With the Naked and Famous and Nico Vega
Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
March 12, 2014
There are few shows throughout rock history that have changed the face of music as we know it. The Beatles' infamous appearance on Ed Sullivan. The Rolling Stones at Altamont. Hendrix at Woodstock. Formaldehyde Junkies at the Mala. And on March 12, 2014, the face of true rock 'n' roll has been rearranged once again as Imagine Dragons wowed an audience who traveled from distances as far as Wilmar, Minnesota.
Although the Midwest has recently warmed up, everything was totally chill for the game-changing event at the sold-out Xcel Energy Center. As dusk approached, self-assured and decidedly stoked young men and women clad in American Apparel hoodies, plaid flannels, and other indie-streetwear flooded the streets, racing to see one of the most progressive and monumental shows ever to hit the area. E-cigs blazed as dedicated prog-rockers stood outside the arena, shuffling their feet and discussing online gaming. Some were even interviewed by a local cutting-edge news team, "On the Fly with Tony Fly."
Inside the arena was a different story, one of expanding minds and opening hearts. Young men and women sat on the carpeted floors of the Xcel Center in the general gate area, clustered in coves like goths outside of the Mall of America bathrooms. But there were no social classes here -- no goths, no losers, no cool people. Only fans of one of the greatest rock bands of our troubled times, all united in peaceful harmony.
Although the audience was young, the amount of children present proves that the average Imagine Dragons fan is an enlightened and advanced being -- as this is a serious band of serious musicians, most certainly only capable of being understood by adult intellectuals. Police officers stood in a cloud of funnel cake mist, staring at their phones -- no doubt texting for backup in order to contain the impending riot from the crazed crowd.
I entered the darkened and glorious innards of the Xcel in time to catch the first act, the moody and ambient, Nico Vega. Singer Aja Volkman entertained in a glittery garment, performing with the seductive ferocity of Cameron Diaz in 1994's The Mask. Feet thudded rhythmically to the sound of the powerful kick drum as Nico Vega dazzled the crowd like some sort of a hybrid of Bjork and Tool with the rock sensibilities of Led Zeppelin. Although skilled and adeptly showing their worldly ways using a noted reggae influence, their creativity proved too much for Dragonheads like myself as we yearned for a performance with less talent and a carefully crafted and easily marketed sense of emotion.
The Naked and Famous took the stage next and, boy oh boy, were they anything but naked. With their full sound and intensely moving sample tracks, they amped up the intensity in front of a backdrop of vibrant yellow and white strobe lights. Dark and rhythmic, they were a sort of brilliant hybrid of Bjork meets Tool meets Nine Inch Nails or maybe Led Zeppelin. Bringing an incredible aural spectacle of interwoven samples and echoing guitars, their bass guitar pounded and loosened up concertgoers' guts for some pelvic dancing. For a brief moment, it felt like the most intense sexual dance party for a new media marketing organization in downtown Woodbury.
One of the singers looked like a young and Irish Andrew Dice Clay -- a modern-day Adonis. Holding the audience captive with their intense stage presence, the Naked and Famous swayed with the sort of intensity only witnessed at the city's finest topless bars in North Minneapolis. As the stage lights evolved, it felt almost like Husker Du's "Pink Turns to Blue" was written solely about this mesmerizing performance.
After a lengthy break to allow the clamoring fans to purchase a $40 T-shirt available throughout the coliseum, the lights lowered and the crowd roared in excitement. The time was drawing near. The metallic tones of "Fallen" started up as a blue light illuminated gigantic bass drums. Each member took to the stage one by one, as the first guitar chords rang out with a tone reminiscent of indie-legends, Savage Garden. The crowd instantly became entranced as a full moon was projected behind the band, lighting up the stage as Imagine Dragons tore through the crowd like a fat man with a bag of fun-sized Snickers bars. It was beautiful -- like Muse on quaaludes, or maybe Tool combined with Coldplay mixed with Bjork.
In good spirits and clad in a black v-neck, stubbly lead singer Dan Reynolds addressed the crowd with brave enthusiasm, yelling, "MINNEAPOLIS" with the vigor and energy -- as if he had just won a Nickelodeon Kids' Choice award. This call of the winter moon ushered in their next opus, "Tiptoes." The crowd gleefully bouncing up and down on their soles. Gorgeous and textured, the song was clearly a tribute to Baltimora's "Tarzan Boy."
Proving they're not just progressive rock virtuosos but also ingenious entertainers, mid-song, Reynolds would regularly beat the large drums meticulously placed in the center of the stage. Adding further excitement, he'd also take advantage of the percussion placed on the left and right wings of the stage. When he had finished, he bravely would drop the drumsticks on the floor -- too immersed in real art to care. He also flashed a peace sign that sent numerous young children into tears of joy -- as they smiled with empathy, their braces glimmered like stars in the night. Watching Imagine Dragons is like if the Planetarium was a restaurant but the only food they served was Rock 'N' Roll.
But Reynolds was not the only engrossing star of the show -- members Ben McKee, Wayne Sermon, Daniel Platzman, and Ryan Walker each contributed back-up vocals and skilled whistling as they dutifully picked and plucked behind their respective instruments through tracks like "Who We Are" and "The River." Although Imagine Dragons continued to cast their spell on the crowd through songs like "Amsterdam" and "Cha-Ching," the highlight was seeing the excited faces of backwards-hat dads as the band pledged their love for classic rock while bravely conquering a cover of "Tom Sawyer" by Rush.
On March 12, a few young men from Las Vegas wove a rich tapestry of emotion and artistic excellence, cementing themselves into the music history books. Beams of fog and smoke illuminated the new rock gods as they rightfully ascended into the heavens with furious applause. In the end, it's odd that their name is Imagine Dragons, because truly, they are the ones who are doing the slaying. The show was radiant, stunning, luminescent, and enlightening. In a word, it was RADIOACTIVE.
Random Quotes and other stray observations:
"That dude has a cool band shirt, why cant I?"
I witnessed a gray panther grabbing the ass of middle-aged dad with his arm around a female. Imagine Dragons is not just the greatest concert of a 12-year-old's life, it's the preclude for a giant parental orgy.
Unfortunately I was unable to obtain a coveted $40 T-shirt, as a line was four people deep. Curiously, at a towering 5'8", I was the tallest person waiting in the line.
Who We Are
Cha-Ching (Till We Grow Older)
Tom Sawyer (Rush cover)
On Top of the World
Nothing Left to Say
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