I’ve taken my oldest daughter to at least one concert per year for the past three years. She absolutely adores music, and her tastes fall right into the Top 40 sensibilities I imagine most kids lean towards at her age. She’s 9. When she was 7, I took her to see Kelly Clarkson. At 8, Meghan Trainor. This year, we mixed things up with her first rock concert: Imagine Dragons. Live music has always been intensely important in my life, and I’ve discovered that, while an undoubtedly disparate experience on some levels, sharing my love for concerts with my kiddos creates a special kind of connection I’ve come to really appreciate as a father.
On the level of me being a 35-year-old father compared to the 19-year-old concertgoer that once got lost in the live riffs of Radiohead, Tool, A Tribe Called Quest, or Outkast, I’m less concerned these days with the jam and more honed in on the enjoyment of my kids. It’s what happens when you become a parent. It’s called growing up. However, I’ve found that I parent best by existing at my kids level as much as possible; through a lens of wonder, excitement, naivety, and surprise. There are no kids’ tables at our holidays. We’re equals in my house. We keep life on their level. It’s amazing what you can rediscover down here! Concerts are a great place for this. There is power in singing at the top of your lungs with your kids and dancing in the aisles without a care in the world. Sharing in and understanding why your kids like what they like is rewarding for everyone, and I’ve found no better outlet for this than live music.
It helps that I too love popular music, and consider myself an Imagine Dragons fan. It also helps that seemingly every Imagine Dragons song is somehow a part of the soundtrack of our lives, whether it be on the radio, in commercials, in movies, or just blaring on the family Spotify account. This concert was the first I also took my youngest daughter to. Their little brother, though a huge Imagine Dragons fan himself, is only 18 months old. He’ll join us in a few years.
We caught the band at their stopover in Connecticut, at our favorite venue: Mohegan Sun Arena. They put on a stellar performance, powering through their impressively wide span of hits and a number of tracks from their newest album: Evolve. In total, they played 20 songs, including an abbreviated acoustic set featuring a cover of the late Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” For the kids and I, the riff-heavy power tracks like “Thunder,” “Walking the Wire,” and “Believer” were our high points. Take those three tracks and the equally energetic “Whatever It Takes” and you get a clear picture of Imagine Dragons’ appeal. Those tracks alone are all radio heavy hits from Evolve, an album that only just released over four months ago. Impressive.
What struck me most, and is a clear testament to my age and changed perspective, was the sheer positivity and strong message stressed by lead singer Dan Reynolds. He talked openly about depression and the importance of therapy, a message I found refreshing coming from a singer with such influence over a young, impressionable audience. In fact, the entire show exuded a positivity you don’t always find at a concert. To steal a lyric from one of their hits, this audience really was “on top of the world.” Us included.
Part of the experience for us is our deliberate choice of venue. Thus far, all of the concerts I’ve taken my kids to have been at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. At the center of the massive Mohegan Sun casino, this 10,000 seat arena is the most intimate venue I’ve ever seen pull in such an incredible roster of talent. I’ve attended so many great shows there, from Bruce Springsteen and Black Sabbath to Jay-Z and Prince. The size of the venue is also critical for the kids. It’s just big enough that they feel like they’re at a big show, and small enough for them to feel right in the middle of the action. There isn’t a bad seat or angle in the house. An added bonus is the world-class variety of restaurants inside the casino.
Next year, we may have to go to our first stadium show (thanks, T. Swift), but regardless, I look forward to years of concert-going with all three of my kids. That is, until it’s no longer “cool” to go with Dad. I pray that day never comes.