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Imagine Dragons commands crowd with energy, commitment

The band has been called Coldplay-lite, U2 sans the edge, and Mumford and Sons minus the banjos and plus the strident drum march motifs that made Arcade Fire more than the one-hit wonder it was probably meant to be.

But Imagine Dragons can command an audience, it must be said.

Granted, the audience the band commanded at First Niagara Center on Wednesday was roughly 25 percent away from a full house. But those who came, came with a fire in their hearts, one that they were eager to translate as exuberant screaming and unflagging fist-pumping.

It was a rousing and perfectly executed show that Imagine Dragons offered Wednesday, but was it one that might be said to put the naysayers to rest? No.

Imagine Dragons actually is Coldplay-lite, U2 without the edge, and Mumford and Sons minus the banjos. The band’s music is hackneyed, overwrought, and cliché-ridden.

However, that didn’t actually make it devoid of worth on Wednesday. Because of the efforts of frontman and vocalist Dan Reynolds, Imagine Dragons managed to make a dent in the arena-rock edifice. Reynolds was consistently fantastic, even if what he was doing wasn’t all that fantastic.

Let me explain.

Reynolds has all of the energy of a Bono in peak form, even if Imagine Dragons doesn’t have a single anthem that might reasonably spar with U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

Reynolds can almost make you believe that his band matters as much as Radiohead, even if there is no actual music being performed that comes within a mile of being experimental, daring or groundbreaking.

Reynolds, on Wednesday, at least, also managed to cast himself as a voice of the open-minded, liberal and rebelliously patriotic. (This last bit, premised on a riff on the Charleston tragedy, color-blindness, and the need for empathy, did not appear to be anything other than genuine.)

Imagine Dragons may not be unique, but throughout Wednesday’s show, the band proved itself capable of summoning a rousing, anthemic, and sometimes downright moving wall of sound.

It was the vocals that did it, much more than anything else. Reynolds has a pleasing upper baritone that he employed in earnest, joined often in harmony by drummer Daniel Platzmann. When this happened, as it did during the material from the new “Smoke + Mirrors” album, the emotional tenor ran high. “Shots,” “Trouble,” “Polaroid,” “Gold” – all were delivered with significant investment, and all thrilled the crowd.

When guitarist Wayne Sermon, bassist Ben McKee, and touring multi-instrumentalist Will Well joined in on harmonies, Imagine Dragons suggested that, should it be able to truly carve out a place of its own on the modern pop-rock landscape, the musical payoff could be substantial indeed.

As it stands at present, however, Imagine Dragons sounds like a completely incredible cover band with its focus set on the anthemic arena-pop of the early 2000s. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. But maybe it is.

Imagine Dragons didn’t skimp on the opening acts. Halsey, a New York-based electro-pop siren, seemed to leave the crowd spellbound with her set of noir-ish siren songs, backed by a keyboardist and drummer. The singer’s sensuality and pitch-perfect singing carried the opening set.

Canadian outfit Metric – no stranger to Buffalo audiences – came dangerously close to blowing Imagine Dragons off the stage. Led by singer Emily Haines, the group married frenetic new wave with grandiose arena rock in a wholly pleasing and arena-commanding manner. If you caught the band at Mohawk Place about a decade back, you’re probably not surprised to hear this.

email: jmiers@buffnews.com

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