Immediately prior to a typically punchy and engrossing set, Peter Hayes of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club asserts: “We are very grateful to The Killers for having us out here”. Oddly enough, you get the impression that this statement is entirely genuine.
At the climax of this sold-out UK tour, the Vegas quartet are giving the kind of performances that cannot help but be talked about. With a huge budget, packed arenas and something of a point to prove, this is a tour almost anybody would happily lend their name to. What brings the Killers here is, of course, new album Sam’s Town, a work that has so far produced two brilliant singles, When You Were Young and Bones.
Matching their blinding debut Hot Fuss was never going to be easy, but reaction to the new record genuinely led me to believe that the Killers had blown it. A worrying preconception indeed, and something that the band set out to challenge right from the off.
As the lights dropped, a giant screen in front of the stage flickered o life. As haunting synth noises augmented, desolate images of the American outback (which were the inspiration for the new album) swam in and out of focus. The volume from both noise and stage reached a deafening pitch, before the screen suddenly dropped from sight and the opening chords of Sam’s Town thundered out, accompanied by explosions of glitter. The band, looking sleek and sounding colossal, stared casually into their surroundings.
Brandon Flowers enjoyed a brief moment of calm with following track Enterlude, calling to the crowd “We hope you enjoy your stay,” before a breathless stream of hits sent the swarming crowd into a frenzy. The phenomenal-sounding When You Were Young is succeeded by Bones, Somebody Told Me, Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine and Smile Like You Mean It, the latter sounding particularly grandiose as Flowers played the main hook with soaring synthesised chords.
It is this re-working of songs as live spectacles that ultimately shows the development of the Killers as a band over the last year. Their live act now seems polished, slick and very, very hard-hitting, a sense that is keenly shown with their newer material. Uncle Jonny and Read My Mind are surely two of the most intelligent and original songs that the band have created to date. A separation from Hot Fuss it may be, but there is an unerring sense that these are the tracks that will eventually stand the test of time.
There are exceptions to this, such as Mr Brightside, which takes the crowd volume to a whole new level of bedlam. This is only surpassed by All These Things That I’ve Done, which arrives at the end of a four-song encore.
And yet, the lights still do not go up. Not content to finish of the best song they will probably ever write, the band return once again to give us Exitlude (“we hope you enjoyed your stay”) followed by a reprie of When You Were Young. As far as putting effort into a show goes, you could not ask for anything more.
Yes, Brandon Flowers’ get up now resembles a shameless homage to Freddie Mercury, but the way he strides about the stage and displays his vocal dexterity is nonetheless captivating. And yes, there are a great many emerging bands with just as much talent, but nobody has had quite the same impact as of yet. It appears that the Killers are becoming something rather special, and it’s nights like tonight that we may yet look back on and say, “I was there.”