The Killers (USA)

Brandon Flowers, The Killers (Palace Theatre Melbourne, 22nd January 2013)

Brandon Flowers, The Killers (Palace Theatre Melbourne, 22nd January 2013)

An incredible set from Las Vegas’ finest ahead of their Melbourne Big Day Out headline slot. With photographic media barred these shots are from the crowd.

When a band as big as The Killers announce they’re going to play the 1800 capacity Palace Theatre, it stands to reason that tickets disappear very quickly.

In a handful of minutes in fact.

It also stands to reason that, 90 minutes prior to doors opening (and two and a half hours before the Las Vegas quartet were due to hit the stage) the queue to get in stretched a city block. Such is the pulling power of Messers Flowers, Keuning, Stoermer and Vanucci.

In Australia for the Big Day Out, The Killers gave fans – some of whom had shelled $400 a ticket through questionable channels – just under 2 hours of high energy, anthemic singalong brilliance.

They’ve got the tunes, just consider what was delivered in the first ten songs alone: Mr Brightside, Smile Like You Mean It, Spaceman, Human, Somebody Told Me and For Reasons Unknown were all part of the first half. Most bands would kill for one of those tunes to close their shows, and each sounded fresh, particularly Somebody Told Me which has undergone a makeover of sorts with bassist Mark Stoermer delivering a darker, lengthy intro reminiscent of their Joy Division cover of Shadowplay.

In between the walls of huge hits and call and response crowd interraction though came some cuts from current album Battle Born. It’s not performed well in Australia, and to these ears is an album that’s disjointed, patchy and overwhelmingly disappointing. Live, it’s clear too that it just hasn’t captured the audience in the ways Hot Fuss and Sam’s Town in particular have. The Way It Was – a Starship-esque bloated 80s power ballad – does score some good support but it just doesn’t seem authentic in the way that All These Things That I’ve Done will later in the night. Miss Atomic Bomb, with its recycled Mr Brightside riff and Human-borrowed chord progression sounds like a Hot Fuss B-Side, and surprisingly it’s the country twang of From Here on Out that seems to hit the mark better than the rest.

Under The Gun is introduced by Brandon as being a request, and it’s this live rarity from 2004′s Hot Fuss which gives us one of the night’s great highlights, including a fever pitch reaction from a pocket of fans at the front of stage who presumably had done the requesting.

Last in Australia in 2011 for the Good Vibrations Festival, front man Brandon Flowers had just said goodbye to his mother having succumbed to cancer. Although on the setlist that night, A Dustland Fairytale had not been played. Introducing it tonight, Flowers dedicated, in a roundabout way, the song to his mother and gave the crowd what was to me the night’s highlight. This is a beast of a song, building, dying back and accented by the sweeping synth lines to which Killers fans have become accustomed. Flowers performance is faultless on what no doubt remains an emotional song to deliver. Tacking the first verse of Crowded House’s Don’t Dream It’s Over was a nice touch too.

Can You Read My Mind leads into the Springsteen-lite Runaways, the lead single from current album that sounds fine but also makes you realise just how far behind their other opening singles from previous albums (Somebody Told Me, When You Were Young and Human respectively) it is. Still, it’s not out of place in the set.

All These Things That I’ve Done. They simply have to be sick of playing this song but you’d not guess. Flowers again is a manic frontman, covering the stage from left to right, front to back, and drummer Ronnie Vanucci, hair flailing, leaves nothing in the tank. As the entire crowd belt out ‘I got soul but I’m not a soldier’ you again realise that these guys are one of the few bands left who have the tunes and reach to play to huge crowds. Never afraid to be big or ambitious, The Killers leave the stage for the obligatory encore requests.

Returning – surprisingly – with the Battle Born offering Be Still (drawing two comparisons from our small group to Lady In Red by Chris de Burgh and Touch of Paradise by John Farnham…these are not good comparisons), it eventually gave way to Hot Fuss’s dark but bombastic tale of murder, Jenny Was a Friend of Mine.

What’s left?

Oh, only the spectacular When You Were Young.

When you end with a tune like that, you leave just under 2000 people already mentally queuing up to buy tickets for the inevitable end of 2013 arena tour. They’ll have to join the queue behind the thousands who missed out on tickets tonight, who if they’ve any sense will already be waiting.

Related: The Killers @ V Festival 2009, The Killers @ Rod Laver Arena, 2007

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