Live review: Imagine Dragons bring 'Smoke + Mirrors' (and lasers) to Portland – OregonLive.com
Like old “Pokemon” episodes, Imagine Dragons’ “Smoke + Mirrors” tour should probably come with a seizure warning: if this many lasers have ever been used in an arena before, don’t tell Gene Simmons. The Las Vegas’ band’s new tour, which opened at the Moda Center on Wednesday night, was as overwhelming as their hometown, a wave of flashing visuals and drumming thunder.
The group played with enthusiasm and gratitude, with singer Dan Reynolds pausing between trips down the runway to thank the moderately full house. He revealed he’s dealing with a pair of autoimmune diseases and recalled the story of the band’s first Portland show a few years back — they were robbed after, losing $600, the sum of their tour earnings.
Budget is clearly not a problem now. Imagine Dragons are so maximalist, it feels almost progressive: at times, they’re a head-banging metal act; at others, they sound like Vampire Weekend and Coldplay hitting each other with bass drums. They have both dour, atmospheric ballads and giddy, aggravating anthems, their emotional temperature in constant flux. Like their peers in Alt-J, they sound willing to try anything, if at a considerably higher energy level.
That could be dizzying on Wednesday, though the band did its best to pace its quiet and loud moments, the light show climaxing along with the music — for “Radioactive,” the band’s radio anthem, they served up an array of beams worth of “Star Trek” warfare. Reynolds sang and arm-waved with energy, but he’s also a limiting factor: gruff and twangy, his growl was fine but his pushes into falsetto lacked strength and clarity.
There’s an incredible thing that happens sometimes at arena shows, where the connection between band and audience deepens into a palpable feeling: it’s when smartphone flashlights rise into the air and voices join effortlessly to fill in the words a singer leaves out. Imagine Dragons command that, but they also have a sprawling, baffling identity that all their firepower couldn’t home in on. Maybe the former strictures of singular genres, styles and moods are old-fashioned now, the remnants of a pre-iPhone, pre-ADHD, pre-Kanye West generation. Or maybe Imagine Dragons are just a young band that’s been given the chance to do whatever it wants, still sorting out exactly what that is. Let’s root for the latter.