You have one of the greatest experiences of your life. ‘You made me a believer’

Photo by: Jeff Gorra

“Alexa, play “Whatever it Takes” by Imagine Dragons.”

“Alexa, play “The Sky is a Neighborhood” by Foo Fighters.”

Two minutes later…

“Alexa, stop. Play “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons instead.”

My oldest son, who is six, got a kids Alexa for Christmas, the one that looks like a hockey puck. At first, I wasn’t thrilled about this, but now he has placed it on the desk at the foot of his bed, and each morning while getting dressed for school, or while getting ready for sports later in the day, or while playing with toys on the floor, or while doing nothing much at all, he uses it to listen to music.

I am big proponent for taking a kid to see a show when appropriate. It can open their world and yours. When I noticed my son’s peaked interest, I told him I would take him to any one he wants for his first official concert. There was much deliberation over the winter as to who it would be. Foo Fighters at Fenway Park were the front-runner for some time. Pearl Jam in September? “Hmm, maybe,” he would say. But then he discovered “Whatever it Takes” by Imagine Dragons. Initially the song wasn’t available on Alexa unless you upgraded to the higher offering via Amazon Music. The great thing about Alexa is that you can do that through voice activation right there on the spot. Even on the kids version. Well, one day enough was enough and suddenly “Whatever it Takes” played just fine.

By the end of the winter, Imagine Dragons had announced a summer tour. The second stop was in our neck of the woods (the venue is literally in the woods) and that was it. Little man was adamant his first concert had to be seeing this band from Las Vegas that he had now grown to love. My car door is still open, and I hear, “Dad, can you put on my birthday playlist?” … which consists of mostly Imagine Dragons songs. “Believer” always has to be played on the drive to hockey.

I knew Imagine Dragons were a tremendous band. I was very familiar with their success due to how frequently their songs were played everywhere. I had never seen them live, but I could tell through their messaging and attitude that their art-form was a powerful substance. My true intrigue came from my son’s influence when usually his musical tastes were a result of what I was pushing. This fascinated me and there’s a resonance to this point alone (which will be a separate article). How my dude actually got into Imagine Dragons though is quite humorous and totally him.

He loves football. Playing football, talking football, watching football, you name it. Both professional and college level. About two years ago he became obsessed with the Oregon Ducks. I eventually discovered it was because of their team colors that revolves around a bright green, and he thought it was so cool that they switch up their uniforms every game. He constantly watched their 2015 highlight film on YouTube. The reel is to “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons. We’d hear the song come on anywhere and he’d shout, “Can you turn this up? It’s the do-ay… the song from the Oregon video.” The do-ay? It’s actually “new age”, but to this day I still call it “The do-ay.” When “Believer” came out, it was the “new do-ay”. Then came “Thunder”, followed by “Whatever it Takes” and the rest is history. In theory, you can say the color green led to my son’s infatuation for Imagine Dragons. The reverence of a kid knows no bounds.

And that was the underlined theme of our overall experience seeing Imagine Dragons live. I tried to explain what happens at a concert like this. There are thousands of people, suddenly the lights go down, the place erupts, and the band takes the stage. It’s magic. But my words were miniscule compared to the feeling that was drummed up (literally) when this happened.

Building up to that moment, we did it all. We were fortunate enough to attend the pre-party where Imagine Dragons gear was on display. There was a candy bar, video games, endless soda, a giant gong to bang, and a meet-and-greet before the thrill of the actual concert even began.

We take our seats with popcorn spilling everywhere as I insisted he catch that lights down it’s time to begin moment. Suddenly, everyone roars. People run to their seats, the video backdrop starts, and boom — it’s pitch black. We hear drum beats. The back of the stage elevates. The entire band is playing in a drumline atop an ascending riser. One-by-one they walk down. Lead singer, Dan Reynolds steps to the front. The same hand that kindly shook ours just two hours ago now grabs the microphone so tight you thought it would explode with the applied passion. “I’m waking up. I feel it in my bones, enough to make my systems blow, welcome to the do-ay, to the do-ay…” kicks off the night.

The next two hours resulted in a feeling I cannot describe but will cherish forever. I watched my son in complete awe just as much as I watched the band’s electrified performance. The expressions of wonder on his face so beautifully complimented the emotions they emitted. There was an energy that kept building as the setlist went on and by Reynold’s direction, each person was encouraged to be nowhere but here. Check everything else at the door, we are all equal, and we are all in this moment. A massively powerful thing for a kid to hear at his first show. And that’s exactly what happened.

Each time something unique unfolded or they’d start to play one of his favorite songs I’d look over at my son’s face wanting discreetly to take a mental snapshot of what he was marveling at. The truth is, he had no idea what to expect. How could you? But I am forever grateful and perhaps indebted to Imagine Dragons for having this impact on my little man in way that has moved us both so deeply.

Art by: Vitor Martins

Imagine Dragons catalog of music and their approach is one of such sincerity and meaning. They are pioneering the essence of what it means to have a voice, using their platform to encourage their audiences to live their lives as who they are and to be damn proud of it. The lyrics are filled with inspiring messages and their stage presence backs this entire article up in a way that blew my mind. Ultimately, it’s the power of music and the universal creativity it spurs that makes you deservingly feel that you too have… whatever it takes. Just like this group of musicians who practice what they preach in persistence. “Radioactive” was frowned upon by their label at first. The band was told it was not “radio” and it would never be played on radio. Their response was to put the track as the opening song on their debut record Night Visions. They’re believers.

As our show came to a close, the band left everyone with the parting lyric of “believer”. I have listened to nothing but Imagine Dragons ever since. My son took his hat off to use as a bucket to catch all the confetti falling from the sky. He wore his new tour shirt and show wristband to school the next day. The confetti is now at home in giant ziploc atop his dresser. That bag, which mirrors the featured image here, is exactly what this all felt like. His first concert experience and my most memorable.

“You made me a believer”

Art by: Julie Penning

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