All those hours Imagine Dragons singer Dan Reynolds spent sculpting his body couldn't strengthen the one small part of his anatomy he depends on the most: his vocal cords.

From the outset of Sunday night's Imagine Dragons concert at a full Smoothie King Center, it was clear that Reynolds' voice wasn't right. It was noticeably raw, a condition not conducive to the sort of anthemic choruses in which his band specializes. 

Forty minutes into the show, he finally offered an explanation. On Saturday, he said, his singing voice disappeared. It was simply gone. He attempted to sing during a Saturday night show at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion outside Houston, but couldn't. So the band cut its setlist in half, and let the audience do the singing; Reynolds relegated himself to telling stories between songs.

The morning of the New Orleans show, he consulted a doctor, who informed him that one of his vocal cords wasn't moving at all. The cause of the paralysis was a mystery; Reynolds didn't have a cold or any inflammation. 

Not knowing why he suddenly couldn't sing "scared me deeply," he said onstage Sunday. "I've been living with this fear all day. My voice is everything to me."

Not wanting to cancel the New Orleans date, he elected to try to power through. "Before I walked onstage tonight I still didn't have a voice," he admitted. "But now I can feel both vocal cords vibrating."

That, he concluded, "was a small miracle for me."

Imagine Dragons is in the miracles business. Reynolds was a student at Brigham Young University when he committed himself to a career in music. Over the past decade, he, lead guitarist Wayne Sermon, bassist Ben McKee and drummer Daniel Platzman have built Imagine Dragons into a rock radio powerhouse. Reynolds, in particular, has used his elevated profile and resources to advocate for various causes.

j_NO.dragonsreview.epl.081018.025

Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons performs at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Aug. 5, 2018.

He and his bandmates first emerged Sunday on a glittering stage atwitter with LED displays to the opening prelude of “Radioactive.” Reynolds, who suffers from various chronic ailments, is clearly proud of his newly muscled frame. Thus, he took a page from the Anthony Kiedis stylebook, performing the entire show shirtless.

For an hour and 45 minutes, Reynolds was the focal point. His is a composed sort of charisma, even as he assumed a boxer’s crouch to push his ragged voice to its limits.

“This is not a place of judgement,” he intoned in his most Bono-esque moment. “This is not a place of hate. This is not a place of intolerance. This is a place of love, of tolerance, of acceptance.”

He continued, “May we celebrate each other’s diversity but may we exist as one.”

Later, ahead of “Demons,” he spoke of his own battle with depression and anxiety, and how he overcame it with therapy: “This does not make me weak. This does not make me broken. This is not something to be ashamed of.”

Neither is a voice that is not 100 percent. For "Shots," it was especially ragged. It fared better on a chill cover of the Police's "Every Breath You Take."

The various strands of Imagine Dragons’ musical DNA were audible. Sermon’s guitar occasionally conjured an Edge-like tone; on “Mouth of the River,” its phased-out fuzztone recalled Muse. The full band built to big choruses like Coldplay.

What was lacking, in addition to much of Reynolds’ voice, was connective tissue. The songs seemed to stand alone. Despite their inspirational messages, they were often unconnected to any kind of overall ebb and flow. The initial cheer at the conclusion of many songs dissipated before the next song kicked in. All the confetti cannons in the world – and Imagine Dragons certainly didn’t skimp on the confetti – can’t make up for that lack of momentum.

The musicians sparked the most excitement when they made their way down the stage right side of the arena floor to a secondary stage behind the soundboard. They knocked off acoustic versions of “Born to Be Yours,” “Amsterdam” and, most effectively, the Mumford & Sons-like “I Bet My Life.” Reynolds sang the latter while calmly making his way up the lower-bowl stairs between sections 102 and 103, accepting hugs and high fives along the way.

Reunited on the main stage, the band turned up “Demons,” followed by the heavily percussive hit “Thunder.” Oversized white balloons floated down from the rafters during “On Top of the World” before Imagine Dragons wrapped up, undoubtedly relieved, with a final “Believe."

Reynolds believed he could make it through the show. And he was right.

j_NO.dragonsreview.epl.081018.004

Grace Vanderwaal performs at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Aug. 5, 2018.

Opening act Grace VanderWaal prefaced “Clearly,” her adaptation of Johnny Nash’s 1972 hit “I Can See Clearly Now,” by asking how many people in the audience were born in the 1970s. Not many, it turns out.

But neither was she. She was born in 2004.

Two years ago, VanderWaal was the adorable, wide-eyed, 12-year-old winner of the 11th season of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” Now all of 14, she is finally catching up to her idiosyncratic, wise-beyond-its-years voice.

Wearing a flowing white dress and flowers in hair, just as she does on the cover of “Just the Beginning,” her 2017 full-length debut for Columbia Records, she skip-hopped barefoot across the stage. She struggled at times to assert her voice against the loud guitar, drums and keyboards behind her.

But her vocal and songwriting gifts were clearly evident as soon as she reverted to what initially charmed the “America’s Got Talent” judges: accompanying herself on ukulele while singing her own “I Don’t Know My Name.”

Her performance of “I Don’t Know My Name” on Sunday was every bit as striking as it was on “America’s Got Talent.” Only now she’s two years closer to figuring out who she is, and who she will be.

+26 
+26 
j=NO.dragonsreview.epl.081018.015.JPG
+26 
+26 
j=NO.dragonsreview.epl.081018.024.JPG
+26 
+26 
j_NO.dragonsreview.epl.081018.001
+26 
+26 
j_NO.dragonsreview.epl.081018.002
+26 
+26 
j_NO.dragonsreview.epl.081018.003

Follow Keith Spera on Twitter, @KeithSpera.

Keith Spera writes about music, culture and his kids.