Gig Review: The Killers at The O2
The Killers are well and truly back with a bang. While 2009’s Day & Age was creatively refreshing, their subsequent prolonged hiatus lead many to question whether what had been quite a spectacular rise to fame was simply a phase of a band without any true staying power. Last September, The Killers proved their doubters wrong with the release of Battle Born, a traditional but highly enjoyable rock affair. Their years apart have had no effect on their ability to perform live either; rather, they appear stronger than ever.
Australian rock group Howling Bells opened. It was an interesting choice considering they bear very little musical resemblance to The Killers, although greatly preferable to having what often sounds like a cover band warming up the crowd. They earned themselves a few new fans, judging by the response.
The band made a strangely subdued entrance. Typically most acts popular enough to fill an arena such as The O2 will go to great lengths, creating elaborate stage entrances of varying degrees of complexity. But The Killers, venue lights still fully ablaze and stage lights firmly in the off position, simply walked on stage and immediately started into ‘Mr. Brightside’. It was a bizarre and almost disappointing sequence of events but at the same thing, extremely refreshing. No fucking around, straight to the point. The crowd, as expected, ate it up with great enthusiasm.
After this decidedly old school introduction, the show took on a level of production one would expect. The Killers (or at least their stage crew), know damn well how put on a live show; this shouldn’t come as any surprise seeing as the four hail from ‘fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada’, world capital of showmanship. Lasers, confetti, pyrotechnics, and a massive (unfortunately pixelated) background screen with some vaguely related abstract imagery were all present and used appropriately, never overdone so as to lose their effectiveness.
The variety in the setlist, as is required from a band with a significant back catalogue, was good. Each of their three past albums got roughly equal attention, and their most recent wasn’t neglected either. In fact, they treated it with a surprising amount of reverence for something so new. The final song of the night was the title track ‘Battle ‘Born’; they have to be commended for having the confidence in their new material to close on it. It isn’t (yet) a fan favourite but surely will be after this tour ends. Other highlights included Flowers taking to the piano early on to give a lovely solo piano performance of bonus track ‘Prize Figher’, and later on their adaptation of U2′s ‘Without or Without You’ as a fitting outro to ‘A Dustland Fairytale’.
The gig winded down beautifully, as Brandon Flowers took to giving each member of the band their moment of appreciation and then headed down to the barrier (wisely taking off his wedding ring beforehand) to greet the ravenous fans and thank them for their support. Flowers is truly a terrific frontman; it isn’t enough to just have a great voice outside the studio to be a good live act and Flowers seems to know this. He’s a born performer, knowing exactly how to work the crowd and interact with them. Several seconds into lead single ‘Runaways’ he called a halt to proceedings as a fist fight broke out. He often gets a bad rap in the media for some reason but on stage, at least, he’s an absolute gentleman.
An evening of spectacle with substance. Glamorous indie rock and roll indeed.