LAS VEGAS — Everyone in T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday came to watch the Golden Knights take on the Washington Capitals in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, but first they had to attend an Imagine Dragons concert. Before the puck dropped, the Las Vegas band rolled out onto the ice to perform one of their ubiquitous songs that sounds like AC/DC had a kid with Fall Out Boy, and then that kid got really into lifting and ingesting creatine.
The crowd loved it. And I must begrudgingly admit that I felt the strength of a thousand suns course through me as the Dragons yelled “WHATEVER IT TAKEEESSSS” into their mics. If there’s one thing the Golden Knights event people know how to do, it’s pump you up.
It’s, shall we say, unconventional for a rock concert—even if it’s only one song long—to take place on the ice before a Stanley Cup Final game. The whole thing wasn’t planned far in advance, according to Imagine Dragons stage manager Ryan Cruz. At 3 p.m. local time, he was sitting in the underbelly of the arena on a platform bearing the drum kit that would be pushed onto the ice in two hours. Arena employees kept coming by to check it out and ask what was going on; many weren’t aware that a band was performing at all.
“This is super last minute,” Cruz said. “We only have six days off from when we got back from being on tour in New Zealand and when we fly out tomorrow. And then they throw this in, so we had to fly in today, to fly back out tomorrow so we could go on tour again.”
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for an extended period of time, you’ve probably heard a song by Imagine Dragons. They are always on the radio, and they’ve toured each state, each galaxy, each universe, to play in cavernous spaces where they can make you feel alive, where they can make you a believer. Their song “Thunder,” the chorus of which goes, “Thunder, thunder, thunder, thun', thunder, thun-thun-thunder, thunder, thunder, thunder, thun', thunder, thun-thun-thunder, thunder, thunder, feel the thunder, lightning and the thunder, thunder, feel the thunder, lightning and the thunder, thunder, thunder, thunder,” seems to be in every commercial on television right now.
These guys are particularly big in the sports world. They played a show during Super Bowl week, the NBA has used the song “Believer” in its promotions, and Major League Baseball has featured Imagine Dragons in various broadcasts as well. Patrick Reed, after he won the Masters, said he listens to the band to get really jazzed for a round of golf.
“It’s crazy—it’s in hockey, football, baseball, car commercials,” said Cruz. “They’re everywhere. It’s huge. It’s hard when I come home from the road because they’re everywhere, so I hear it over, and over, and over.”
You might feel the same way Cruz does. If you watch a ton of sports, you’re probably imagining Dragons in your sleep at this point, and there’s a chance you hate it. But the crowd in Vegas sure doesn’t.
Before the stands went crazy as the band took the stage, er, ice, the Dragons themselves were standing in a room next to three ice resurfacers. It’s where the Arena keeps the fire safety equipment, so the people who work at T-Mobile call it the Pyro Room. It was serving as the Dragons’ front of house.
Drummer Daniel Platzman was wearing a Marc-Andre Fleury jersey draped somewhat strangely over his shoulders, and bizarre sunglasses—they might’ve been tinted swim goggles—strapped to his head. The band formed here in Vegas and Platzman loves this team with his whole rockin’ heart. He was thrilled to be able to perform before a Stanley Cup Final game for his city, but he’s not sure why the sports world has gravitated to the band’s music so much. He took a stab at answering the question anyway.
“You know, I think with sports you have the gambit of human emotion, so there’s drama,” he told me. “There’s bad guys and good guys and heroes and villains, and, you know, we try to write music that means something to us. And the fact that so many people gravitate toward it really syncs.”
I don’t totally understand what Platzman meant, but I’m assuming he was trying to get at the similarities between the feelings both sports and music elicit. I’m personally more inclined to believe that enough pounding drums, plaintive cries and the occasional yell can really get a crowd’s blood pumping, so the Dragons’ music is practically made for arenas and sports games (though Platzman says they don’t compose music specially geared to sports).
Fans of both the Knights and Imagine Dragons, however, agree with Platzman’s emotions theory.
“I was crying just tears of joy for being here, that we made it to this,” said Chris Puzacke, who was decked out in a Golden Knights shirt and hat as he walked to his seat. “It’s my childhood dream to be here, and to have a band from Las Vegas. We’ve embraced this, it’s ours.”
“I’ve lived here for 62 years,” said Bob Schiffman, as he grabbed a drink after the first period. “And to have Imagine Dragons at a home game for the Vegas Golden Knights is an absolutely amazing experience. I like the Killers and Imagine Dragons.”
“You know what would’ve been better?” said Philadelphia Flyers-turned-Golden Knights fan Brian Flanagan. “If they’d had The Killers instead.”
Okay, so except for that last guy, most of the fans were psyched about the Dragons. Locals love Las Vegans—and now teams—who become famous on a national level. There aren’t that many, because the city has historically been so transient. The video board above the ice always displays messages from famous residents—or at least people who have long-term residencies here, like the Backstreet Boys—before games. Jimmy Kimmel, the Blue Man Group, ZZ Top, Carrot Top, Lil Jon, some very tan guy with very white teeth whose name I don’t know, and The Killers all sent their well-wishes to the Golden Knights before Game 2. It might be an eclectic group, but it’s their eclectic group. Imagine Dragons provides them a soundtrack.
Before he took the stage, I asked Platzman if he’d ever make up a song for the Golden Knights.
“I would say there’s a certain circumstance where we would do any number of things,” he said.
“Does that certain circumstance involve winning the Stanley Cup?” I asked.
“That can’t hurt,” he said.
Then he put his earpieces back in and adjusted his goggles. It was time to get down to business. He had a show to play at home.