Imagine Dragons w/ Macklemore & Kings Elliot• August 5, 2022• Rice- Eccles Stadium
Reviewed and Photographed by Kevin Rolfe
The summer of 2022 will be remembered by music fans as the summer when concerts were back in full force. Sure concerts started rolling in by mid-summer 2021. But this summer it seems every band ever is on tour. Most days have multiple options for live music fans to choose from. Often it’s a very difficult choice that has to be made. I have found myself making difficult decisions on a daily basis trying to figure out who I should see. But on August 5, 2022, there was only one choice. The opening night of Imagine Dragons Mercury Tour w/ Macklemore and Kings Elliot.
How often does Utah have stadium shows? U2 has had a couple. Garth Brooks has had a couple. Stadium of Fire happens every year. But I’m not sure that counts. One of the LoveLoud Festivals was in a stadium. Who else am I missing? I’m sure there’s more. But not many. It’s a huge deal when a stadium show takes place here. And while they’re from Las Vegas, Imagine Dragons concerts in Utah always feel like a homecoming show. They cut their teeth in Provo at Velour Live Music Gallery and grew to super stardom right before our Utahnian eyes. So Imagine Dragons playing Rice- Eccles Stadium was a must see.
The night began with London-based singer-songwriter, Kings Elliot. I can’t imagine the feeling of opening a stadium tour. The anxiety and anticipation must have been wild. On one hand, the stadium wasn’t full, but on the other hand, put all the people already inside Rice- Eccles Stadium and any other venue in Utah would have been too small to hold the crowd. Elliot walked on stage, joined only by keyboardist, Summer Swee-Singh. They received a warm greeting from the crowd. Kings Elliot smiled from ear to ear. My hope is the accepting audience calmed any nerves she might have had. If she was feeling any nerves, it was impossible to tell. She seemed very comfortable and confident on that massive stage.
Kings Elliot’s set wasn’t long, but I felt like she made her mark on the show. I loved her voice. Those vocals matched with the melodic sounds of her songs mixed so well. An exciting highlight was Kings Elliot performing her single, “Butterfly Pen” live for the first time at this show. It was pretty exciting to get the live performance debut of the song. I looked around the audience and it seemed like many of them felt honored to get to hear it first. With Utah embracing Kings Elliot, my hope is it will convince her to come back and do her own show. I think she made a lot of fans that night.
I’ve been told that Macklemore puts on a good show. But I guess I never stopped and considered what that actually meant. “A good show” is not inaccurate. But it doesn’t do what Macklemore does on stage justice. Up until this point I had never seen him live, and after this, how can I see him live any other way that on a huge stage in a big stadium. His music and his energy and his performance are suited for this setting.
Macklemore took the stage in a kelly green suit to a now almost filled Rice- Eccles Stadium. He was joined by an ensemble of musicians, and dancers. The crowd, especially the general admission pit was going crazy. He opened his set with his 2022 single, “Chant” which was quickly followed by his mega hit, “Thrift Shop”. People were so into this song. Everywhere I looked people were dancing, singing along, and having a great time despite how how it still was. Macklemore, a native of Seatle mentioned he knew it was going to be a hot day. But he said, “Regardless of altitude or climate. It doesn’t matter. You came to party!”. And throughout the set of great songs created by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, people did party. People felt it with “Same Love”, “White Walls” and “Downtown”.
Following that stretch of favorites, Macklemore asked the audience if he could play a song for the very first time. The crowd went wild. Another song was played live for the first time at this show. I loved the response from the audience. There comes a point in a musician’s career when their fans no longer want to hear new songs. They want the “hits”. So I thought it was great that the crowd was so excited to hear an unreleased and up to this point never performed live song. After that response, Macklemore then told the crowd he needed them to do one thing. “I need you to dance!” When he performed “Maniac” for the first time, the audience definitely obliged. The entire venue was dancing.
They didn’t stop when he performed “Glorious”. And when he closed with “Can’t Hold Us” you would have thought it was the last song of the night. The crowd was so into it, and people went nuts when Macklemore made his way down to the railing to party with the pit. I was so impressed with Macklemore’s band, his performance, and the way he set things up perfectly for Imagine Dragons to follow.
The sun had finally set, the roadies have left the stage and the anticipation had reached it’s highest point of the night. The fans were ready, photographers were ready, and as I looked to the side stage area I could see Kings Elliot looking on, ready with the rest of us for this big opening night headlining set from Imagine Dragons.
