By Jennifer Trainor
It was a hot summer night in Manhattan, inside of Webster Hall and out. July 23rd marked the return of The Killers after a 2+ year hiatus from the stage, which included solo projects from all but one of the four band members (Dave Keuning, guitarist). After wrapping the tour supporting Day & Age (2008) in early 2010, band members headed for different corners of the west that they call home and took some time for themselves. Amid rumors that they were sick of each other and breaking up, frontman Brandon Flowers (vocals, synth, bass) released solo project Flamingo and spent much of his press time explaining that the Killers were just “on a break” and that they would be back.
Flowers does not lie. Indeed the Killers are back. Releasing their first single “Runaways” from forthcoming album Battle Born and playing a few intimate gigs for die-hards before headlining the inaugural Firefly Music Festival (review) in Dover, Delaware last weekend, it’s safe to say there’s a Killer buzz again. Showing the east coast some love, the Killers headed north from Delaware to play the city. Not MSG, which undoubtedly will be on stop on their proper album tour, but the intimate and almost holy setting of Webster Hall. Something a little more special than average for a band of this size. A real treat for a fan.
The set looked the same. Nothing was different – but something was different. The signature lit-up “K” is replaced with a similarly-crafted bolt of lightening, the signature icon of the forthcoming fourth album Battle Born, due out on September 18th. And guess what, it has the ability to change colors. It’s signature, but different. We like it. We’re sometimes creatures of habit, but evolution is ok with us. Be gentle please.
Setting the tone with a world-class light show on even such a tiny stage, this didn’t feel like a practice run. Lights, sound, supporting musicians – it all felt fine-tuned. No fooling around here, from go the boys brought the heat to Webster Hall. Opening with the new release – “Runaways,” the band played with an intensity that you’d expect during the last song of the night, not the first – and honestly never quit. If you were waiting for a moment to catch your breath, give your legs a break from the incessant jumping, mop the sweat from your brow, it never came. The 19 song set showcased 4 new songs and covered the hits from Hot Fuss, Sam’s Town and Day & Age. “Runaways” is certainly the catchiest of the new material shared and was flawlessly performed. It didn’t take long for fans to latch onto this one, many already belting out all the lyrics along with smiling Flowers, fists in the air to emphasize their conviction that they are indeed “runaways”.
“Miss Atomic Bomb” is possibly the nostalgic nod track of the album – the new “Dustland Fairytale.” Sung with emotion by Flowers, during the live performance you can’t help but take notice of the harmonizing vocals provided by guitarist Dave Keuning and bassist Mark Stoermer.
Between “Human” and “A Dustland Fairytale,” apparently Flowers heard an audience member comment that “Day & Age sucked”, to which Flowers replied in dripping sarcasm, “Yeah, I hope our next album sucks just as much”. Lots of speculation exists as to whether the new album will be a return to the story-telling rock anthems that propelled the band to world-notoriety, or if the slicker, pop sound of Day & Age will prevail. Based on the tracks heard live to date, including “From Here on Out” and “Flesh and Bone,” I think it’s too ambitious to pigeonhole the album as one or the other, but rather expect it to be a blend of what the band does well, which hopefully will please fans of earlier sounds and new alike.
The Killers often throw in a cover from a local artist or a tune that they’ve been influenced by or appreciated in their own musical journeys. Webster Hall was treated to a short reprise of “Dreamin’” by Blondie where Keuning and Flowers spent a few moment together close on stage as Dave plucked out the notes. Flowers was clearly in his element again, happy to be on stage as evidenced by his non-stop smiling and energy as he paced the stage. Like Flowers nervous fist-pumps, no Killers show would be complete without “Mr. Brightside” – known to be the only Killers song that they’ve performed at each and every gig they’ve ever played. Go bet on it if you’re going to a show, the odds are in your favor.
“All These Things That I’ve Done” is their signature closer and anthem of all anthems. With Flowers up on the speakers, fists in the air, he takes us down the common path in search of redemption and builds an army of followers right in front of him, each and every time, claiming not to be soldiers, but to have soul. Barely off the stage, and they’re back, jumping in with newbies “From Here on Out,” which almost has a country twang to it if I may assert my opinion here, but a likeable chorus that even first-timers glommed onto. “Flesh and Bone” catches Stoermer acting as excited as Stoermer gets with some stomping of the foot and playing to Ronnie Vannucci (drums). The encore wraps with cult favorite “Jenny Was A Friend of Mine,” a Stoermer moment to shine with a bass line like no other which he again flawlessly delivers, and rip-roaring bombastic “When You Were Young” to send you on your way. If you happen to not have noticed Vannucci back there all night, maybe you’re on the “wrong” side of the bolt, there’s no chance you’re going to miss him during this epic finale.
The four band members seem completely comfortable back on stage with new material and old and show no hesitation, as if they’d never stopped touring. We fully expect Flowers to craft a few awkwardly-told, yet charming “stories” over time related to the new material that will be used at show after show. He’s not quite there yet, but we know it’s coming. But Monday night, with or without much chit-chat, the Killers did what they came out to do – remind us why we love them and let us know that they are indeed back. The flow of the show and their style was very similar to that of the Day & Age tour, but my guess is there’s lots up their sleeve for the full tour.
My only complaint is they never play more than 90 minutes. But I guess 90 is all some people can take. You’re left sweaty and exhausted but always wanting a little more. Fortunately, I think we’ve got a LOT more to look forward to as we suffer through the dog days of summer and Battle Born’s release creeps up on us. Keep your eyes on the Killers and get ready for the tour announcements. Big stage or small, you won’t have any complaints – it’s a live music experience of our day and age not to be missed.
Somebody Told Me
Smile Like You Mean It
This Is Your Life
Miss Atomic Bomb
For Reasons Unknown
A Dustland Fairytale
Dreamin’ (Blondie cover)
Read My Mind
All These Things That I’ve Done
From Here on Out
Flesh and Bone
Jenny Was a Friend of Mine
When You Were Young