The big kid took a moment to address the little kids, the latter plentiful, the former all heaving chest and child-like exuberance as outsized as his swollen biceps.
Four songs in, Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds asked all the youngsters in the house if this was their first concert.
On cue, thousands of tiny hands and voices were raised in unison at a packed Allegiant Stadium on Saturday night.
Then came a little advice for fans of similar proportions.
“There’s much more life to come,” Reynolds noted, crouching down on the catwalk to make eye contact with some young concertgoers. “Nobody knows your path but you. If you ever feel alone, you’re not alone.”
And with that, the band launched into “Thunder,” a fittingly booming anthem about being a not-so-cool kid walking the halls of Bonanza High School, Reynolds’ alma mater.
“Kids were laughing in my classes / While I was scheming for the masses,” Reynolds sang. “Who do you think you are? / Dreaming ‘bout being a big star.”
Those aspirations have been realized, of course, and Reynolds has become cool with being not-so-cool — same goes for his band.
The Imagine Dragons frequently get dinged by critics and cool cats — though the two are certainly not one in the same — because of Reynolds’ earnestness, both in song and on stage, because being preternaturally open-hearted, Hallmark-card-hopeful and irony-allergic will inevitably get you dismissed as corny.
He knows this.
“I’m cheesy,” he said at one point after dropping an impromptu rhyme about the band’s path to success in Vegas. (“We bet on black and never looked back.”) “Own It.”
And that Reynolds does: between-song pep talks are important to him; he aims to inspire and console and does so with a sincerity that elicited tears from both crowd-members and himself at times.
(“Las Vegas, do you ever get lonely? Tonight is for you to let go — let it all go;” “I have lost too many people who think that their life doesn’t matter. Your life always matters.”)
This is among the reasons parents feels so comfortable bringing their kids — some of them still in diapers — to the band’s shows: it’s like a big pop-rock bear hug.
(Full disclosure: this reporter took his 8-year-old daughter to her first ever concert on this night.)
The two-hour performance began and ended with the same song: the searching “My Life,” played in full and then reprised at the conclusion of a show-closing “Walking the Wire.”
“I’m trying to be somebody else / I’m finding it hard to love myself,” Reynolds sang over muted keys. “I’ve wanted to be somebody new / But that is impossible to do.”
The song’s included on the band’s recently released double-album “Mercury Acts 1 & 2,” which they mined heavily on Saturday, from the pyro-enchaned “Enemy” to a concussive “Bones” to a breezy “One Day,” played during a four-song acoustic set in the middle of the show, where the band dedicated a cover of Alphaville’s “Forever Young” to the people of Ukraine.
If you forget that three-fourths of this band attended Boston’s prestigious Berklee School of Music, they remind you live: Imagine Dragons keep things lean and to-the-point on their records, but frequently dig into their tunes a bit more deeply live, bassist Ben McKee and drummer Daniel Platzman vying to see who could create the bigger rumble at the end of “Lonely,” the band working “I’m So Sorry” into a seismic jam and guitarist Wayne Sermon ripping unabridged leads all over the place, soloing hard as he rode a riser to the rafters during “Radioactive.”
Speaking of that smash single, it was almost 10 years to the day that the album it was featured on, the band’s multi-platinum debut “Night Visions,” was released on September 4, 2012.
With his mom and dad in the audience, Reynolds reflected on the Imagine Dragons’ early days and dollar brews.
“My family is here tonight,” he noted, “so many people who came out to our shows when we played O’ Sheas, cheapest beer on the Strip. We owe a lot to this city.”
He name-checked now-shuttered small clubs like the Bunkhouse and the Beauty Bar where Imagine Dragons played some of their first gigs en route to the biggest headlining concert a Las Vegas band has ever played in its hometown.
“There’s no words for a night like this,” Reynolds beamed at one point. “This feels like the most important night of our career.”
In another distinctly Vegas moment, the band was joined on stage by a phalanx of Cirque Du Soleil performers, including aerialists, during “Sharks.”
Afterwards, Reynolds shared an anecdote about seeing Cirque perform when he was a teenager, taking a date there after his first high school dance.
“I was a janitor at a law firm here in Las Vegas,” he recalled. “I saved up all my money, and we went to see ‘Mystere.’ Long story short, I never thought in my entire life that I’d be on stage with Cirque Du Soleil.”
And yet there he was.
Rub your eyes or roll them, some dreams do come true.