Live Review: The Killers
Harry Craig visits the Emirates Stadium in London to see a spectacular gig from The Killers and Sam Fender.
“This is a super-spreader event,” Brandon Flowers declared just before ‘Jenny Was a Friend of Mine’, “we’re spreading peace, love and rock and roll” – a not-so-subtle nod to the fact that COVID has postponed this tour three times. 921 days of waiting for the mirage to be imploded, and The Killers finally had the opportunity to take their sixth studio album, Imploding the Mirage, on the road. In that time, a seventh, quieter album, Pressure Machine, has been released, and Brandon, Ronnie and co. are arguably on the best creative streak of their careers – some statement for a band that has been putting out music for the best part of twenty years.
The support act was a young Geordie you have probably heard of, by the name of Sam Fender. When this tour was announced in 2019, Fender was relatively unknown, but in that time he has rocketed to fame with his second album, Seventeen Going Under, and consequently the stadium was already packed to see him, hours before The Killers were on. This was Fender’s first ever stadium gig, but you wouldn’t know it – the entire stadium sang along for much of his set.
Flowers became perhaps the greatest showman since Hugh Jackman
Finally, it was time for The Killers to come to the stage, and frontman Brandon Flowers rose onto the stage to begin with ‘My Own Soul’s Warning’, a ready-made concert opener from Imploding the Mirage. They then transitioned from one hit to another with ease; the opening run included hits like ‘When You Were Young’ and ‘Jenny Was a Friend of Mine’. There was no expense spared on stage effects, with confetti and pyrotechnics throughout and a huge cheer from the crowd as the giant screen asked, “Are We Human?” prior to the start of ‘Human’.
There was a healthy dose of tracks from The Killers’ two “COVID” albums from the last two years, and fears that these would fall flat with an audience more familiar with the band’s earlier material were completely unfounded. Songs like ‘Caution’ and ‘Dying Breed’ are certain to become setlist staples for decades to come, whilst I came away with a newfound appreciation for the disco-infused ‘Fire in Bone’. Imploding the Mirage was as close to a classic Killers album as they could get, and it came into its own in a live stadium environment.
Nevertheless, for a band renowned for its pomp and grandeur, there were some genuinely moving moments too. ‘Pressure Machine’, the title track from their most recent album, finally made its live debut following the request of BBC Radio DJ Jo Whiley, who has been instrumental in the band’s career. This was a long-awaited moment for die-hard Killers fans like me, for whom ‘Pressure Machine’ is one of the most beautiful tracks the band has ever released, a sentiment espoused by Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, who last year said he is “jealous” of the track. Another emotional moment came during ‘A Dustland Fairytale’, penned as an ode to Flowers’ late mother, from Day & Age, the band’s third studio album. The stadium was lit up spontaneously with the lights of thousands of fans as Flowers’ powerful voice filled everyone’s hearts.
The end of the set was non-stop, back-to-back hits, as one would expect from a band with twenty years of material to draw from. The slick transition from ‘Runaways’ to ‘Read My Mind’ was an exceptional piece of showmanship, and Flowers appeared genuinely moved by the crowd’s response, inviting them to join him in the refrain of “we can’t wait till tomorrow”. He remarked that “everything we’ve been doing these past two years has been leading up to tonight” – testament to the band’s special relationship with Britain.
The Killers are possibly the most American Kings that Britain has ever had.
Arguably the highlight of the show was main set closer ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’, in which Flowers became perhaps the greatest showman since Hugh Jackman as he beckoned to the crowd and was drowned out by the refrain of “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier”. Of course, we all knew that there was more to come, even as the band went past the stadium’s 22:30 curfew. The encore launched into life with alien abduction anthem ‘Spaceman’, but there was only one song the crowd was waiting for.
On a weekend of national celebrations, The Killers gave us a double helping of the unofficial British national anthem, ‘Mr. Brightside’. Flowers didn’t need to sing as 65,000 fans belted every single word with the trademark fluency of every wedding karaoke or nightclub. Even as the Queen celebrated seventy years on the throne, this concert reaffirmed that The Killers are possibly the most American Kings that Britain has ever had. Flowers’ aspiration that “sixty-five thousand people would become one” certainly seemed to have been achieved.