Imagine Dragons 'Evolve' World Tour

by Thomas S. Friedman
in Production Profile
Imagine Dragons 'Evolve' World Tour, photo by Todd Kaplan
Imagine Dragons 'Evolve' World Tour, photo by Todd Kaplan

Imagine Dragons, which has gone from playing basements and dive bars to touring major arenas on multiple continents within a few short years, embarked on the Evolve world tour, their biggest yet, in support of their June 2017 release of the album by the same name, After the extensive opening trek across North America in late 2017, the tour has found the Las Vegas-based foursome performing 35 dates across three additional continents in 2018, starting with Malaysia’s Malawati Stadium on Jan. 6 and continuing with more shows in Asia, Europe, South America and back to Europe through Aug. 31, 2018.

Sound Image provided the Adamson Systems E-Series gear.

‡‡         Biggest Tour Yet

The Live Nation-produced tour is the band’s biggest to date in terms of scale and overall production value and features a unique stage design that wraps the audience around the band in a close-but-not-quite-360-degree configuration. This design subsequently necessitated an equally unique audio system design with a package that, like those for all of the band’s previous production-carrying tours, was supplied by Escondido, CA-based Sound Image.

“This tour presented some challenges related to the overall show design,” says systems engineer Cameron Whaley. “The P.A. is very far upstage due to the show’s artistic needs, which has created some challenges, but also some surprising advantages I hadn’t anticipated.”

From left, FOH engineer Scott Eisenberg and systems engineer Cameron Whaley

FOH engineer Scott Eisenberg has been with Imagine Dragons since 2012. By early 2013, what began as a few months of fly dates and promo led to the band embarking on their first headlining club tour with Eisenberg pulling double duty as FOH engineer and production manager.

As a testament to the group’s impressive career trajectory, within a year of that, they were playing amphitheaters and arenas, and Eisenberg specified an E-Series system from Adamson Systems Engineering to amplify the band’s modern rock anthems on that and every tour since. “Adamson is always my first choice when it comes to Imagine Dragons,” Eisenberg says. “The E-Series offers a perfect blend of power and musicality and I love the overall impact we get with this system.”

Stage left side of the all-Adamson main array and side array hangs.

‡‡         System Details

The main hangs for the Evolve world tour have 18 Adamson E15 three-way, true line source enclosures per side, though they’re suspended about 30 feet further upstage than usual. While that presents some expected challenges, Whaley was surprised to discover it also carried a few benefits. “With the P.A. farther back, the mains are a lot flatter and you benefit from basic line array properties, with longer throws and better frequency response throughout the space.”

Rounding out the package are side hangs of six E15s and nine E12 three-way enclosures per side and rear hangs of eight compact S10 two-way, full-range cabinets per side. Adamson’s E219 subwoofers handle the low-end, with flown left/right arrays of 12 cabinets and an additional six per side on the ground. Lab.gruppen PLM20000Q amps and an LM44 digital audio system processor with Lake technology drive the system.

Speaking of the low-end distribution, Whaley says the elaborate sub design has produced some very welcome results. “Having a sub array long enough to achieve some directionality, we can get a good amount of energy to the back of the room without it being overwhelming in the front,” he explains. “By playing with the timing of the ground subs to the flown subs, we can also fill in some of the holes between the power alleys on the floor.”

Whaley adds that the accuracy of Adamson’s Blueprint AV prediction software has been particularly beneficial on this trek. “I’m able to pretty sharply focus the mains over the stage, offering great gain before feedback with the P.A. being more upstage than usual, and we’ve had very few issues with P.A. bleed into the mics,” he notes.

“The other interesting benefit of the P.A. that far back is the ability to wrap coverage further around while still maintaining even coverage for the upper zones of seating,” Whaley adds. “The tour has sold very well and we often have seats wrapping around behind the stage. I can’t speak enough about how helpful Blueprint AV is from the design process into our day-to-day choices. With the 3D modeling, I can get coverage to the exact rows of seats we’ve sold before it drops off.”

As far as what made the E-Series the choice for this trek — and every major Imagine Dragons tour before it — Eisenberg says it’s largely about power and consistency. “I really like that it’s got a lot of horsepower, especially in the mains’ lower midrange,” he offers. “The highs are clear but not harsh, and when the subs kick in, there’s just some really solid energy that hits you in the best way possible.”

He adds that the uniformity when transitioning from the E15s to the E12s and S10s in different parts of the room is seamless. “I love that the quality and performance is consistent across the board with the E-Series and S-Series,” Eisenberg offers. “It’s a welcome bit of reassurance that we’re delivering great and consistent sound to every corner of any given venue.”

“Having used the E-Series for many years, I’ve been impressed with how Adamson listens to its customers and is continually improving its products,” Whaley adds. “The new (Lake) V4 presets have been a great help. On this run, everything with the P.A. falls in place faster, with fewer changes on my part.”

FOH engineer Scott Eisenberg mixes on an SSL L500-Plus.

‡‡         The Mix Position

At FOH, Scott Eisenberg is mixing on a Solid State Logic L500 Plus — a relatively new entry to the world of digital mixing desks. He recalls being out on Imagine Dragons’ 2015/16 Smoke + Mirrors Tour when he first heard about the iconic recording brand pushing into the live market and was eager to hear the results. Following the trek, he visited SSL’s NYC office for a demo and spent plenty of time over the following few months exploring its features and working up a show file.

