7/27/15: Imagine Dragons w/Metric
Firstly, I really wanted to thank my friend Frenchie for the ticket hook up. He’s a back line tech for Metric (and works for a few other bands as well!), but unfortunately he wasn’t on this run with them. He’s actually one of the biggest reasons that I got involved in the music industry in the first place, but that’s a story for another day.
I’ve been coming out to Denver for almost ten years and the Imagine Dragons show was the first time that I’ve been to the Pepsi Center. It was actually the first time that I had been to a huge arena show. I had been to smaller arenas, the biggest being the Mullins Center at Umass, but that venue is only 1/2 the size of the Pepsi Center’s 20,000 capacity. I also have been to huge outdoor amphitheaters that hold way more than that, but to be indoors, inside a giant concrete bowl full of screaming people, well, it was a slightly overwhelming sight.
The seats I had were super close, so binoculars weren’t necessary. I kind of felt for the people seated up in the nosebleeds, because to me they looked like tiny insects marching about, so I couldn’t imagine trying to watch the show from way up there.
The stage was set up on one of the ends of the arena, with my seats a dozen rows up from the floor, in a section that was directly stage left, closest to the floor. Being that close to the stage was awesome, especially when it turned out to be such a fun show. On the flip side though, from that vantage I did noticed two very annoying elements.
First off, and I honestly at the beginning thought it was because I was pretty close to side stage, the sound for Metric and the other opening act, a girl named Halsey, was absolutely horrible. In contrast, when Imagine Dragons came on the sound was as great as it was atrocious for the openers. Now, I’ve been involved with enough shows to know that often times big headlining bands have a soundboard and sound engineer specific to their set. Also, there are plenty of times where the openers aren’t allowed to utilize all of the channels on a soundboard or even to use all the speakers in the room. Another reason such a huge disparity can exist is because of either lack of the support bands having a proper sound check, or an inexperienced sound engineer working for them.
Regardless of the reasons, the sound was mixed so badly for Metric and Halsey that I had an actual headache by the time Imagine Dragons started their set. The high end on the vocals was so shrill that it made it next to impossible to even distinguish them as words, even though I knew many of the songs.
I’ve seen Metric headline a few smaller venues and they completely blew my mind, so I had been really looking forward to seeing them perform their set on a huge stage. I was kind of pissed when it wasn’t as enjoyable as I knew it should have been.
I know that if I was a headlining act, I would insist on the sound being held to the highest standard. I understand if they limit the lighting and stage production, or even if a cap is put on how high the volume can be turned up, but honestly to someone who knows how it all works it makes the headliner look like douchebags to have such a night and day difference to the sound. To someone that doesn’t know the workings, it makes the openers look like they suck, and my question to that is why would you, as a headliner, want people to think you’ve taken out subpar bands on your tour?
The second thing that struck me, had to do with the lighting. After learning to be a lighting director while I was touring with Man on Earth, the light show has become one of the most interesting parts of a rock show to me. The thing I learned about lighting from this show had to do with understanding your space.
There was a group of three spotlights that pointed across the stage providing a sort of ‘wash’ effect, keeping the band lit up from a slightly behind angle, that way most of the crowd could see them. What I’m not sure was taken in to account was, that in a venue where the seating was set up such as it was, the fact that the wash lighting, which tended to be constantly on, was blinding to everyone sitting in the first two sections of both sides of the arena. I saw numerous people wearing their sunglasses throughout most of the show. This upped my awareness as a lighting director for how what may look good on stage may not be the best thing for your audience. Being conscious of the crowd and how your lights affect them is an important part of the job.
That all is not to say I didn’t have fun, all in all the show was absolutely great. Imagine Dragons had the crowd completely captivated, engaged, on their feet and dancing. Their sound, performance, lights and production easily shot them up to a top 3 show of 2015 so far for me. I just wish they’d show a little more love for their openers…