"You kind of realize that you're a lot smaller than you think," Imagine Dragons' frontman Dan Reynolds told New Orleans-based newspaper The Times-Picayune when discussing how the band had drawn inspiration from worldwide touring for the writing of their second album. It's a funny thing to say because in some senses the band is bigger than ever: Smoke + Mirrors (released on February 17 of this year via Interscope Records and Alex da Kid's KIDinaKORNER Records) debuted at Number 1 on the US Billboard 200. While some artists get lost in the success, Reynolds was genuine and direct, which allowed him and his band mates- guitarist Wayne Sermon, bassist/keyboardist Ben McKee, and drummer Daniel Platzman- to create a level of intimacy in their performance beyond what might be expected for a crowd of nearly 20,000 people.
After a video was projected on to a white curtain that initially hid the stage, Reynolds appeared- seemingly out of nowhere- at the end of a catwalk, and the band launched immediately in to "Shots" (the opening track on Smoke + Mirrors). He then sang the opening verse of the band's breakthrough hit "It's Time" a capella, with the rest of the band joining him later in the song.
While Reynolds said that life on the road has been a roller coaster recently - their have been both victories, like the recent legalization of same-sex marriage in the U.S., and tragedies, like the shooting in Charleston, S.C. earlier this month- Imagine Dragons showed optimism and enthusiasm in their set. "I believe that America will be better tomorrow," Reynolds said, before they played a touching cover of Alphaville's hit "Forever Young."
While they had high hopes for the show, their efforts seemed to be just as much about making those in the room happy as about being pleased with their own performance. "We don't have very high expectations for tonight," Reynolds joked. "We only hope that it's the best night of your entire life. "Forever Young" wasn't the only cover of the night: noticing a poster that a fan in the front row was holding that said, "I traveled 500 miles to meet my best friend", they did a quick rendition of "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by The Proclaimers. "That's for you- make your friendship last forever and ever."
"Polaroid", "I'm So Sorry", and "Gold" showcased the industrial-meets-electronic sound that Imagine Dragons explored on Smoke + Mirrors, with hard-hitting beats, while "Bleeding Out", "Warriors", and "Demons" showed a slower, more vulnerable side of the band with plenty of acoustic guitars. As per Reynolds' request, during "Hopeless Opus" fans took the opportunity to "clear your minds completely [and] be completely present in this moment", experiencing in full what was happening on stage and in the room. But while he started "On Top of the World" on stage with the rest of the band, Reynolds soon jumped off stage and ran up and down the aisles past fans. He somehow made his way through the crowd and back to the stage for "Friction".
Reynolds thanked Halsey, who he said is "an incredible artist", and Metric, who he said are "one of my all-time favorite bands", and reveled in the power of music's ability to connect humans with one another. "The reason we do this is to see you.... It's a pleasure to be with you," he said. Finally, their performance concluded with "I Bet My Life", "Radioactive", and "The Fall."
While they've yet to announce further tour dates beyond the current leg of the Smoke + Mirrors Tour, with such a welcoming crowd it's no doubt that Imagine Dragons' return to New Jersey is very eagerly anticipated. For more information, keep up with the band on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and their official website.