Imagine Dragons at The Olympia Theatre – Review and Photos
Imagine Dragons played the Olympia Theatre on Tuesday 20th of August.
Their set started with a blackout onstage which set the crowd off into deafening shouts of excited anticipation which only got louder as atmospheric purple sidelights came up, there were crashes of thunder and pulsating strobes as the band walked onstage to unbelievable noise from the packed out crowd. Every time they hit the drums it was like your heart stopped for a brief moment. The drums built up to a sudden, scream-filled, silence before the intro music soared and crashed amid the flashing coloured lights.
They went straight into an acoustic guitar opening for ‘Round and Round’. The audience shouted back the ‘Woah-oh-oh-oh’ as the lead singer beat an enormous bass drum centre-stage. The percussion seemed to shake the whole building and as they built up louder and faster the audience clapped the rhythm and periodically burst into scream of excitement and the electric guitar got right into your bones and made you want to jump around to the crashing finish.
Second track ‘Amsterdam’ had a slow, rhythmic opening on the drums and quirky, cutesy keyboard. There were intermittent drumstick counts accompanied with strobes and followed by crashes of music. The lead singer walked up and down the front of the stage and whipped the fans up front into a frenzy. The whole crowd sang along and jumped, hands in the air, as the coloured lights danced over the crowd and epitomised the raw energy of the experience. The song was a balance of contrasts between overwhelmingly loud power and quieter moments.
Between tracks the light show and some gentle free-styling on the drums kept the atmosphere going before morphing into ‘Tiptoe’ as heavy drumbeats came in. The staccato lyrics stood out from the instrumental and the band all sang together at the chorus. Every hand was in the air as the audience sang that they wouldn’t fall asleep, before the music crashed louder and the audience danced like people possessed. It transformed into a shout-back between the audience and the band when it got to ‘nobody else/can take me higher’, building in volume and energy before another wild chorus and finishing in a frenzy with an electrifying guitar solo and drumsticks flying!
Bathed in melancholy blue light, the lead singer took a moment to comment on how beautiful the venue was and to acknowledge the fans in each of the viewing areas, all of whom responded with shouts and cheers. He commented on the power of music, a theme he brought up several times throughout the set, the power that could make a group of musicians from L.A. feel so close and connected to a group of strangers from Dublin.
Slightly eerie oohs and funky bubbling effects started the next track, ‘Hear Me’, which, though mellowed, kicked into unbelievable energy with their usual style of pounding drums and snaking guitar lines and ended in beautiful musical cacophony. They introduced the next track as ‘a song about being poor’, written at a low point for band, two years ago when they wouldn’t have believed they’d be standing where they are today. Atmospheric cymbals and high notes set the scene before the audience began singing along to the opening of ‘Cha-Ching’; ‘what is with you?’. This was a dancey number whose quick lyrics were accompanied by a lot of clapping from the fans. There was one particular quiet moment in the instrumentals with just drumbeats and clapping before an otherworldly build-up of drums towards a wailing guitar solo to finish! This track was near overwhelming to watch, hear and be a part of.
The blackout afterwards afforded the fans a much needed breather from the exhilaration of the set so far. The 26 year old lead singer took this brief moment to talk about himself and his passion for music and how it helped him overcome his shyness. Reminding us that they were just regular people too and He hoped the music got inside of us and took us out of our heads the way it does for them, Finally, he asked ‘DO YOU FEEL FREE!?’ to an uproarious response. ‘Rocks’ carried us back into the music opening with a beautiful high harmony over plucking guitar shortly joined by rhythmic drums and a crazy, almost trad-style keyboard line that made you want to get up and dance. Lyrics seemed to be singing the musical sounds, ‘boom-ba-doom’ and ‘ah-ooh, ah-ooh’. The high notes teamed with the incredible festival-like, party-like music were a unique and striking combination. The song became like an onstage street party combined with the crowd atmosphere it generated and really did epitomise the theory of music connecting people when you could see the whole crowd move as one.
