Imagine Dragons offered something for every mainstream taste Thursday at a packed Allstate Arena. Channeling commercial trends from the past five years, the Las Vegas band's innocuous 95-minute concert came across like a hits-formatted radio station shuffling between Britpop, dance, roots rock, new wave and time-filling ads. Padding its set with random instrumentals and extended arrangements, the group displayed the look of an act unprepared to headline large venues.
The quartet had a meteoric rise. Shortly after releasing its debut album in 2012, Imagine Dragons went from relative unknowns to becoming one of the few artists in the digital-download era to sell millions of records. Multiple publications trumpeted the group's breakout status, a claim bolstered by international smashes such as "Radioactive." The single recently won a Grammy, which spurred Queens of the Stone Age leader Josh Homme to publicly insult the band, further contributing to a divide between fans and detractors.
Currently, in the case of Imagine Dragons, such criticism is no match for rafter-reaching anthems and sticky choruses. Supported by the crowd's mass sing-a-longs, the group could've gotten away with almost anything Thursday. In many ways, it did. Multiple drum solos, a middling guitar interlude and an overwrought bass solo evoked 70s prog-rock excess. A flaccid cover of Rush's "Tom Sawyer" witnessed singer Dan Reynolds' voice squeak and a rhythm section sound on par with video gamers trying to follow along to Rock Band. Click tracks became audible when the band failed to maintain the proper tempo.
None of the shortcomings seemed to matter. Neither did Reynolds' awkward attempts at dancing. Wearing a shirt that exposed his midriff if he lifted his arms or punched the air, the front man turned vague lyrical refrains into grand proclamations of optimism ("Reach, it's not as bad as it seems"), anxiety ("I cannot breathe") and struggle ("I wipe my brow and I sweat my rust") that were embraced as empowering truths. While catchy in spots, Imagine Dragons' music subscribed to a similarly indistinct formula.
Many songs merely replicated their influences. The synthesized pulse and rushing hook of "Hear Me" mirrored any number of Killers tunes. Exaggerated drama on "Amsterdam" duplicated Coldplay's go-to template. "It's Time" mimicked Mumford & Sons' revivalist folk-rock. The self-importance and soaring nature of "Nothing Left to Say" simulated modern U2.
"They say we're crazy," Reynolds repeated on "Who We Are." But the statement—and danger it implied—rang hollow. As evidenced by its performance, Imagine Dragons remain in search of an identity.