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Imagine Dragons/Lil Wayne College Football National Championship Halftime Performance Review

Written by on January 20, 2019

It’s a cold, foggy afternoon on Treasure Island. A few seagulls fly in the sky, and walking down Avenue H there’s a 3-story tall pile of dirt where a little league field once stood. While this might not seem like the scene of a nationally televised concert, it was. On January 7th, Treasure Island was home to the College Football National Championship Halftime performance, featuring Imagine Dragons and Lil Wayne. For you non-sports fans, College Football National Championship is essentially the Super Bowl of college football and is generally regarded as one of the biggest events in college sports. The game took place at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, with the Alabama Crimson Tide losing to the Clemson Tigers 44-16. While the game itself proved to be a bore by halftime, Clemson was already up 31-16 at that point, the halftime performance included a little bit more drama.


Your first question might be, and a question that we should get out of the way is: Why was the performance 50 miles north of where the actual game was played? The answer: we don’t exactly know. Some thought it was because the infamously soft turf at Levi’s wouldn’t have held up with a stage on top of it, or that ESPN just wanted to get some skyline shots of San Francisco, but either way, viewers at home and in the stadium were left without an answer. The College Football Championship halftime performance actually has a brief history of being off-site of the actual venue (outside the stadium when it was in Atlanta last year with Kendrick Lamar) but that’s a story for another day.


As most things do, the event as a whole looked better on TV. That’s not to say the concert wasn’t fun, but as I mentioned in the intro, there was a lot going on besides the eleven-minute performance people saw on TV. For people attending the free concert on Treasure Island, gates opened at 4 pm for the watch party, even with the game not scheduled to kickoff until approximately 5:20 pm. While this was an interesting idea, a watch party before the performance, it was poorly executed. They did have a large TV screen with the game on it, but the fact that there weren’t any seats, it was a cold San Francisco winter afternoon, there were limited concessions, and that the grass was damp, all made for a somewhat uncomfortable, standing-only, and cold experience. So for someone that had little interest in watching the first half of the game, it was drawn out and dull pre-performance experience. The emcee of the event, ABC 7’s Dion Lim, was decent, but at times she seemed confused herself on when the performance would actually begin or when the ESPN camera would cut to the audience so we could cheer at the right time. There was A LOT of premature cheering for b-roll footage for ESPN. The pre-performance time wasn’t all bad, as fans really got behind cheering for the guy on stage testing the lighting:


But when the actual performance started, the whole mood changed. Once everyone was properly filled into the appropriate catwalk areas and Dan Reynolds took the stage, it was game time. By halftime, the night had fallen and the foggy city background transformed into the beautiful skyline of the San Francisco Bay. The stage was slightly off center from the view, so it lined up almost perfectly for fans to see both the band and the city. Imagine Dragons opened with some of their popular songs from their 2018 album Evolve, and soon Lil Wayne joined them with a rap of his own. One song that ironically wasn’t played was Imagine Dragons’ Radioactive, as Treasure Island itself still contains trace amounts of radiation. As for the rest of the performance, it was great, fun and energetic. The stage lit up under the sky and most songs were synchronized with magnificent light displays on the screens behind the band and colorful fireworks shooting from the stage itself. My favorite song was Imagine Dragons Believer, which was actually rewritten to include a solo rap by Lil Wayne. You can check out the song on Spotify.


Also, I did a live-stream of the concert, so you can see the performance through the view of someone that was in the pit. The live stream has received over six thousand views and was featured on the San Francisco Chronicle Datebook article covering the event.


Overall, I would give the mini-concert (the actual performance only lasted 11 minutes) 7 out of 10 stars. While the performance was spectacular, the lack of concessions and chairs for the watch party bummed out most audience members before the performance started. Even though the venue was world-class, the beautiful bay background view was underutilized and the brisk weather put a damper on the lead up to the performance. If the concert was to be held again, I would like to see it be just a 45-minute event to minimize the standing in the cold. Also, most people left after the performance was done so there wasn’t much need to advertise for a “watch party” for the second half. As a final note, I couldn’t write an article on this performance without at least mentioning Lil Wayne’s outfit. The internet absolutely roasted his outfit, with several memes (internet jokes) emerging because of the over-the-top and bizarre attire he wore while performing.









Imagine Dragons will return to the Bay Area in May, as they are slated to perform at BottleRock in Napa. Below are some photos from the concert, photos courtesy Olivia Luk. Photos: Olivia Luk /