For the next song, ‘It’s Time’ the whammy on the base seemed to be vibrating from within your own core. The slow opening saw the audience singing the lyrics in a perfect unison that was incredible and powerful before the normal clap-clap-stamp opening came in. The lead singer even had a sort of clap-slap dance to beat the rhythm before the verse. It was a perfectly executed number, the kind of indescribably good music that is so incredible it almost hurts as it hits you right in the heart.
There was a short breather while the guitars free-styled a little and slowly led us towards, ‘Lay Me Down’, which they dedicated to a 17 year old friend named Tyler who recently lost his battle with cancer. It was a beautiful contrast to the previous track with a slow, quiet, melancholy opening, the vocals echoing around the room and the high notes piercing the crowd as their hands swayed in the air. The violin really transformed the sound of this shorter track and added a different flavour to this section of the evening.
There was a brief interim for a gritty electric guitar solo ‘til the lead singer danced his way over to the mic to start ‘Bleeding Out’ which again started with audience singing it before the drums shook the world once more and dominated the venue. The emphasis stayed on the drums and vocals which got under your skin in the most exhilarating way. The music was so enormous the venue seemed to expand to accommodate it until you felt like you were in an enormous stadium.
‘Demons’ kept the night going, another one that was a little quieter with an emphasis on the soulful vocals and where you could hear the audience singing along! He followed it with another easy sing-along moment by playing a soulful and mellow cover of Bob Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds’, which was unrehearsed and a special surprise just for Dublin! This was followed by some free-styling that combined Cold War Kids’ ‘Hang Me Up To Dry’, beat-boxing and a slightly reggae-ish section of ‘Stand By Me’.
Roaring guitar and heavy drums signalled the return to their own music and the effects deck was in full force and there was lots of echoing on the vocals. ‘Underdog’ brought the atmosphere up another notch as enormous balloons full of confetti were thrown out and bounced around the audience, shedding confetti on the screaming fans and the stage as some burst. The band helped throw the balloons to the upper levels and boxes while the drummer rocked out and the strobes flashed.
The incredibly upbeat ‘On top of the world’ kept the audience on a high, the confetti still fluttering from the last of the balloons, literally everyone smiling as the audience sang along. When the band counted us in everyone jumped on cue and it really did feel like we were on top of the world!
‘Radioactive’ signalled that the concert was gradually coming to the end, the opening harmony combined with the orange and green lightshow and smoke created the post-apocalyptic atmosphere that really went with the song. The whole track was a celebration in strobes and screams and after the line ‘all systems go…’ there was a silence then a build up with clapping and the whole band beating the drums faster and faster. To try to put into words the ending of this track and the atmosphere at its explosive conclusion would be doing it an injustice. It was indescribable.
Despite this much loved track seeming to be the very pinnacle of all that could possibly happen, the audience chanted in demand of ‘One more tune!’ (and Olé, olé, olé, olé for some unknown reason). The noise was completely deafening as the band returned to the stage and gave us a few final words of encouragement and empowerment before getting us to sing lines back and raise our fists to the sky. Every time he raised his fist we yelled back lyrics and raised ours in a response salute. A clap started with near tribal drums. There was a lovely moment of quiet acoustic guitar and violins with striking high notes before the fierce drums and clapping got the energy right back up to force for a prolonged finish of flashing lights and screaming electric guitar. The lead singer waved goodbye and blew kisses in every direction before joining the rest of the band on the raised drum platform to furiously beat the cymbals into oblivion before standing Christ-like facing the back of the stage as the final notes faded and the noise of the crowd swelled to fill the space it left behind. The final song left you tingling in every fibre of your being and exhilarated but devastated it couldn’t go on longer.
Imagine Dragons blew the audience away, no amount of playing their tracks at home on iTunes and YouTube could have prepared you for the level of intensity in the music. It was music that you felt, a music that was transformed and made ten times more powerful through the live concert experience. The whole evening made you feel, and left you feeling, vibrantly alive. Indescribable.
Review by Kat Clinch
Photos by David Doyle