Fans can debate the skill, prominence and artistic relevance of musicians across genres and generations. And they do. Constantly.
But what's possible to universally agree upon is a band's ability to inject a collective sect of listeners with a pulse, emotion or energy that whisks them away from these hostile and argumentative times, if only for a set.
Subjective? Yes, but verifiable by a crowd awash in unbridled enthusiasm.
Case in point: Las Vegas's Imagine Dragons.
You may not believe the throbbing and rainbow laser-lit quartet to be the second coming of Led Zeppelin. But after its sprawling and relentlessly anthemic performance on Wednesday night inside Buffalo's packed KeyBank Center, it'd be egregious to not recognize the band's material to be impactful to the id of thousands in attendance.
Is it the multimedia spectacle? Is it the allure of theatrical and commanding frontman Dan Reynolds? Is it the band's endless array of recognizable radio hits, commercial jingles, or added percussion to tracks in need of a tribal prominence? Whatever it is, the Grammy-winning act can unite an arena of disciples, all eager to stand for what the Dragons are selling.
"You came here tonight to let go of school, work and politics, and just exist in this moment," said frontman Reynolds amid a heartfelt speech after the thump of opener, "I Don't Know Why." "So let's stand together tonight and share in this peace."
For the rest of the night, all in attendance did just that, singing the uplifting lyrics of the mandolin-infused "It's Time" or the Tom Petty tribute of "I Won't Back Down" along with the passionate Reynolds; mimicking the wild guitar antics of Wayne Sermon on the searing "Gold"; or bouncing between the instrumental duel of bassist Ben McKee and drummer Daniel Platzman on "Start Over."
Track after track, Reynolds exacted his effusive imprint on the delivery and digestion of each. He addressed his own struggles with depression before the soaring and imminently relatable "Demons." He perched atop a speaker to pump a pleading fist throughout the singalong verses of "Rise Up." Such vulnerability jostled with anger and jubilance throughout the set--and maybe that's the hook.
It's a reflection of where many are right now, in a daily battle of fluctuating attitudes and emotions amid a wildly unpredictable reality. At its best, that's what music can do.
And for the enraptured lot inside last night's KBC spectacle, that's what Imagine Dragons seemed to do, too.
Before the Dragons' set, early arrivals were treated to the mood and stylistic contrast of ebullient collective Grouplove and the rock-hop of the frenetic K.Flay.
With the former, the Boston quintet and recent Kerfuffle vets--featuring former UB student, guitarist and frontman Christian Zucconi--served up the same infectious zeal they unleashed on Canalside this summer, with the thrusting "Welcome to Your Life," the untamed declaration of "I'm With You" and lollipop bounce of "Tongue Tied" highlighting the set.
The latter featured black jumpsuit-clad artist born Kristine Meredith Flaherty, serving an impressive brand of hip-hop cadence aside keys, drums and guitar. Dark in its foundation but explosive in its delivery, the emcee spit such popular streamed singles "High Enough" and the snapping "Blood in the Cut."
Imagine Dragons with Grouplove
Wednesday night at KeyBank Center