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Imagine Dragons party with Shaq, pull in $3.2M for charity

Imagine Dragons achieved two tall orders on Friday night. The Vegas rockers raised $3.2 million for the Tyler Robinson Foundation and hung out with Shaquille O’Neal.

The Dragons held their sixth annual TRF Gala at Wynn Las Vegas’ LaTour Ballroom. About 880 supporters turned out to catch the program, capped by an acoustic set highlighted by forceful performances of “Believer” and “Radioactive,” among other hits. The event raised money — a lot of money — and awareness for pediatric cancer, and is named for Tyler Robinson, a fan from Provo, Utah, who died from a brain tumor in March 2013 at age 17.

O’Neal, who has several business interests in Vegas (including his Big Chicken outpost at Harmon Avenue and Paradise Road across from Hard Rock Hotel) was the night’s honorary chairman.

The pro basketball Hall of Famer and veteran broadcaster turned up in all of his 7-feet-1 inch grandeur in a VIP photo shoot before the gala, and Dragons front man Dan Reynolds hurried over to share cellphone numbers.

“Can you believe this?” he said as he nervously punched in the digits. “I am getting Shaq’s cell number right now.”

Shaq also showed off his beige, size-23 wingtips. One of his shoes was actually offered for bid at the silent auction, prompting one bidder to say, “It looks like a toy boat.”

The Dragons and their Las Vegas manager Mac Reynolds, who is also on the TRF’s board of directors, sought to bring in $2.5 million, which would have been an event record. But fueled by several big-dollar donations — including a series of randomly announced $15,000 pledges from O’Neal — strong table sales and a lively live auction, the total ballooned past $3 million before the end of the evening.

The four band members — Reynolds, guitarist Wayne Sermon, drummer Daniel Platzman and bassist Ben McKee — were dressed for the all bedecked in Versace gear. There was a brief, impromptu effort to auction off those clothes (their instrument were sold off), but the effort quickly unraveled. It was just as well. The money target had been hit, and the guys looked like rock stars.

The answer to backlash

Imagine Dragons has been hit with blowback from some mass-media and social-media critics across the country. Indicative of the trend was a headline in Spin magazine asking, “Is Imagine Dragons the worst band ever?” after its performance at halftime of the NCAA college football championship game between Clemson and Alabama in January.

The criticism has arrived as the band has achieved international success, top-selling albums and Grammy Awards.

“It comes with the territory when a band gets to a certain level,” Reynolds said, then halted as a loved one approached. “You just — oh, I mean, actually, this is my answer, right here.”

It was his wife, Aja Volkman, about nine months pregnant with the couple’s fourth child, a boy. When asked when she was due, Volkman laughed and said, “Today?” Oct. 10 is the actual due date.

McKee did finish the band’s backlash thought, saying, “When your music is so, just, everywhere, and everybody is listening to it and it’s part of American popular culture, it’s impossible to just ignore us. Even if you don’t like us, you have to react to us, I guess. But it’s not something any of us are paying too much attention to.”

Mayoral appearance

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman has known Imagine Dragons longer than many of the band’s fans. As she said during her appearance onstage Friday, “I have known these guys at least, I would say, eight years,” before presenting the dual honors of a proclamation that Friday was Imagine Dragons Day in Las Vegas (yes, and we’ll even expand the honor to all of Clark County) and a key to the city.

Turning and noting the four band members, Goodman said of the honors, “I have four of these, because of I have four children and I know what it means to fight over one thing.”

The mayor went on to praise the Dragons’ community efforts over the years, which have amassed more than $7.7 million in donations to TRF since the 2014 event launch at Hard Rock Hotel. The charity gala has flowered fast since that night, which collected $315,000 and kicked off what is one of the city’s great philanthropic evenings.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts.Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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