STAPLES CENTER, Los Angeles - (Photo: Rob Loud/@robloud)
The Killers kicked off two sold-out concerts at Staples Center last night, with a high energy, 23-song set. The tour comes to Los Angeles in the promotion of the band's latest record release, Wonderful Wonderful, which is their first album in 5 years. Last year when founding member and guitarist Dave Keuning decided to take a break from touring, The Killers looked to longtime touring guitarist/keyboardist Ted Sablay to step in and fill the role on stage and that's how the concert began. Sablay walked out and played the opening riff to "Wonderful Wonderful" which felt like the opening to a spaghetti western, while the rest of the band took the stage.
The Killers' bassist Mark Stoermer preceded Kuening in taking a break from touring to go back to college and make albums of his own. To fill that role, another longtime touring member of the band, Jake Blanton has stepped in to play bass. Sablay and Blanton have helped elevate the band's live sound by bringing lots of energy to the performances, literally and metaphorically not missing a beat. Another dynamic addition to The Killers' live show was the introduction of vocalists Leah Brown, Erica Canales and Danielle Whithers to sing backup. The three of them add a depth to the choruses which beautifully compliment The Killers' stadium-sized anthems.
(Photo: Rob Loud/@robloud)
Once the band took the stage for “Wonderful Wonderful”, frontman Brandon Flowers slowly emerged from the risers, donning a black suit with tailored bell-bottom slacks, and singing the opening lines of the song over Ronnie Vannucci’s pulsating drum rhythm. The album’s title-track is a powerful five-minute introduction to the show before confetti cannons help launch into the new fan favorite and Bowie-inspired “The Man.” As the years have passed, most of the band members have families of their own now, and Flowers has carefully gone from a braggadocious rock star who received a large amount of success and attention, to husband, father to three boys and family man. Not only is “The Man” a dance-y pop track that gets the crowd and band going on stage, but it’s a character that Flowers created based on his former self, around the time The Killers emerged in 2004. Without having to say much, he easily inhabits the character during The Killers’ shows like the Las Vegas showman he is, minus the stereotypical sex, drugs, and rock and roll lifestyle that young musicians become victim to. Like most rockstars, there’s the “performer” and there’s the “person.” Brandon Flowers has found a way to artistically pay tribute to his idols, capture the spirit of his former fearless self, and create a positive persona that connects with his own intuitive voice and fans of The Killers.
For the next couple songs it’s cruise control. “Somebody Told Me” ignites the crowd into a frenzy as its catchy chorus has been doing for over a decade. Without hesitation “Spaceman” launches fans into orbit as Flowers jumps onto the front stage monitors, holding the microphone out. The fans oblige, “I’m fine, but I hear those voices at night sometimes.” Next, the band plays Battle Born’s “The Way It Was” with Flowers again interacting with the crowd, this time a call and response.
(Photo: Rob Loud/@robloud)
Although it was written during the recording of Day & Age, the politically charged “Run For Cover” returns The Killers to the Sam’s Town era. If Wonderful Wonderful has more tender leanings, “Run For Cover” is an explosive arena-rocker that reminds fans where it all started. “Smile Like You Mean It” follows bringing smiles to the faces of the twenty thousand on hand.
Over their career, The Killers have probably seen hundreds of thousands of signs, but recently they started bringing fans on stage with signs asking to play “For Reasons Unknown.” Most of the time Vannucci hands over his drumsticks, giving the fan an opportunity to play the song with the band. Last night the opportunity was given to an L.A. based drummer named Aelena Gillies. The crowd cheered her on as she performed the song flawlessly.
(Photo: Rob Loud/@robloud)
The set closed with “Runaways”, “Read My Mind”, and "All These Things That I Have Done.” Three songs that nearly everybody in the building knew every word to. After a brief break, Flowers returned with an eye-catching golden suit and sunglasses, dancing on the monitors during “The Calling” much to the delight of the fans. The Killers closed the concert by performing their two stadium-sized classics, Sam’s Town’s “When You Were Young” and Hot Fuss’ “Mr. Brightside” which continue to gain momentum at every concert. Both cause fans to go crazy within the first few seconds, but it’s “Mr. Brightside” which causes a euphoric pandemonium at almost every show.
It appears that even with the absence of Dave Keuning and Mark Stoermer, The Killers have found an inspiration in the new record that has been echoed in their live show. New songs, new faces, new ideas, and a more playful arena have helped them to connect and re-connect with their fans. They even wrote and performed a new song just for L.A., with a photo displayed on the giant LCD screen behind the stage. “Have you ever been to Hollywood? It could do us both a lot of good.” Flowers belted out as the crowd cheered. With no signs of slowing down, The Killers are about to embark on an extensive world tour in which they will headline Lollapalooza Brazil, Boston Calling, Bottlerock, Bonnaroo, Firefly, Rock In Roma, Rock in Rio, Panorama, and others. Tonight The Killers return to Staples Center for their second concert.