By Brad Haynes
“Let’s take a journey back in time,” an unseen narrator announced as video screens demonstrated the evolution of earth at the opening of Imagine Dragons’ Central Florida stop at the Amway Center. It was a perfect opening for the Evolve Tour, as the band appeared onstage bathed in a prism of light resembling their latest album cover before launching into show opener “I Don’t Know Why.”
Wearing a jersey that said Otis on the front and Redding on the back (a tribute to the legendary soul singer who died at the age of 26), Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds told the audience, “We gather here tonight as one. As a unified people to listen to music. We will not be fearful. This is what makes music magical. It shows the true side of humanity.” And it was definitely a night of some incredible music by a band playing at the top of their game.
The audience was ready to participate as well, taking over on “It’s Time” every time Reynolds instructed them to. They were with him all the way.
While it was a show about the music more than the stage effects, there were some impressive sights to be seen, such as the stage bathed in an amber glow for an exceptionally percussive rendition of “Gold.” It was also the first song where Reynolds’ free form, and infinitely entertaining, dance style was in full effect. His moves are singularly his own and demonstrate his complete and utter abandon when under the spell of music.
The rap tinged “Whatever It Takes” was a real crowd pleaser, making full use of the overhead video projections and giving Reynolds a chance to let loose with the drum sticks.
“This is the song for the one I love,” married man Reynolds announced when launching into “I’ll Make It Up To You,” which also featured a great guitar break by Wayne Sermon.
“I need your help on this next one Orlando. It’s a song about living in the present moment as I struggle to do. Regret serves no purpose. It is the worst master of all. This is a song about letting go of all those things,” Reynolds said as he began “Yesterday,” allowing the audience to deliver the title portion of the song each time it came around.
A mixture of bubbles and confetti filled the air for the reggae tinged “Start Over,” allowing bassist Ben McKee a chance to shine.
Reynolds has spoken out quite freely about his own battles with depression recently and he did the same in the concert, making it clear that depression and anxiety were nothing to be ashamed of and that the stigman surrounding seeing a therapist to deal with these issues needs to end. It was the perfect segue for “Demons,” an Imagine Dragons song which takes on these issues.
“I’m So Sorry” had the majority of the audience moving with their own unique dance moves, but “On Top Of The World” brought on the biggest audience response of the night, as giant balloons descended upon the audience, thrilling the large number of children in attendance. In fact, it was quite interesting how many families were there, with both young children and parents singing along equally.
The action eventually moved to the opposite end of the arena for an intimate set starting with a tribute to Tom Petty with “Won’t Back Down” then moving nicely to a harmonically gorgeous rendition of “Shots.” It was simply beautiful, as was their acoustic rendition of “Amsterdam.”
Their return to the main stage began with their current smash, “Thunder,” where they were joined by K.Flay, an opening act for the tour, who battled it out vocally with Reynolds.
Reynolds then broke down the insanity of the old school encores, assuring the audience that they would stay on stage until they were completely finished.
“I Bet My Life” brought a bouncy energy, but “Believer” came with a slow build with the audience until Reynolds eventually completely owned it, channeling the zeal of a televangelist with his moves. Watching him was mesmerizing.
“My life, my love, my drive…that’s you,”Reynolds told the audience before “Walking The Wire.”
“Radioactive” served as a dramatic conclusion to a full evening with what is undoubtedly one of the greatest bands touring today. Imagine Dragons gave their Orlando audience their money’s worth…and more!