Imagine Dragons breathes fire at Rogers Place

“We will never be stopped!”

Take heed of the inspirational rallying cry from the Las Vegas band Imagine Dragons in the wake of the horrific mass shooting in their hometown. The show must go on.

They pretty much had to bring it up during their concert at Rogers Place on Tuesday night, especially seeing as Edmonton has recently experienced its first might-be-terrorist attack. Very early in the show, shortly after the opener I Don’t Know Why, singer Dan Reynolds launched into a speech.

“What a month it’s been,” he opened, shaking his head. He talked about what happened in Las Vegas and elsewhere, how important it is not to succumb to fear. He called for peace, and thanked the crowd “for being fearless” in coming out to the concert. Then he shouted, “Tonight we celebrate life!”

It sounded like there was general agreement among some 15,000 fans.

It’s risky business starting a rock concert on what some showbiz folk would consider a downer, but in this case there were things that needed to be said before the escapism could commence; the singer’s words rang true, and they added emotional weight to the rest of the show. The night turned out to be a breathless, spiritual howl that lived up to its promise.

You couldn’t ask for a better band with which to celebrate life. To say Imagine Dragons songs are life-affirming would be to sell them short. With an exuberant style and passionate performance, there were many “Up with People” moments in a perfect arena concert packed with perfect arena anthems. Did the fans sing along to everything? It sure sounded like it.

Everybody gets a drum!

The music was all over the place – a jaunty calypso groove in Start Over; deep blues bordering on heavy metal in I’m So Sorry; some street rap style in Whatever It Takes; edgy ballads like Bleeding Out with the band members doing their best impersonation of a string quartet on the “B” stage; and a crazy turbo-two-step in I Bet My Life. With bandmates Wayne Sermon on guitar, bassist Ben McKee and drummer Daniel Platzman proving themselves on back-up vocals on top of their instrumental prowess, there were moments that came off like a full-on gospel rave-up.

Where do you rack these guys in the record store? They need their own rack. Kids into this band might ask: What’s a rack? What’s a record store? Whats Up with People? Never mind. Imagine Dragons is its own record store.

Not content with one drummer to pound out the deep grooves that permeated the evening, everybody on stage had drums. These guys drummed their brains out. Sometimes all four at the same time. In Radioactive late in the show, the crowd was on its feet singing every word – “welcome to the new age!” – while Reynolds hammered one of those giant bass drums you see in marching bands. The sound was pure thunder, as was the song they did also called Thunder – a new one from the band’s latest album Evolve. In a quieter moment, they did a Tom Petty song dedicated to the late Tom Petty: I Won’t Back Down. There’s a message in there.

All of this genre-busting showmanship was put to the service of beautifully written songs filled with esoteric touches without ever losing sight of the quest for the perfect pop song. It’s an art in itself. Imagine Dragons has come close to perfecting it as the U2 for the new generation.