Review: The Killers build to a killer climax at USF Sun Dome
For some reason, whenever I think of the Killers, my first instinct is that they’re British. Maybe it’s because they are so popular with our friends over the ocean. Maybe it’s because guitarist Dave Keuning gathered members by placing an ad in the local paper that listed The Beatles, The Cure, Oasis, and U2 (not British, but close) as the influences. Or maybe it’s because the singer’s voice has a certain quality to it that just screams “British pop rock” to me.
But the Killers aren’t British, they’re American, and Friday night they stopped in Tampa to play a 90-minute set to a mostly full USF Sun Dome. The diverse crowd included 40-somethings in shiny knit tops, frat boys double-fisting beers, high school emo chicks in leggings and t-shirts, rocker types, punk kids with Mohawks, and pre-teens and the parents who love them.
The boys from Vegas wasted no time highlighting their latest album, the very new-wavey Day & Age, which offers influences from around the world. The album has a bit more funk and jazz to it than their two previous studio albums, as well as some sounds that come straight from David Bowie circa 1973. They opened with Joy Ride, but -- knowing that they would have to play it eventually -- moved quickly on to the oldie-but-goodie Somebody Told Me, from their debut Hot Fuss.
Lead singer Brandon Flowers didn’t spend much time with idle chit-chat, and he sounded virtually flawless at the mic – it’s almost as if I was listening to the recorded album instead of a live show. Unfortunately, all of the attention to detail on his vocal performance made his stage presence suffer a bit.
Flowers’ energy waxed and waned throughout the evening, so that epic songs like A Dustland Fairytale seemed to get lost in the crowd (in fact, people started leaving during this number). The transition between songs was a bit clunky and awkward; there was generally a good five or ten seconds of silence, which seemed to be just enough time for the audience and the band to lose any of the momentum it had gained from the previous songs.
But regardless of whatever was holding Flowers back throughout the night, he was occasionally able to shake it off, and during those times he was definitely at his best. I think the singer must feed off the energy from the crowd, because when the audience got excited about a song, so did he. As the opening notes for Spaceman played, everyone cheered, and Flowers happily conducted the audience in a singalong.
And the absolute best part of the show was the end, starting with Mr. Brightside, where Flowers was bopping around stage and dancing from speaker to speaker. His voice cracked a time or two, but it didn’t bother me that his performance was no longer flawless – I was having fun, and so was everyone around me.
The climax of the evening was undoubtedly All These Things That I’ve Done. Flowers teased us, having the band hold off at an integral point in the song, making us wait to sing along with our favorite part – “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier.” Eventually, we couldn’t take it anymore, and we just burst into song on our own. Finally, here was the emotion and electricity I had been looking for all night. It’s too bad I had to wait more than an hour to get it. The song ended with a burst of confetti timed perfectly to Flowers’ falsetto climax, followed by a brief reprieve of the “I’ve got soul” chant, before the band called it a night...
...until they came back out for an encore that was even better than the rest of the concert. We got an all-too-brief funky guitar solo from Keuning during Jenny Was a Friend of Mine. Then, before the very last song, Flowers promised, “We’re gonna play as hard as we can. Are you willing to receive as hard as you can?” When the stands started shaking as people busted a move to the opening riffs of When You Were Young, I knew they were.
Theatrics throughout the night were minimal. There were some projected scenes of famous animated skeletons – such as the army in Jason and the Argonauts – during Bones; crazy seizure-inducing lights with several songs; and some pyrotechnics at the end of When You Were Young. But for the most part the band kept things pretty simple.
In that way, they really let their music stand out. And maybe that’s why Flowers kept his showboating to a minimum, too. The Killers seem to believe that their main priority is playing music, and any entertainment that you happen to have along the way is just secondary.
Here’s the setlist:J oy Ride
Somebody Told Me
For Reasons Unknown
Joy Ride (acoustic break)
Bling (Confessions of a King)
Smile Like You Mean It
Under the Milky Way
A Dustland Fairytale
Read My Mind
All These Things That I've Done
Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine
When We Were Young
-- Heather Trese, tbt* correspondent. Photo: Getty Images.