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Imagine Dragons: ‘Evolve’ show is ‘the most complicated production’ they’ve done

Imagine Dragons guitarist Wayne Sermon says the "Evolve" tour "is probably the most complicated production we’ve done." The show comes to Sprint Center Saturday, July 14.
Imagine Dragons guitarist Wayne Sermon says the "Evolve" tour "is probably the most complicated production we’ve done." The show comes to Sprint Center Saturday, July 14.

These days you could be mistaken for thinking Imagine Dragons are the only rock band on the planet.

The band currently has the top three singles on Billboard magazine’s Hot Rock Songs singles chart — “Whatever It Takes,” “Thunder” and “Believer” — all of which have been on that chart for well more than a year and have also held the top slot on at least one other format chart.

That kind of success means big expectations for the show Imagine Dragons is bringing out for the summer leg of the band’s tour in support of “Evolve,” the album containing those singles. The tour hits Sprint Center Saturday, July 14.

Guitarist Wayne Sermon says the group is raising the bar on the live show to deliver on the anticipation.

“This is probably the most complicated production we’ve done,” he said in a recent phone interview. “It definitely has the most moving parts and it has the most intricacies to the show. There are definitely more things that can go wrong in this show than in any (previous) shows. So Murphy’s Law is in full effect. But that’s OK. It also makes it more exciting and we wanted to bring even more to the fans and it’s a risk we’re willing to take, I guess.”

Some of the complexity comes from additional production in the show, Sermon said. But the platinum-selling group is also upping the ante on a musical level, using vignettes to help build a story into the show.

The story, naturally, ties into the “Evolve” album.

“It’s all pretty abstract," Sermon said. “We just kind of wanted to tell the story of, you know, the different types of evolving that happen in life, whether it’s the earth itself evolving, or whether it’s communities evolving or whether it’s individuals evolving. It’s just showing that change is always a part of life. The only thing that’s really consistent is the fact that something is bound to change. It’s just kind of recognizing that, identifying that.”

It makes sense that Imagine Dragons would gravitate toward a term like “Evolve” as an album title and theme. Change is something Sermon, singer Dan Reynolds, bassist/keyboardist Ben McKee and drummer Daniel Platzman have had to get used to over the past five years.

Signed to Interscope Records in 2011 after independently releasing a trio of EPs, the Las Vegas-based Imagine Dragons were thrust into a whirlwind when their 2012 full-length debut, “Night Visions,” became a blockbuster hit that included three hit singles — “Radioactive” (which won a Grammy for Best Rock Performance), “It’s Time” and “Demons.”

The 2015 followup album, “Smoke + Mirrors,” was another hit. It debuted atop Billboard’s album chart and produced three more hit singles: “I Bet My Life,” “Gold” and “Shots.”

Going from obscurity to arena-headlining stars so quickly created considerable upheaval, Sermon said, as the group members tried to comprehend their success and adjust to a new, more hectic, life. The band also felt the need to keep their collective feet on the gas pedal for fear that their success could go away at any time. That also put some strain on the group.

“Like just such a sudden change can be tricky,” Sermon said. “Whether people start treating you differently or you don’t have time to connect with your friends or family the way you used to…. There are parts of your life that 100 percent will suffer because of the choices you make to do this job. That’s the way it is. You have to make compromises and you have to figure out how to make it work for you.”

By the time Imagine Dragons finished the tour cycle for “Smoke + Mirrors,” the band members were worn down and decided to take a year-long break. Sermon said the time off helped the four members recharge and get ready for the next step in their musical journey.

Going into the making of “Evolve,” the band decided to go for a leaner sound, one that would use fewer instruments to achieve their epic pop sound. The group brought in a new production team, the Swedish duo of Mattman & Robin, feeling they would bring a less-is-more ethic to the album.

“Honestly, we just wanted something different. We wanted to change,” Sermon explained. “We don’t like to stay stagnant and do the same thing over and over again.”

Fans will have little trouble recognizing that “Evolve” is an Imagine Dragons album. As with “Night Visions” and “Smoke + Mirrors,” the new songs are built instrumentally around moody synthesizer lines, with big vocal choruses often anchoring the songs and delivering the melodic hooks needed to carry the songs.

But the sound is indeed leaner, and there’s more of a hip-hop influence on the album, be it in the sing-song cadences of the trio of singles — “Believe”, “Whatever It Takes” and “Thunder” — or the funky beats of “I Don’t Know Why” and “Rise Up.”

“I think it was a really good combination of us wanting a cleaner palate, wanting to make sure the vocals could shine and making sure that every part was there for a reason,” the guitarist said. “I think that’s how the best songs are made. You have to have that level of detail.”

Saturday

Imagine Dragons with Grace Vanderwaal. 816-949-7100. Tickets are $29.50-$129.50 through sprintcenter.com

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