Monday 9 November 2015

Gig Review: Imagine Dragons at The O2

When American rock band Imagine Dragons first announced details of their 2015 Smoke & Mirrors tour, I was gutted to miss out on tickets to one of the dates on the UK leg of the world tour. Luckily for me, as the first London show sold out, they added another date on the 4th November. Even luckier for me, I was right in there to grab tickets as soon as they went on sale.

Imagine Dragons are a band still riding on the success of their debut album. Night Visions, first released in 2012, propelled the boys to international fame. Since its release, the album has sold more than 2.5 million copies in the US alone, earning double platinum status. Their second album, Smoke & Mirrors, debuted at number one in both the UK and US, despite receiving somewhat less acclaim than Night Visions.

Smoke & Mirrors is more experimental than Night Visions, which was a lot more pop-rock focused. Experimental albums have a tendency to be loved by the artist and the critics, but hated by fans. Luckily for us, Smoke & Mirrors maintained enough of the sound that we love to make it a worthy follow-up album.

So, of course, along with many other fans, I was very interested to see how they transferred two massive albums into 90 minutes of live show.

Considering Imagine Dragons are primarily a rock band, you expect a loud gig. Lots of drums and guitars and headbanging fans are par for the course. Now, I'm usually more of a pop kind of girl, so without a doubt this was the loudest gig I've been to yet (if you don't count the ear-splittingly shrill screams of teenage girls at a boyband's show). Most of the crowd were standing, so it was quite nice to be in the seated section - still near the stage, but with a seat, room to breathe, and probably a better view.

The opening act were fellow rock band Sunset Sons. For a support slot they played quite a long set, which really helped get the crowd going. Although they resembled a bunch of long-haired Aussie surfers, I liked a couple of their songs. However, I don't think the backstage team had got the sound mixes right as lead singer Rory's voice was distorted and quite hard to distinguish. Still, I'm sure this wouldn't be a problem on the studio versions.

After a short wait, it was time for the main event. For once a band actually came on stage at the time they were meant to - so kudos to them for that!

Exploding onto the stage, which predictably was decked out with mirrors and smoke machines a-plenty, the band launched straight into their set. They played a mix of the biggest hits from Night Visions alongside, surprisingly, some of the lesser known tracks from Smoke & Mirrors. Some of the songs were performed as stripped-back versions which was nice to hear, yet others included the full sound you expect from Imagine Dragons.

Lead singer Dan Reynolds also did a quick solo cover of an excerpt from Alphaville's 'Forever Young' in-between songs. However, the song everyone wanted to hear was 'Radioactive', which is their biggest single over here in the UK. The band kept us in suspense, leaving it to the very end to play... though it was definitely worth it when they did. Full of solos, additional drums, and sing-along's from the crowd, it was an undeniable highlight.

I was a little bemused by Dan's wardrobe choices - he was wearing a cropped shirt that was probably a fashion statement but I just thought it looked weird! He also gave a rather long-winded speech about the current migrant crisis before performing their charity single 'I Was Me,' which I'm sure is all for a good cause but isn't exactly what you want to hear at a gig (hence the mass exodus for a trip to the toilets at that point!) However, I did think it was nice that he recognised two superfans in the audience and pulled them up to the stage to meet the rest of the band. It shows how grateful they are to their fans, a message that was repeated throughout the night.

Are you a fan of Imagine Dragons? Have you been to see them live? Let me know in the comments below!

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