Macklemore, Imagine Dragons, and a Random Dan Marino Prepare Us for Orange Bowl

If there are two acts that smile more on stage than Imagine Dragons and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, their dentist deserves a raise. And the free show Wednesday night on the sands of South Beach gave a projected 20,000 plenty of reason to smile back. The event, called the Capital One Beach Bash, was a pep rally for the next afternoon's Orange Bowl football game.

There were insane fireworks, warm beach breezes, and Dan Marino even came on stage tossing autographed footballs 50 yards into the crowd with a spiral so tight it made you wish the Miami Dolphins would redraft him next Spring.

But the main attraction was the hip-hop of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and the stadium rock of Imagine Dragons. While both acts are too over-polished and obsessed with positive messages for this music critic's taste, it was hard to walk away from the show without appreciating the effort the two groups put into giving the crowd its money's worth — which, yes, was technically $0, but still, the mental strain of getting down to the beach last night was probably equivalent to $314.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis took the stage at 7 p.m. sharp as a few drops of rain fell from the sky. The clean cut Seattle rapper showed off his talented lyricism with hits like "Downtown" — the undeniably catchy ode to...vespas, we guess, and "White Walls." Backed up by his producer Ryan Lewis, a crew of male and female dancers, and a trombone and trumpeter (which the big screen close-ups appeared to reveal weren't actually playing the horns they were putting close to their mouths) brought a high energy 45-minute set. Things got poignant as Macklemore revealed his 97 year old Grandmother had passed away the previous day and he dedicated "Irish Celebration" — with its chorus of, "live tonight 'cause you can't take it with you" — to her memory. The set ended with "Can't Hold Us." Macklemore stripped down to his tank top and dove headfirst into the crowd.

Imagine Dragons' singer Dan Reynolds didn't waste any time to pull that trick. Minutes into his band's opening song "Shots" he jumped into his adoring fans, where the tall, bearded Las Vegas singer later gave a young bikinied girl in the front row a hug. The four member band, touring with an additional keyboardist, have such a wholesome stage presence you felt it a strong possibility the band might just step down from the stage to hug each of the 20,000 audience members. Guitarist Daniel Wayne Sermon smiled as he was allowed to open "I'm So Sorry" with a bluesy riff and then grinned again as, like a child with a new Christmas toy, he brought out a mandolin for "It's Time." Drummer Daniel Platzman worked up a sweat with a slow motion drum solo to ring in "Demons." And Reynolds beamed as he pulled his signature dance move — spinning in circles while hopping on one foot. 
When the group's biggest hit, "Radioactive," came on, fans swung their arms as they sang along to the words of what might be the official anthem for the hashtag generation. It seemed impossible to top that moment, but then we remembered, You know what, I bet they have fireworks.

And then, on cue with the final song, a glorious display shot up from behind the stage for 15 minutes straight. Miami welcomed the new year a little early last night. And we couldn't have done it without Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Imagine Dragons.

That last sentence might very well be our strangest out-of-context line of 2015.
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David Rolland is a freelance music writer for Miami New Times. His novels, The End of the Century and Yo-Yo, are available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland