Thursday night’s kick-off concert by Imagine Dragons at the Armory in the NFL-affiliated Nomadic Live series had two contrasting storylines: You had an old building being tested in new ways, and a still relatively new band that wasn’t tested much at all.
Imagine Dragons played nearly an identical set to the one offered at Xcel Energy Center last October and all other stops on their latest tour. It’s a well-imagined show that the anthemic Las Vegas rockers have turned into a well-oiled rah-rah machine. They brought the same hi-fi video and lights production, too, and frontman Dan Reynolds even made a lot of the same do-gooder speeches about “bridging the divide in this country” and removing the stigma of mental illness.
The bigger unknown was the Armory, which had been downgraded into a crumbling parking garage but underwent an ambitious renovation over the past year and a half to become a full-time music and events venue.
“This is a beautiful venue,” Reynolds said. “We’re honored to be here for what I believe is their opening night.”
Reynolds was half-right. The Armory did host two electronic dance parties in December, so this technically wasn’t the first show. But it is indeed a beautiful venue. When its high, curved ceiling and art-deco façade gets lit up by the stage lights and a sea of bodies sways in unison on the long general-admission floor, the Armory offers a genuine wow factor visually.
Sonically, the room lived up to the test Thursday, too. The acoustics were a little boomy and bass-heavy (which could be great for those dance shows!), but otherwise the sound was trouble-free. Reynolds came through loudly and clearly on the microphone, as did the varying noise levels in Wayne Sermon’s needling guitar work. Logistically, the venue showed some nice perks, too, with ample tiers and corners to stand for good sightlines and relative ease to get close to the stage, plus plenty of quick access to bars and bathrooms (in that order).
A little extra pizzazz for Super Bowl week, both the Dragons and opening rap-rocker Machine Gun Kelly brought along surprise guests. In MGK’s case, it was current Rolling Stone cover boys Migos, who showed up physically if not mentally for a sleepwalking delivery of their megahit “Bad and Boujee.” The trio would also later appear unannounced but not even perform one verse at a dance party starring Cardi B at Prive nightclub.
Much more compelling was fiery rapper/singer K. Flay’s sudden arrival midway through Imagine Dragons' second of two big 2017 hits, “Thunder,” delivering the verse also featured in a remix of the song. It was really too bad we didn’t get more of Flay, especially since she sharply contrasted the boneheaded, bro-flavored machoness of Machine Gun Kelly.
Imagine Dragons did whittle down their usual setlist at show’s end, cramming their other hits “Believer” and “Radioactive” closer together. It sure didn’t seem like the three-quarters-full audience (about 6,000 people) felt short-changed, though. Based on this opening night spectacle and the second headlliner’s consistency, Friday night’s Nomadic Live show at the Armory with Pink looks like a much surer bet than the Patriots this week.
See photographer Leila Navidi's gallery from the Armory event.