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Imagine Dragons Go Back to Their Roots

Earlier this week, Imagine Dragons launched their latest video for Roots, a rousingly danceable yet melancholy track. You can check out the video for Roots above featuring home video from the band’s childhood. The video is the expression of the exhaustion the band felt at the end of Night Visions successful record cycle.

On an oppressively hot Wednesday afternoon in LA, I was one of a lucky few to see them perform this new song live at Clifton’s, a beautiful restoration of Clifford Clifton’s Brookdale Cafeteria. Taking the “make the outside of the bar the inside” concept from Night at the Roxbury to hipster extreme, the establishment will be the nightspot of choice for many Angelenos for a while. As we filed into the atrium, the crowd was greeted by a three-story-tall redwood tree replica. A stage in the style of a tree stump sat ready for an acoustic set from one of the most popular bands in the world.

While the show would be broadcast to to thousands of people online and live in Times Square for iHeartRadio’s Destination Unknown, the group of fans gathered in Clifton’s was intimate considering the bands profile. Only 300 or so folks spread across three floors looking down on the band in some oregonian thunderdome. As the band took the stage, warm smiles of recognition spread across lead singer Dan Reynolds’ and guitarist Wayne Sermon’s faces. They recognized this group of fans assembled before them. Bassist Ben McKee greeted gleeful screams from fans while Daniel Platzman, who would pull triple duty playing keyboards, drums and rhythm guitar, shot familiar smiles to the UCLA students to my right.

The crowd sang along with gleeful abandon as the band progressed through “Shots”, “I Bet My Life”, and a cover of “Stand By Me”. Dan Reynolds thanked Ben E. King for his music writing prowess before launching into that last one. With Ryan Adam’s 1989 cover album having just released, they withheld playing their cover of “Blankspace” that has accompanied “Stand By Me” in the past. They rounded out the most straight forward part of the performance with “Demons” and a very impressive acoustic rendition of “Radioactive”.

The cavalier back-and-forth with the crowd would be the tenor of the night. An audience and band in happy exchange. The energy lead the show down a very relaxed path. Dan welcomed the change of pace and began actively experimenting with the set list once through the band’s major hits. The die-hards in the audience got their way when pushing the band to play older songs from pre-success EPs like “Tokyo” and bonus tracks like “Cha-Ching”. The conversational tone of the show even pushed Dan to “challenge” Wayne to play a medley of several Dragons tunes on the spot.

It’s a rare treat to see a band like this in such a unique venue and tone. I would never have claimed to be a huge fan of Imagine Dragons before, but their breezy charm and sharp musicianship are an undeniable combination creating some of the most heartfelt and inventive songs of the last 3 years. Here are some pics and video from the fans in attendance:

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