“I really fell in love with it,” he recalls. “It took a little time to wrap my head around certain parts and functions, but it sounds great, is extremely flexible, and feels solid under my fingers — no pun intended.” He was confident enough to bring it out for the North American Evolve dates and says he’s been “totally happy” with its performance thus far.

In fact, Eisenberg is so sweet on the L500 that he calls the few outboard pieces he’s carrying on the tour “kind of icing on the cake.” That said, each one does give a “special little signature” that enhances his mix. For example, he says the Neve Portico II on singer Dan Reynolds’ vocals offers a transparent EQ and compression that helps to keep his wide dynamic range in check.

Eisenberg is breaking out his mix into stems and summing them through an SPL MixDream analog summing unit to subtly take advantage of its stereo spatial enhancer. Then, the Smart Research C2 compressor inserted on the MixDream helps to “tame the last few things together.”

His biggest learning curve on the Evolve run has been managing the way the low-end interacts — “especially since I’ve got a new console,” he notes. “It’s one thing to work up a file in a studio environment, but once you add 36 subs and an arena, there’s some interesting stuff going on that maybe you never noticed before. So my challenge the last few weeks has been trying to get the kick drum, bass, and low-end in the keys and synths all happy and working together.”

Monitor engineer Jared Swetnam mixes on an Avid S6L

‡‡         Meanwhile, in Monitorworld

The monitorworld setup is relatively straightforward, says monitor tech Chris Demonbreun; the main consideration was the actual location of the monitor position itself. “With the design for this tour, the only place for us to go was the upstage left corner,” he explains. “Luckily, our setup is pretty compact, and we have a video monitor feed from the video department for a better visual of the band.”

Monitor engineer Jared Swetnam mixes the band’s IEMs on an Avid S6L-32. The rest of the setup is comprised heavily of Shure gear, with two channels of UHF-R on the main stage and another two on the B stage behind FOH for handhelds, plus eight channels for the band’s PSM1000 personal monitor systems. The backline uses Shure ULX-D digital wireless systems for the instrument RF.

“The only challenge on this tour is transmitting wireless to the B stage for the IEMs,” says Demonbreun. The solution employs a Shure PA821A combiner with an RF split and two Professional Wireless Systems helical antennas. “One helical is pointed at the stage and the other is pointed at the B stage,” Demonbreun explains. “Keeping them up high, 90 degrees off-axis of each other and spaced apart, keeps them from interfering with each other.”

Swetnam does all of the RF coordination ahead of each show, and as his partner in monitorworld puts in, “Everything has been rock solid.”

Imagine Dragons 'Evolve' World Tour, photo by Todd Kaplan

‡‡         Team Effort = Success

The crew on the Evolve World Tour is admittedly small for a run of this scope and scale; however, under the eye of Sound Image crew chief Brendan Hines, everyone reports a positive and productive work environment. “It truly is a team effort on this tour, and it’s a pleasure working with such a great group of guys,” shares Demonbreun.

“We’ve been using Sound Image since our first amphitheater run in the spring of 2013, and Cameron has been on our team since the beginning of the Smoke + Mirrors Tour in 2015,” Eisenberg says. “I can only say good things about them. Cameron has been an incredible resource to me since I don’t come from a system design background, and I’ve been delighted with how he’s been able to translate my mixes in venues worldwide. Sound Image has gone above and beyond on many occasions to provide the tools we need, so they get very high marks in my book.”

Imagine Dragons’ Evolve world tour began with a show in Phoenix, AZ on Sept. 26, 2017 and crisscrossed the U.S. and Canada until Nov. 16. The tour continues with shows in Asia (Jan. 6-17), Europe (Feb. 16 to March 4), South America (March 16-23) and Europe again (April 3-26; Aug. 16-31).


Imagine Dragons Evolve World Tour


  • Sound Co: Sound Image
  • FOH Engineer/Production Manager: Scott Eisenberg
  • Monitor Engineer: Jared Swetnam
  • Systems Engineer: Cameron Whaley
  • Monitor Tech: Chris Demonbreun
  • Crew Chief: Brendan Hines
    P.A. GEAR
  • Mains: (36) Adamson E15, 18/side
  • Side Arrays: (12) Adamson E15, 6/side; (18) E12, 9/side
  • Rear Arrays: (16) Adamson S10, 8/side
  • Subwoofers: (24) Adamson E219, flown 12/side; (12) E219, ground stacked 6/side
  • Amps: Lab.gruppen PLM20000Qs
  • Drive/Control: Lab.gruppen LM44 system processor (w/Lake processing); Rational Acoustics Smaart v.8; Lectrosonics TM400 wireless test & measurement system; APB-DynaSonics MixSwitch; Roland Octa-Capture USB interface; Acurite thermometer & hydrometer
  • Console: Solid State Logic L500 Plus Console
  • Recording: 128-channel Pro Tools system
  • Outboard: Neve Portico II Channel Strip; Smart Research C2 compressor; SPL MixDream analog summing
  • Near-Field Monitors: VUE Audiotechnik H-8s
  • Console: Avid VENUE S6L-32
  • IEM Hardware: Shure PSM1000 Personal Monitor System
  • Wireless: Shure UR4D+ (vocals); Shure PA821A antenna combiner; (2) Professional Wireless Systems helical antennas; Shure ULX-D (backline