If Major League Baseball wanted Saturday’s All-Star Game concert at TCF Bank Stadium to feature a safe, middle-of-the-road, soft-serve-vanilla rock band you can bring home to Mom — and to corporate sponsors — then it scored a home run with Imagine Dragons.
However, if MLB wanted a concert experience that represented the high level of talent of the All-Star Game itself and would long be remembered, then the Imagine Dragons show wasn’t even in the same ballpark.
Of course, Saturday’s concert did not actually take place at a ballpark — and that might have been to its benefit. With this event and U2’s 2011 tour stop, the Gophers football palace scored big as the Twin Cities’ best mega-size concert venue. It’s more open and less acoustically troubled than Target Field. Since U2 played the Bank, the stadium also has added beer sales and the new Green Line light-rail train to the mix.
The 27,000 fans on hand Saturday certainly enjoyed both those new enhancements. Or at least the horde of revelers who drunkenly, loudly sang the one-word chorus to Imagine Dragons’ hit “Radioactive” on the LRT after the show had clearly taken full advantage of them.
Kudos to MLB for treating Twin Citians to such a giant, well-produced, free concert. Bravo also for booking a local act to open the show — not just any Minnesotan act, either, but Atmosphere, a DIY hip-hop group that is relatively clean and harmless in rap music terms, but felt edgy and extra flavorful in the context of Saturday’s event.
So many things were right about Saturday’s show, it enhanced how wrong and lackluster Imagine Dragons seemed for such a major event.
A Las Vegas band that played the 900-person Varsity Theater a few blocks away just 16 months earlier, Imagine Dragons has not grown up artistically the way it has blown up commercially.
Saturday’s concert was a modest reworking of the quartet’s five earlier shows behind its one and only record, the shortcomings of which get more apparent with each bigger show. Imagine Dragons’ songs sound like pieced-together snippets of opposing noises and tattoo-ready, short-mantra lyrics more often than well-structured songs.
For every big singalong moment — “It’s Time” proved the ID fans knew more than one-word chorus of “Radioactive” — there were just as many lulls. The audience talked heavily over what should have been the show’s most tender tune, “30 Lives.” The band did its own bit of musical blah-blah-blahing in “Rocks,” stretching out a flimsy song into a longer, even thinner jam. One or two of the band’s dueling-drummer montages — where frontman Dan Reynolds picks up sticks and channels Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” — would be good in a show, but five or six is simply too much.
There were at least two updates from the prior ID shows: The band added its song from the new “Transformers” soundtrack, “Battle Cry,” which boasted a generic heaviness and similarly lackluster lines (i.e., “Stars are only visible in darkness”). Also, it coincidentally threw in a cover of U2’s “With or Without You,” which proved Reynolds is a capable vocalist but has yet to carve out his own personality.
“We don’t always agree on politics, but this is a land I love. I love America,” Reynolds said at one point, proving as down-the-middle harmless between songs as he did during them.
In its 35-minute opening set, Atmosphere crammed in 10 songs, including one oldie (“Party for the Fight to Write”), two new ones (the opener “January on Lake Street” and “Kanye West”) and one in-betweener that had local pride booming (the Minnesota love song “Shhh”). The group’s frontman, Slug, seemed a little confused about the show’s exact location — he referred to it being in St. Paul, the border for which was a half-mile away — but a surprisingly large chunk of the hometown crowd knew exactly where he was coming from.