Music as the Last Real Magic: Imagine Dragons Cast a Spell on Saratoga

Imagine Dragons brought the sound, look, and energy of a big-time rock show to Saratoga Springs on Friday, June 29 on their EVOLVE Tour. With Grace Vanderwaal opening, the group rolled into town with high energy, showmanship, and a unifying message of music as healing.

Grace Vanderwaal, the Upstate teenager who made it big on America’s Got Talent, opened promptly at 7pm, bopping onto the stage singing “Dancing in the Moonlight.” Families sang along with the upbeat and likable Grace, who chatted up the audience and reminded folks she was originally from the area. Playing the ukulele and dancing barefoot, she brought a wholesome and organic positive energy to the night.

The crowd had to wait a bit for Imagine Dragon stars to take the stage but were entertained by a slowly building classical score in the backdrop as folks filed in. Then, with steam, smoke, lights and a wall of sound, musicians were lifted on a stage above the main stage as they sang the very well known “Radioactive.”

With the energy of big-time stars and a larger venue, Imagine Dragons musicians danced, sang and transported their audience with hit after hit. Lead singer Dan Reynolds appeared shirtless, bringing screams and gasps from many in the audience as he sang and jumped across the stage. ‘High energy’ isn’t sufficient to describe the band’s excitement and mood as they welcomed their fans; dynamic and vigorous, the group members’ smiles were matched with the audiences’ powerful spirited responses.

Reynolds thanked the audience early in the evening for joining the band, specifying that music is the last real magic that unites people. In a climate of divisiveness, the American born band was clearly making a statement about acceptance and unity at a time when racism and hatred are more pronounced than ever.

The bands’ vivacious musicianship pounded through the night with a wall of sound paired thoughtfully with visuals to match. Reynolds acted as a conductor, engaging the audience in singing lines like “I’m never changing who I am.” Shaking his finger at the fans, squatting to get closer to the audience, and even rolling his arms toward him in a circle, he drew the magic directly from the young families, teens and older couples who screamed lyrics of hope and self-assurance.

The love song “Next To Me” seemed to speak directly to anyone who has loved and received unconditional love regardless of errors. Reynolds spoke of lovers and loners, reminding everyone that love needs to start with themselves before it is shared with another.

Guitarist Wayne Sermon’s riff screamed out his own intense talent during “I’ll Make it Up to You.” For a brief moment, we were back in the 1980s with guitarists whose talent could steal the entire show. Sermon’s control of his instrument and confidence in the vertical riff brought gasps from the audience; it almost didn’t belong in the pop feel of the night, except to remind us that Imagine Dragons is, in fact, a rock band.

After a beautiful rendition of “Mouth of the River,” complete with backdrop visuals of sunset, the group moved to a second stage embedded in the audience for three acoustic songs. This set, if not moving simply due to the closeness to fans, ended with a heart rendering “I Bet My Life on You,” a song about how parents give up much for their children with little in return, and yet everything in return.

As if all this emotion and movement wasn’t enough, the band returned to the stage for a powerfully intense version of “Demons.” With fans singing along, Reynolds spoke directly out about depression and seeking help rather than facing demons alone.

The fevered pitch of the concert had multiple peaks, including confetti and balloon drop punctuated moments during songs about love, appreciation, and the vitality of life. Finishing with “On Top of the World” and “Believer,” fans were mesmerized.

Imagine Dragons reminded us: music really is the last real magic in the world.

It unifies us. It reminds us to care for ourselves. It connects us to others. It reminds us to hope. And it stays with us, even after the last note is played.

Setlist: Radioactive, It’s Time, Whatever It Takes, Yesterday, Walking the Wire, Next to Me, Shots, I’ll Make It Up to You, Start Over, Rise Up, Gold, Don’t Know Why, Mouth of the River, Born to Be Yours, Amsterdam, I Bet My Life, Demons, Thunder, On Top of the World, Believer