It seems these days that unless your band wears sepia vests and suspenders, you have no business crashing the Billboard pop charts.
No one, however, cc'd that message to Imagine Dragons, whose sweeping, dynamic radio rock has made them one of the year's breakout bands, with nary a banjo in tow.
On the strength of three platinum singles — It's Time, Demons and the blockbuster anthem Radioactive, all from their debut album Night Visions — the Vegas quartet has joined bands like Fun. and OneRepublic in an up-with-people coup d'état of America's pop-rock universe.
To quote Radioactive: It's a revolution, I suppose. And the 5,854 fans who packed the University of South Florida Sun Dome to see Imagine Dragons on Tuesday night were eager to play their part.
This was Imagine Dragons' third local concert in 17 months, but their first as a headliner, which allowed fans to hear the band's arena-quality singles cranked up to that level. Singer Dan Reynolds, a former Mormon missionary, belted 'em out Night Visions cuts like Amsterdam and Tiptoe with a big ol' bellow, but let fans do the heavy lifting on It's Time, letting the song's build-you-up chorus fill the Sun Dome.
Reynolds is an athletically built 6-foot-plus, which no doubt helps with the band's live strength: Their all-hands-on-deck approach to percussion. There were no fewer than six drums and kits on stage — including a gargantuan, table-sized drum that rumbled the arena whenever Reynolds and bassist Ben McKee saw fit to pound away — and every member was free to wallop at will. Imagine if U2 fired Larry Mullen Jr. and hired the Blue Man Group — that's how big and percussive each song sounded.
Adventurous ditties like the afrobeat-tinged Rocks and bouncy soukous shuffler On Top of the World offered a glimpse inside the group's diverse musical minds. McKee, guitarist Wayne Sermon and drummer Daniel Platzman all studied at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, and it showed on the gentle ballad 30 Lives, when Platzman pulled out a violin to give Reynolds a classical backing.
And here's a neat trick: On the crescendoing Cha-Ching (Till We Grow Older), Sermon — the cerebral Edge to Reynolds' chest-pounding Bono, chiming away beneath his Almost Famous mane —hurled a tambourine 20 feet over his head, straight into the waiting palms of touring keyboardist Ryan Walker. (Hey, these guys ARE from Vegas, after all.)
When Imagine Dragons finally ripped through Radioactive, with its rafter-rattling refrain ("Welcome to the new age! To the new age! To the new age!"), every member went back to the drums, pulverizing each skin with atom-bomb force. Fans were dancing in the aisles as the Sun Dome rumbled.
It was as if the band was saying: Go ahead, have fun with your little banjos. We've got our drumsticks, and we're taking them worldwide.
Welcome to the new age, indeed.