By: Joseph Kathmann
EDITOR'S NOTE: Full disclosure time. This is my first show in Nashville and Bridgestone Arena. While I feel I successfully did not allow the awe and beauty of Nashville and its ridiculously amazing music scene to impact my opinion of the show, if you want to discredit everything I say about this show as being unable to get past this fact....your call.
So. There's always been a soft spot in my musical heart for Imagine Dragons. I really enjoyed their first album, and I can proudly proclaim in pretentious hipster-like fashion that I enjoyed "Radioactive" well before it became one of the biggest hits of the past few years. So, after missing their tour in support of that album, I made it a priority to see them this time around. While I'm glad I can officially cross them off my list, I thought their show was.....something of a letdown. Ok. That's not fair. Let me rephrase that. It was polarizing. Ridiculously polarizing. So, let's jump into it, shall we?
First off, let's have a discussion about the openers. I was very disappointed with the crowd on this one. The first opener was Halsey. She sounded like a wannabe Lorde but minus the soul/personality. One day later, I've already forgotten most of her music. And yet....there was a lot of screaming from the younger folks in the audience. At the time, I was impressed with the crowd. I didn't know much about Halsey, so I was thinking, "Oh! This audience did their homework and checked out the openers before the show!" Looking back on it, I don't really know why I thought this given the demographics of the crowd. Personally, I knew very little about Halsey going in. However, I did know and was excited for the second opener. Metric. And I (foolishly) expected everyone else to be excited for them too. Least after Halsey's reception.
For those who don't know, Metric is one of the major inspirations for today's modern alternative scene. Imagine Dragons even came out and said during their show that Metric was a huge inspiration for them. They've been around for years, and have built a strong and loyal following of fans. But none of them seemed to be at this show, because no one cared about Metric. The crowd, that was so engaged during Halsey's set, suddenly could barely even be bothered to cheer after each of Metric's songs. However, they were, in fact, amazing. In my opinion the highlight of the night, (yes, over Imagine Dragons) Metric took the completely non-engaging crowd and essentially said, "Screw it. We don't need their energy." and proceeded to tear through a 9 song, 45-minute set. I could feel their energy all the way from the upper deck. But nobody else seemed to care. This made me kind of depressed. This crowd should be thankful for the set they witnessed from these guys, and I strongly recommend seeing Metric as a headlining act at some point. I know that's now on my list. So, after this incredible set, Imagine Dragons took the stage.
As I said earlier, Imagine Dragons had a very polarizing set. The set started out in a very lackluster fashion, with the band playing two of the weaker songs off Smoke + Mirrors and then playing a HORRIBLE rendition of "It's Time." Frontman Dan Reynolds made it clear that he absolutely hates the song and decided to pull a Jared Leto and have the audience sing most of the song for him. I don't mind a singer doing this once or twice during a set, but any more than that is too much. Much less for most of a song. But then the band started turning it around with a great cover of "Forever Young" by Alphaville. The set kept getting better, and it peaked with one of the highlights." I'm So Sorry." So, let's wind the clocks back to when Smoke + Mirrors came out. At the time, Imagine Dragons were the kings of the alternative world. When you're on top of the world, (see what I did there?) I expect you to do something different with your new album, because you have the influence to bring scores of musicians with you through musical inspiration. Rather than doing this, Imagine Dragons did more of the same. And I think it definitely hurt the overall reception of Smoke + Mirrors. However, on the song "I'm So Sorry," I saw potential for a new direction from the band. And it seems the band enjoys this different direction, because they had an absolute blast playing this song. It had a chance to be the highlight of the set if they had only added a jam session to end the song. Because the studio ending of this song is very abrupt, and that carried over here. But then, they removed all traces of their energy with a somewhat lackluster acoustic version of the song "Thief." "Gold" was ok, but there's simply just too much production in that song-which they brought into the live version-so you can't really hear and enjoy it. To complete the downward spiral, we came to a mashup of "Bleeding Out"/"Warriors." Now, I checked the setlist of the tour before the show, so I knew this mashup was coming. I was really looking forward to it: two massive songs thrown together should make for a heck of a live version, right? WRONG. No, what we got was literally just a line or two of "Bleeding Out," then Reynolds basically reciting the refrain from "Warriors." All acoustic. No energy. It was just a ridiculous tease. You could hear the crowd brace themselves for awesomeness as soon Reynolds started singing the refrain to "Warriors," but then you could hear an audible groan when they didn't actually play any portion of either of these songs. So, instead of an awesome 10-minute mashup of these two songs, with the band just having a blast and jamming out, we got a 2-minute acoustic, lifeless, going-through-the-motions-so-we-can-checkmark-these-songs-off-the-list mashup. This was easily the low point of the entire set.
Fortunately things improved from here on out. "Demons" was fun and everything I hoped it would be, "On Top of the World" was fantastic, "Friction" contained an awesome, live-exclusive jam session, (that should've been in "I'm So Sorry" but better late than never I guess) and "I Bet My Life" was exactly what I was expecting. However in all honesty, by the end of "Demons" I was mostly just waiting for "Radioactive." I've watched the live version of this song many times and loved it, and what I got was exactly what I was expecting, which was one heck of a fun time. However, my final quirk with this set was the encore. After ending with an explosive finale in "Radioactive," Imagine Dragons thought it would be a good idea to come out and end the show with the finale of Smoke + Mirrors, "The Fell." Couple things wrong here. First off, a one-song encore is not an encore. It's an....appearance. But I would've been ok with that had the encore been "Radioactive." You can't end a set with that much intensity and then come out with a soulless, energy-less appearance for your encore. No. This decision by Imagine Dragons is catastrophically wrong. It's almost on the same level as Tegan and Sara ending their encore with a terrible cover song in place of what was obviously supposed to be "Everything is Awesome." I fear that this horrible choice of song for the encore is what will stick with me long after most of the set has left my memory. Only time will tell.
At the end of the day, Imagine Dragons was.....fine. I'm glad I saw them, but there were just too many horrifically bad moments in this set for me to truly say I had a great time. Especially when compared to Metric's set. Yes, at the end of the day, Metric stole the show on this one. You just don't know it yet.
Forever Young (Alphaville cover)
Smoke and Mirrors
I'm So Sorry
Bleeding Out / Warriors
On Top of the World
I Bet My Life
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary (debatable) guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here: