By Matt Arena
It’s always interesting to see indie bands get big. It happens at least once every year. In 2011, it was Foster the People and Young the Giant, bands who over the course of a couple months went from relative anonymity to becoming household names on the alt rock scene. 2012 is shaping up in a similar way and Imagine Dragons seem poised to be one of the breakout stars. To say they’ve blown up this summer is a massive understatement. They first appeared on many people’s radar last winter with the release of their EP, Continued Silence. Choosing ‘It’s Time’ as their first single, the song began making the rounds almost immediately. Charting quickly and picked up by seemingly every MTV affiliate, it wasn’t long before people started to take notice. But somewhere between spring and the end of summer, they jumped to a whole new level of popularity. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when this happened, though no doubt slots on some of the major US festivals helped, but it seemed as if suddenly everybody loved Imagine Dragons. The first shock came when they booked the intimate Santos Party House in NYC for their album release show, and then promptly sold it out in less than 15 minutes. Moving the show to the much larger Irving Plaza may have seemed like a pipedream, but they proved their headlining status by selling that show out as well. Soon the release of their first full-length album, Night Visions, shocked many by becoming the number one selling album on iTunes on its very first day. Suddenly everybody knew, and was really into, Imagine Dragons. This was no more evident than at Irving Plaza during their sold out album release show.
First up as support was local indie rock band Ghost Beach, who received a surprising amount of love from the crowd. Whether this was due to it being a hometown show or that Imagine Dragons fans previously were acquainted with the band’s music was hard to tell. But it didn’t matter much. After every song they were privy to deafening applause and screams from the audience. At times sounding like a very familiar mix of Reptar and Foster the People, their groovy indie rock sound definitely found a home with the incredibly receptive audience.
Even before Imagine Dragons took the stage there were screams of joy as a band member or two was seen fiddling with their instruments, and when they actually came out it was an overpowering wall of noise from the crowd. It was very surprising to see the type of audience they were able to pull so quickly. There are pros and cons to having a screaming audience of girls (the cons being the non-stop screaming part), but it still remains baffling as to how they managed to build such a strong audience in what seemed like a month. And with songs like ‘Radioactive,’ ‘On Top of the World,’ and ‘Its Time,’ it really isn’t all that mystifying as to how the band got so big. Incorporating parts of electronic, alternative, and even pop rock gives them a large musical net that clearly catches all kinds of ears. Fans from the barrier all the way to the stragglers in the back were dancing and singing along to every word. That’s pretty damn rare at a band’s debut album release show. Having just seen Imagine Dragons earlier at Firefly Festival, they seemed to lack the punch they had previously, whether this was due to the venue itself or the recent vocal problems lead singer Dan Reynolds has endured is still unclear. Even without the punch-in-the-face volume of sound, they still were stellar. At times it was hard to hear Dan’s vocals as the mass of people were more than happy to shout the lyrics out at almost every occasion.
‘Radioactive’ is a master work of modern indie rock, and with hints of electronic, it’s one of the best songs of the year thus far. When played live, it’s even better. Slamming on a bass drum bigger than himself, lead singer Dan Reynolds helps bring the song new life. With a chorus so catchy it’s almost impossible not to scream along, the crowd at Irving Plaza definitely felt the same. Of course that can be said of nearly every song they played, as the crowd didn’t seem to relent even for a minute. The band always comes across as incredibly appreciative, which was evident by the smiles and disbelief on their face as they were playing a sold out show in one of New York City’s legendary venues. It’s been less than a week since the album came out and they’ve already surpassed 100,000 likes on facebook and been nominated for a MTV VMA for Best Rock Video of 2012. They’ve come on strong the second half of the year and are going to be hard to deny as the breakout artist of 2012 by the time December rolls around. But this is just the beginning as it seems the sky is almost literally the limit for this Vegas alt rock quartet.