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COVER STORY: What Happened in Vegas!

When Imagine Dragons teamed up with Corning Gorilla Glass to launch the band’s fourth studio album ‘Origins’ on their home turf

Nirmika Singh Jan 08, 2019

Imagine Dragons perform during The Origins Experience concert at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, November 2018. Photo: Xavi Torrent/Redferns/Getty Images

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In the Imagine Dragons scheme of things, even an intimate invite-only concert features no less than a thousand people. But that’s probably not surprising when your global fan following runs into millions. The four-member band launched their fourth album, Origins, at a special show on their home turf of Las Vegas recently. Performing a career-spanning set list amidst their biggest supporters, the band proved why they’ve become the de facto resurrectors of rock today.

Ready to rock

The Dragons debuted their euphoric, aphorism-loaded brand of rock almost a decade ago, at a time when the genre’s rapidly diminishing command on global charts was already a hard reality. If their debut single “It’s Time” (featured on the 2011 eponymous EP and on their first studio album Night Visions in 2012) struggled to chart in the year of its release, by the next year it had already entered the Billboard Top 100 Songs year-end list at number 91. For a band that was still finding its groove, by 2013, they climbed up to the number 3 spot with “Radioactive,” enjoying the company of serial hitmakers Macklemore, Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry et al. Imagine Dragons had arrived!

Since then, the band has consistently ruled the top spots, releasing material at just the right intervals lest fans move over. The kind of material that is so resolutely anthemic in music and lyrics that it almost always outlives the standard success graph. It’s no surprise then that the 2018 year-end Billboard Top Rock Albums features their first two albums, Evolve (2017) and Night Visions, at the number 1 and 4 spots, respectively.

The Origins Experience

Origins might come hot on the heels of Evolve””in less than year””but the Dragons maintain that they felt the time was right. “I think it’s awesome to get new music faster,” said drummer Daniel Platzman in an exclusive interview with Rolling Stone India at the launch.

It almost seems that the Dragons want to declare, with the release of a full album this soon, that there’s really no end to their genre-mixing skills. That they’d rather chase prolificacy than purity. After all, can fans ever grow tired of march-band bravado and rhetorical rock? And who cares if you’re even labeled a mishmash of Coldplay, Arcade Fire, the Killers and Mumford & Sons? If you’re able to give a cross-section of rock, pop and EDM fans a good time, whether through records or high-energy shows, that’s pretty much all that matters.

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It was moving to watch the Dragons express gratitude to everyone from the music professor who discovered their talent to the PR agent who worked relentlessly to get the band press in its early days.

All this was more than apparent at their meticulously curated Origins launch gig, presented in collaboration with Corning Gorilla Glass, the makers of the famed Gorilla Glass. Held at the swanky Cosmopolitan Hotel in Vegas, the invite-only gathering comprised fans that had won online contests, and the band’s friends and family. It was preceded by a private listening party where the 12-track album was played out in its entirety for the very first time for a select few””the band had been teasing fans for a few months, with four songs from the record, “Natural,” “Zero” (from the OST for Ralph Breaks The Internet), “Machine,” and “Bad Liar” out as singles in the run-up to the big release.

The thing about a Dragons album, when you’re listening to it cover to cover, is that you can never predict its sonic spectrum. Frontman Dan Reynolds’ songwriting can be exhilarating one moment, and exhausting the next. The music can lift your spirits and also leave a pit in your tummy. Sometimes during the course of a single track! Critics might call this caprice the band’s biggest curse but if their ever-expanding followership is anything to go by, genre-fluidity has only served them well all these years. On Origins, the band whip up bangers (“Natural”, “Machine”) and ballads (“Stuck,” “Birds”). They even add some folksy charm for good measure (“West Coast”, “Real Life).

The Las Vegas show, titled ”˜The Origins Experience,’ was sort of a tribute gig where the band celebrated their oeuvre in the most heartwarming way possible. Kicking off the set with “Machine,” the band rolled out a mix of old hits and most of the material from the new album. During the concert, the members took individual turns to thank their allies, and literally put them in the spotlight. It was moving to watch the Dragons express gratitude to everyone from the music professor who discovered their talent to the PR agent who worked relentlessly to get the band press in its early days. For the final two songs, “Destination” and “Radioactive,” the band brought on stage former members Brittany and Andrew Tolman, turning the launch gig into an all-star extravaganza. Reynolds’ full-throated frontmanship is probably the band’s biggest onstage asset, and together with a shape-shifting, blitzy sound, it made that Las Vegas gig quite a memorable night.

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When Tushar Lall of Indian Jam Project Met the Dragons

Tushar Lall with the band at the Stratosphere Tower, Las Vegas, ahead of The Origins Experience show.

The Mumbai musician was chosen to produce an Indian classical cover of “Believer” and said:

“As a part of the collaboration with Corning Gorilla Glass, I flew down to Las Vegas recently to meet Imagine Dragons and hear what they had to say about my adaptation of “Believer.” The best part about our interaction was seeing them appreciate Indian classical culture. They are very well-informed about our music and also happen to be big fans of Ustad Zakir Hussain! It was an overwhelming moment for me when they said they were impressed by my version of “Believer”, and that it was an honour to have me amongst them! Who knew these global superstars were such nice and humble musicians! They went to ask me about my own composition process and in the end, our meeting was nothing but just two artists sharing insights and love for their respective cultures with each other! More than that, the entire experience was very well-crafted for an Imagine Dragons fan”” after our interaction, a few of us, got a chance to share a ride with the band to the iconic Stratosphere Tower and enjoy dinner and drinks. The day ended with an insane concert where the Dragons delivered a stunning performance for all the fans who flew down from different parts of the world to see them. All of this along with the charm of Vegas really added to this trip being one of the best experiences of my life!” 

Watch Lall’s cover of “Believer” below: 

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