Imagine Dragons on Trippy New Arena Show, Paul Simon Obsession
Imagine Dragons weren’t completely satisfied with their last arena tour, which was launched hastily in 2014 after “Radioactive” became a huge hit. “The first record blew up so fast that we didn’t have any time to really get creative,” frontman Dan Reynolds says of the shows in support of 2012’s Night Visions. For their summer tour kicking off tonight in Portland, Oregon, Imagine Dragons worked with Nine Inch Nails’ production team for a high-tech show that will reflect their new album, Smoke + Mirrors. “We’re going to be playing with people’s perspectives a lot and make them have to look twice at things to understand what’s going on,” says Reynolds, who also spoke to Rolling Stone about why touring is hard, his list of dream covers and why the band can play pretty much anything.
You guys never really stopped touring since Night Visions.
We started seven years ago by playing four times a week. We weren’t a band doing one show a month. Since we were in Vegas, we could play all the lounges, so our lifeblood has always been the road. That’s what keeps us happy as people. As human beings, we feel like we’re most comfortable on the stage. It’s not the greatest for having a life, a family, or steady things, but it’s great for people who want to constantly be onstage and that’s where we like to be.
On the last tour you had a giant oval screen behind you. What will the production be like this time?
We wanted to change it up. The first record blew up so fast that . . . it was, “Wow, suddenly we’re playing theaters, amphitheaters and now arenas.” It was a quick process. For this one, we had a year before we knew we were gonna play these arenas. We’re working with a good company that did the Nine Inch Nails tour. They’re just really tasteful and great artists that understood our vision. The production is completely different. We did a very stripped-down version of it in South America, but in North America there’s all these moving parts. It’s going to be a full-scale arena production and we’re really excited about it.
How will it be different from the Night Visions tour?
The title Smoke + Mirrors really runs well. We didn’t want to create a magic show, but we wanted to play off visual confusion. The record is all about self conflict. It’s an introspective record that’s really trying to peel apart my life and see what’s real and what’s not real, so we wanted to display that onstage visually. There’s a lot of playing with perspectives.
There’s a lot of really groundbreaking production that these guys are doing. They’re really on the edge of what can be done with projection mapping and things like that and we haven’t done that yet anywhere. From a songwriting standpoint, we’re gonna be playing the entire new record as well as a bunch of the old record, which is refreshing because it was aggravating as a band to play festival headlining spots with only one record. When you’re the headliner and you’re going on after a bunch of acts that have been around for years and have a huge repertoire, it doesn’t feel good to play one record. It’s just a difficult position to be in. It’s tricky, but we’re still figuring it out.