The band took the stage and started playing. Suddenly frontman, Dan Reynolds appeared at the end of a very long catwalk. The roar of the crowd matched the volume you might her at a Utes Football game in this very same stadium. It was deafening. The show started with yet another song that I believe had never been performed live with, “Younger”. Next things were turned up even more with “Radioactive”. I would never have expected “Radioactive” to be the second song. It’s such a huge hit for Imagine Dragons. But it was the perfect spot for the song, and they have plenty of hits to still pull from for later in the show.
Everyone in attendance was given a wristband upon entry to the stadium. I have seen what these are for but out of curiosity I asked some fans in between sets if they know what they were for. They weren’t sure. Well they found out during “Radioactive”. All of the wristbands lit up and were syncd somehow to the music. They were an amazing asthetic throughout the whole show. I’ve seen this effect used at Coldplay and Taylor Swift concerts. It’s a hit every time. Seeing a huge stadium lit up is an amazing visual. These light up wristbands were not the only visual effect on display at this concert.
Pyrotechnics, fireworks, and an abundance of confetti would all make appearances throughout the concert. There were even enormous beach balls or balloons (not sure which) that filled the stadium floor during “Top of the World”. This show was visual overload in the best way possible.
All of the lights and fireworks are great, but what everyone was truly there for was the music. These songs. People love these songs. On a personal note, most photographers were allowed to shoot the first three songs. Then we were asked to return our cameras to our cars. Imagine Dragons were very kind to issue me a parking pass. So I was able to get to my car put my camera away and get back inside the stadium without mission too many songs. In fact I only missed seeing two of the songs performed. Unfortunately those songs were “It’s Time” and “Thunder”. Those might be my favorite two Imagine Dragons songs. But such is the life of a concert media member.
While is was a bit of a bummer to miss those, I was still able to hear them, and in a different way it was really cool to hear how the crowd was reacting while I was outside of the stadium. When I was returning to Rice- Eccles, I walked past Kings Elliot and had a moment to compliment her on her set.
The band sounded fantastic. For the most part they stayed on the main stage with only a few exceptions. Wayne Sermon made his way out to the end of the catwalk and was lifted in the air whilst playing a shredding guitar solo. There was a point in the show where the entire band perched up at the end of the catwalk for an acoustic set. Their stripped down version of “I Bet My Life” was one of my favorite songs of the evening.
When it comes down to it, Dan Reynolds really is the driving force of the show. His passion, his stage presence, and the emotion he puts into his performance gave this show life. He shared that he woke up not feeling great. I believe it was a sinus infection and that he was struggling with his voice. He relied on the audience for strength. He stated, “My whole heart’s in it. My voice isn’t giving me 100 but it’s going to be there. The show goes on. I will say if there was ever a place to have my voice be like this, it’s a place in Utah like this. Where people are singing with me. I appreciate this.”
There were a few moments where he seemed to struggle, where his voice was thin, or gravelly, but for the most part he sounded great. Imagine Dragons played well over two hours and his voice seemed to be strong throughout. Reynolds mentioned towards the end of the show this started off as a hard evening for him. “You quickly gave me one of the best shows I’ve ever been a part of. Thank you so much for this. Thank you for standing by us for so many years.
So much of what makes an Imagine Dragons concert so impactful are the messages that are laced throughout the show. Reynolds seemed to become emotional on a number of occasions as he brought up the grief of losing someone, or the conflict in Ukraine. He dedicated “Demons” to those anyone who has dealt with heavy depression and anxiety. “You are not alone. We need you to hold on. We need you to stay with us. The best thing I ever did my entire life was go see a therapist.” He shared that life is always worth living. “We need each other! Stay with us!” It was a powerful moment in the show. I could see people around me also brought to tears.
Messages like that have impact and I respect Dan Reynolds for his honesty about his own struggles and vulnerabilities. None of these moments were distractions to the entertainment factor of the night. If anything they added depth and perspective to a really great evening.
The much anticipated “Believer” was finally performed as the second to last song. I didn’t think the crowd, the band, or the electricity in that stadium to go up any higher. But I was wrong. People were screaming the words back to Reynolds. Every emotion of that song was felt. The confetti reigned down, the fireworks shot up, and the wrists were glowing. But nothing matched the powerful force that was produced by this audience. It was an amazing night. I don’t know how any other tour stop will match opening night.
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