Hanging by a rope dropped from The Joint's rafters, Dan Reynolds, like a tall, limby 5-year-old, swung himself over a hysterical audience while singing the chorus to "On Top of the World." This is what you could call a power move. You can't not be a platinum-certified artist and dangle gleefully over a 4,000-capacity show room in Las Vegas. In fact pitching it in a meeting, if that meeting isn't for Cirque Du Soleil, is wasting everyone's time. So you could imagine that, for Imagine Dragons, getting to hurl its frontman over such an audience carries the same weight as showing up to an awards ceremony in a pink-stretch Hummer.
The band's headlining show at The Joint felt like a natural and logical step in the strategic and Napoleonic conquering of most things under the pop umbrella. It's the second show of the completely sold out, North American wing of the Night Visions tour, joined by Australia's Atlas Genius and Nico Vega, for which Reynolds' wife Aja Volkman sings. Both were good, though not accustomed to such a sprawling stage, and not necessarily warmly welcomed by the audience, with its Imagine Dragons shirts and sporadically pissy attitudes and drunk-too-early dates. And while we'll always appreciate Volkman's absurdly captivating stage presence, the band wasn't quite performing with the gusto — and physicality — needed to make The Joint's floorplan work to its advantage.
And while there were times the same could be said for Imagine Dragons purely from a musical standpoint, they certainly pulled out the stops and added girth elsewhere — three-dimensional stage scenery (trees with mounted lights!), a pile of auxiliary drums for almost every band member, including a war drum the size of a hot tub center stage for Reynolds. They played the hits, entertained with material from their older EPs, even tried out some of the lesser-known tracks from the album. But all the stage ephemera didn't help during the quiet songs, when the production was tame, the volume low and the inattentive hum of the audience at a rude high.
But if this concert were a mass balance scale, and all those shortcomings were stacked on one side, "Radioactive" would be the weight to set things balanced. Say what you will about the band using Alex Da Kid and his rap proclivities heavily on Night Visions' second single. The live version was more Taiko, more drumline, than anything else. That hot-tub drum got a workout. A line of toms, additional bass drum and multiple floor toms the same. There was even a drum build, darkness and silence and a bass drop, which, yeah — a little cheesy — but fuck was it cool.
While Imagine Dragons could stand to spruce up its stage presence (Dan shouldn't be the only one working his ass off, dudes), this was a big jump. A quartet looking at home at The Joint isn't an easy task. But the guys did damn well for their first time. And it's not like it'll be the last.