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Imagine Dragons Leave Penn State Radioactive

Imagine Dragons (@ImagineDragons) was without a doubt the most highly anticipated act brought by Penn State’s Student Programming Association (@psu_spa) this year.

The hype began when the show was announced in December. Tickets went on sale on February and unsurprisingly sold out in just a couple hours. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when I arrived at the HUB an hour before the doors opened to find a line of concert-goers stretching from the information desk in the lobby all the way down the main staircase near the HUB bookstore. When the doors finally opened, Alumni Hall was filled to capacity in about five minutes.


Openers, Nico Vega (@nicovega), put on quite a show. If you’ve never heard of them, that’s okay because neither had I before last night. But what the band lacked in name recognition, they made up for in stage presence. It took a little while for the audience to get into the groove of what they were hearing, but by the middle of the second song, everyone was dancing and jumping around.


Nico Vega’s stage setup was interesting, to say the least — including three metal garbage cans that were made into drums, which were also used as steps so vocalist Aja Volkman could see the full extent of the packed Alumni Hall.


Nico Vega’s performance didn’t go off without a hitch. When technical difficulties rendered the vocalist’s looper unusable, the crowd filled in with an a cappella backing track. In my opinion, this only added to the performance, making it more personal and intimate. Volkman thanked the audience, saying that most crowds would try to bring the band down, but Penn State stuck with them and helped them along. The band kept up a high-energy performance for the entire set, and the crowd erupted with the mention of Imagine Dragons, who were set to take the stage next.

While Nico Vega had an unusual stage setup, Imagine Dragons matched them, with drums of all sorts set up in the front of the stage, including a large bass drum set upright in the front and center. They opened with a heavy pounding drum instrumental, which was a staple of their performance. During almost every song, the bassist, guitarist and vocalist grabbed some drumsticks to participate in a percussive instrumental interlude.


After a few songs, frontman Dan Reynolds took the opportunity to thank the crowd, and add a few words of his own. “I have something to confess to you guys,” he said. “I really wanted to go to school here, but I didn’t get in.” He also remarked that he felt as if he was playing for his peers, since the college audience was around his own age.

Highlights of the performance included the band’s top hits, “Radioactive,” “Demons,” and “It’s Time,” which surprisingly came before the encore. During the performance of “Underdogs,” dozens of glowing balloons were released into the audience and were knocked into the air repeatedly by the excited fans.

Immediately after the band left the stage, chants of “encore” echoed through Alumni Hall, and another round of cheers erupted when the band got back on stage. The encore was fittingly “Nothing Left To Say,” a heavy rocking ballad that repeated the track’s title as the set ended.

Lead vocalist of Imagine Dragons Dan Reynolds. Photo by Steve Osborn

Imagine Dragons put on a great performance. Having never seen them live before, what surprised me is that they aren’t your typical five piece rock band. They incorporated drums that acted as stage pieces and lighted balloons to add to the show’s visual effect. Before the show ended, they hinted at another Penn State visit, saying that they are already working on scheduling a tour in this area soon. I can’t wait to see them again, along with all the great shows coming up as we look toward the end of the school year.

To see all the photos, check out Onward State’s Facebook album.

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About the Author

Zack Rutstein

Penn State 5th-year Materials Science and Engineering student, Onward State Arts Editor, Musician

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