One Direction." A few brave souls were even toting babies.
American Fork native and Berklee College of Music graduate D. Wayne “Wing” Sermon, the powerful guitarist, had more than a few fans screaming his praises. That included his dad, who was passing out handfuls of picks engraved with his son’s nickname, “Wing,” between the opening bands.
“I’m Wayne’s dad,” he told our row as he offered us picks. “Do you know who Wayne is?” he asked, beaming. Yep, we nodded politely, we knew who Wayne was — and so did the other 20,000 folks who were waiting to see him wail on his guitar. I was half expecting the adorable Mr. Sermon to pull out his camcorder and record the show for home movies.
Reynolds teased “Wing” good-naturedly between numbers about being bashful. “Here’s the most you’ll get out of Wing; he just nods his head,” joked Reynolds. “He’s a man of few words but great taste.”
Ben McKee and Daniel Platzman, bass guitarist and drummer, respectively, rounded out the band’s talent. They are also Berklee grads.
The concert was a strobe and laser-light extravaganza, with flashy sky-high screens and puffs of smoke shooting from the stage. Confetti fell in the arena at one point. Reynolds jumped off the stage, ran up the stairs and mixed with the audience at another point. A truly top-notch performer, Reynolds danced and swaggered effortlessly as he sang, talking openly with the audience as the band merged competently from one hit to the next.
"Forever Young" (Alphaville cover)
"Smoke and Mirrors"
"I'm So Sorry"
"Amsterdam / Tiptoe / Release"
"On Top of the World"
"I Bet My Life"