This summer, the Killers headlined Glastonbury. Next summer, they’ll play stadiums across Europe.
But on Thursday, one of the most bankable names in alternative rock crammed their Vegas-sized act into the intimate Orpheum in Tampa, a club with a capacity under 800 on the Ybor City strip.
It wasn’t the first time a major act has played the Orpheum — Post Malone, SZA and the Jonas Brothers have all played Orpheum shows over the years — but it usually happens when an artist is on the way up, not when they’re already superstars.
But this was an unusual gig. The Killers are in town to headline Friday’s opening night of 97X Next Big Thing at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, and this was supposed to be a little warm-up after a few weeks off.
“We’re dusting off a couple of songs for you all tonight,” said singer Brandon Flowers.
That didn’t stop fans from dropping more than $75 per ticket on a show that sold out in minutes, and lining up around the block for a chance to get close to the stage once doors opened. Once they got to the doors, though, it was just another Orpheum show, same as the Menzingers or Bayside this weekend — low-key security and a table of merch in the back.
The show was downsized just a bit from the Killers’ normal arena-ready fare; missing was Flowers’ signature lowercase-K keyboard stand. Still, they packed nine members beneath the Orpheum’s disco ball, including Flowers, who spent the set whirling around the stage, singing inches from fans’ faces and hopping up on a riser to command the crowd from on high. They even blasted confetti into the crowd on a couple of numbers.
Fifteen years after their breakthrough debut Hot Fuss, the group filled the set with songs from that era, opening with the call-and-responsey All These Things That I’ve Done (“I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier!”), closing with the unkillable mid-2000s smash Mr. Brightside, and splicing in several more (Somebody Told Me, Smile Like You Mean It, Jenny Was a Friend Of Mine) in between.
While fans sang along to all of them — especially hits like Human, When We Were Young and The Man — some of the biggest reactions came from slightly deeper, later cuts. (Not a surprise, since an exclusive concert like this would only be packed with Victims, the collective name for Killers diehards.) Flowers gave off strong Springsteen vibes on Miss Atomic Bomb and Runaways, sprinkling in a little Elton John and Billy Joel on A Dustland Fairytale.
If there was rust to dust off, it didn’t show much. Once, Flowers admitted he almost launched into the wrong song (Smile Like You Mean It instead of Somebody Told Me). Otherwise, the only difference was the size of the venue.
“Sometimes when you haven’t played in a while, you kind of forget, Do I go on right there? Is that the way it’s supposed to be?” Flowers told the crowd. “Tonight you are confirming that it’s okay for us to be up on this stage."
A song or two later, he led the crowd through the charging Runaways, coaxing them to sing, over and over, “We can’t wait till tomorrow! We can’t wait till tomorrow!”
For fans who missed out on Thursday’s intimate show, tomorrow can’t come soon enough.
The Killers headline Friday’s 97X Next Big Thing at 5 p.m. at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre. Switchfoot, PVRIS and I Don’t Know How But They Found Me also perform. Sunday’s lineup includes the 1975, Judah and the Lion, the Revivalists and Silversun Pickups. Tickets to both days are $35 and up, or $50 and up for the weekend.