RALEIGH -- Toward the end of Imagine Dragons' Wednesday night show at downtown Raleigh's Red Hat Amphitheater, lead singer Dan Reynolds paused to tell the crowd about how he'd grown up going to shows like this. It was an escape, he said, and a chance to dream.
Apparently, what Reynolds was dreaming about was someday becoming a drum major. Here he is now at age 25, frontman for one of the biggest rock bands in the world -- and on just about every song Wednesday night, he'd grab a stick or two and bash away on drums arrayed at the front of the stage. Even a broken right hand didn't stop him, although maybe it should have because his drum-work generally was not in the pocket; "Hear Me," in particular, was a real mess on the outro.
Extra percussion isn't inherently unusual nowadays (both of Wednesday night's opening acts also had their frontmen playing some drums), but Imagine Dragons still take it to a whole other level. Their extra front-of-stage drums were oversized, five and six feet across, and they were one of the few bands I've ever seen where the drum solo was a communal group effort. They even had an extra drum up in the rafters, which Reynolds accessed via wires that flew him up to bang away during the hit "Radioactive."
It was actually something of a feat to make Wednesday night's show happen at all. A band of strong storms moving through the area forced a 90-minute weather delay, which necessitated moving back the regular curfew to 11 p.m. But the headliners managed to get in a full set.
"Thank you for braving the elements with us tonight, you guys are awesome," Reynolds told the crowd as the band finally took the stage.
While Imagine Dragons come from Las Vegas, they certainly don't sound at all like the image that city conjures up. Their sonic blueprint roughly falls into arena rock along the lines of Coldplay, with the added element of electronic burble -- plus those drums, lots and lots of drums. Long on dramatic crescendos, textured guitar and anguished vocal mannerisms, it's music made for screaming along with, which the young-ish crowd was only too happy to do.
If there's a flaw to Imagine Dragons, it's that they don't transcend their reference points. "Demons" sounds more like Coldplay than Coldplay does, and the ambient beginning to "Rocks" brought Fleet Foxes to mind.
Still, as the show demonstrated, there's always a place for declarative arena rock that makes you raise your fist and yell. Imagine Dragons fill that bill nicely.