GULF SHORES, Alabama — Though they have two solid radio hits to their name, Imagine Dragons are relative newbies to the festival scene. You’d think they make moody music that’s best heard in a dingy rock clubs. But on the final day of the Hangout Festival on Sunday (May 19), the Las Vegas band busted their anthems wide open and helped to close the lid on a wild, wooly three-day beach party.
They may have been born in sticky-floor dives, but Imagine Dragons were more than up to a main stage slot, pulling a huge audience, who danced, sang and crowd surfed through an hour-long set from the personality-plus group. Towering singer Dan Reynolds was hampered by a broken hand in a temporary cast, but that didn’t stop him from bashing away at a huge kettledrum during the percussion-heavy opening of the band’s set.
The former MTV PUSH Artist of the Week band, who’ve notched two hits off their 2012 studio debut, Night Visions, with “Radioactive” and “It’s Time,” opened with “Round and Round,” which found Reynolds bounding all around the stage and stopping only to occasionally smack the drum, often on bended knee.
Reynolds is not unlike the American version of Coldplay’s Chris Martin: with a big personality and relentless positivity, he is clearly in love with his chosen vocation. “I broke my hand, but the show still goes on, it feels OK!” he told the crowd. Reynolds stood on a stage monitor to help set off a massive crowd arm wave, bouncing on his toes to the infectious dance rock groove of “Amsterdam.”
With a sound that reaches for the anthem stratosphere with almost every track, most of the songs in the set felt like encores. At one point, Reynolds hopped down to cast-bump a guy in the audience who also had a broken hand and then set off in perpetual motion for “Tiptoe,” which sounded like a nugget of 1980s radio candy thanks to syncopated beats and a spirally guitar solo.
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“Rocks” opened with a soca beat that would not be out of place at Carnival in Brazil and the enthusiastic, dancing response from the audience warmed Reynolds’ heart. “I don’t know if I’ve ever played a concert in a setting as beautiful as this,” he said, giving a shout out to all the “beautiful” bodies in the crowd packed onto the white sandy beach by the Chevrolet Stage.
By the time the band unleashed “It’s Time,” fans were ready to do their part, lustily singing the chorus over the song’s stripped-down mandolin and drum backing. Reynolds ran out into the crowd and lent his microphone to a few hardcores, raising his hand in triumph at the end after singing, “I’m never changing who I am.”
The set crashed to a close with an extended jam on “Radioactive,” which featured a low-end dubstep wobble beat and the most urgent vocals of the day from Reynolds. One of the darker songs in the band’s arsenal, it nonetheless had the crowd bobbing their arms and pointing skyward. The song built to a thrilling climax before the music dropped out and Reynolds paused before belting out the chorus one last time.
Names and reputations are often made with sets like this and Imagine Dragons not only gave their fans a killer beach party, they likely made some new fans with their pumped-up set by the sea (OK, gulf).
We’re live-streaming performances throughout the weekend on our official Hangout hub, bringing you interviews, behind-the-scenes access and on-demand performances from all your favorite artists on MTV.com, VH1.com, CMT.com and LogoTV.com. Highlights from Hangout 2013, will also air on MTV, VH1, CMT, MTV2, MTV Hits, MTV Jams, VH1 Classic and Palladia.