CONCORD — Five or six years ago, as Imagine Dragons were first entering the ring as challengers to be one of the biggest rock bands in the U.S., one of the few things that would have put them over the top was a strong visual signature for frontman Dan Reynolds. As the only non-instrument-playing member of the Las Vegas rock band, Reynolds’ still had plenty of charisma, but nothing to do with his body other than banging away on an ever-growing collection of bass drums. By the final stop through the Bay Area supporting Night Visions, Imagine Dragons toured with taiko drums, and Reynolds performed aerial acrobatics while suspended from the roof a-la Pink and, yup, banging on a drum.
These days, luckily, the prevalence of Reynolds’ tom drums is greatly decreased, because on the band’s tour in support of third album, Evolve, he’s found something new to do: throw his body across the stage as energetically as possible. The frontman was a force of constant movement at the band’s show at the Concord Pavilion, the second time the Evolve Tour has passed through the Bay Area in the past year.
Let’s talk about that body, too. It was the most easily distinguishable thing on stage. While guitarist Wayne Sermon, bassist Ben McKee and drummer Daniel Platzman each held their own—demonstrating that the strength of Imagine Dragons is still its cohesiveness—it was Reynolds’ lack of a shirt, revealing abs upon abs (and pectorals, and biceps and triceps, etc.) that stood out.
It stood out above the pyrotechnics, the full-stage LED screens, the multiple rounds of confetti and the steam cannons. Luckily, it didn’t overshadow the songs.
Imagine Dragons kicked off with two of their biggest hits from Night Visions, “Radioactive” and “It’s Time.” The band was lifted to the top deck of a multi-deck stage (impressive for an amphitheater tour) before making their way down on ramps to each side of the raised stage. While McKee wore a pink suit, Reynolds was clad in sneakers and athletic shorts, which was appropriate given how much running and jumping he would perform throughout.
“It’s Time” was preceded by a Coldplay-esque intro, with Sermon sliding over a few reverbed notes on his guitar. Reynolds encouraged the crowd to sing along and then let fans handle the first part of the song, backed only by the guitar intonations and Platzman’s drumming.
The band would go on to perform the majority of Evolve, beginning with “Whatever It Takes.” The song got a considerably bigger reaction than the older hits, while Reynolds performed some high leg lifts, and then slowed it down to halftime for the bluesy “Yesterday.” New single “Natural” came next and considerably raised the stakes, with Reynolds posturing and flexing every available muscle while singing about being a natural. The song had the machismo of Lego Batman and the body-positive affirmation of “I’m Too Sexy.”
New cut “Walking the Wire” was another energy boost, while the following “Next to Me” was a surprisingly touching ballad. Next came four songs that we’ll call the “I’m really sorry, baby” segment. “Shots” told the story of Reynolds apologizing for hurting someone close to him. A cover of the Police’s stalker anthem “Every Breath You Take” came next, followed by “I’ll Make It Up to You” and “Start Over.” That’s four songs of apology and promises, right there. Luckily, the potential awkwardness was overshadowed by the catchiness of each song. “Start Over,” especially, had a really fun Toto vibe.
Another new song, “Mouth of the River,” was a later highlight: inspirational in a U2 sort of way. Imagine Dragons then made their way to a smaller platform at the back of the general admission floor and performed a short stripped-back set. They saved Night Visions hits “Demons” and “On Top of the World,” as well as Evolve cuts “Believer” and “Thunder,” for the encore.
America’s Got Talent winner Grace VanderWaal performed a short opening set of songs from her debut album, including “Burned,” “Florets” and “I Don’t Know My Name.” Although she was backed by a band, VanderWaal was at her best when her smoky voice and ukulele weren’t crowded out by the other instruments, such as on “Gossip Girl.” She described “Escape My Mind” as her favorite song from her record.
VanderWaal also covered Tyler, The Creator’s “See You Again,” and played her new single, “Clearly,” which is a reworking of Johnny Nash’s 1972 classic “I Can See Clearly Now.”