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Tears and laughs mark Imagine Dragons’ third TRF gala

It’s jarring to watch a man who has done so much fight back tears and claim he hasn’t done enough.

His voice quivering, Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons talked of his final communication with Tyler Robinson. “I was texting him, but not as much as I used to,” Reynolds told a hushed audience of a little more than 500 on Friday night at Caesars Ballroom. “I should have communicated with him more near the end, and I think about that every single day.”

It was a moment when you wanted to shake the person speaking, direct his view to that crowd and remind him of what he has helped achieve. Friday was the third Tyler Robinson Foundation gala, named for the young fan of the band who suffered from a rare form of cancer known as Rhabdomyosarcoma. The disease led to a brain tumor, from which Tyler died in March 2013 at age 17.

Through his brother, Jesse Robinson, Tyler had connected with the band on Facebook and developed a short but powerful friendship that peaked when the Robinsons took in an Imagine Dragons show at a club called Velour near their home in Provo, Utah. The song “It’s Time” was Tyler’s personal anthem, and he rode his brother’s shoulders that night as the band performed that song.

“He was the happiest guy in the room that night, and if he were here tonight, he’d be the happiest guy here, too,” Reynolds said. “You could see it and you could sense it.”

The band performed an acoustic set at the end of the gala, which has blossomed in just its third year. Such fan favorites as “Radioactive,” “Shots,” and fun cover of “Stand by Me.” At one point, goaded by bassist and chief goader Ben McKee, Reynolds leaped into a quick take of The Sugarhill Gang’s classic, “Rapper’s Delight.” Guitarist Wayne Sermon and Daniel Platzman on keys (though his primary instrument is the drums) followed until Reynolds stumbled through the lyric, “ … to the bang bang boogie, say, up jump the boogie, to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat.”

McKee sent his mates into laughter by playing the bass line of that song uncommonly up-tempo, saying, “We need it faster! Faster!”

But when it came time for “It’s Time,” the band locked into the song. Especially the line, “The road to heaven runs through miles of clouded hell.” That was young Tyler’s favorite line, around which legacies and heartfelt charities are built.

ANGEL DELIVERS

Honored during the gala for his work toward pediatric cancer awareness and fundraising, Criss Angel laid out his plans for an annual telethon under his Johnny Crisstopher Charitable Foundation. Angel plans to develop this project with the actor Gary Oldman, enlisting Imagine Dragons and many of the stars who turned out for Angel’s inaugural H.E.L.P. organization charity event at Luxor on Sept. 12.

Angel wants to make this event an annual rite of the fall, similar to the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon (and Lewis was at Angel’s event).

“I am asking Imagine Dragons to step up and join me in presenting a case to Congress to allow more funding for pediatric cancer,” an impassioned Angel told the audience. Reynolds followed by saying, “With Criss Angel hitting one side of this disease and us hitting the other, we are going to kill pediatric cancer.”

WELL, SINCE YOU ASKED …

Emcee Chris Harrison, of “The Bachelor” on ABC, called out Joel McHale, seated at the same table as former event host and ex-San Francisco 49ers great Steve Young. Harrison asked if McHale had anything he wanted to plug, and McHale responded, “Well, this might not be the right time, but I do have a new TV show called, ‘The Great Indoors.’ ”

Harrison asked if McHale had any other projects he wanted to plug, and McHale stood again and said, “Well, this might not be the right time, but I do have a new book coming out, called ‘Thanks for the Money,’ available online or at any bookstore.”

“Are you finished?” Harrison asked, and McHale just grinned, nodded and sat back down.

ALONG FOR THE RIDE

During the live auction hosted by expert auctioneer Christian Kolberg, a pair of rides with Imagine Dragons at XCYCLE indoor cycling studio at Boca Park went for $34,000 (or $17K apiece); and two weekend packages at Britney Spears’ “Piece of Me” show went for $12,000 ($6K apiece). These were arranged by Spears’ Las Vegas manager Larry Rudolph (whose better half, Jen Barnet, co-owns the business with Ginger Melien). Rudolph and Barnet were both attendees and supporters of TRF.

The donation was an effective answer to Harrison’s cracks from the stage about Spears, as he introduced Caesars Entertainment exec Jason Gastwirth as the person who “props up Britney Spears for her live entertainment show at Planet Hollywood.” After Gastwirth stepped down, Harrison returned with, “I just got a note: No. More. Britney. Jokes.” Good recovery by the rose-peddling TV host.

THE VENUES

Add Caesars Ballroom to a list of venues in which Imagine Dragons has performed. Others include: Hennessey’s Tavern and Beauty Bar, both on Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas; the lounge at O’Sheas (now the site of the Cromwell); South Point Showroom; The Pub at Monte Carlo, and Ovation at Green Valley Ranch (which four years ago was shut down in favor of a bingo room).

John Katsilometes’ column runs Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday in the A section, and Fridays in Neon. He also hosts “Kats! On The Radio” Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on KUNV 91.5-FM and appears Wednesdays at 11 a.m. with Dayna Roselli on KTNV Channel 13. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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