The Killers

support Louis XIV
author TL date 02/03/12 venue Malmö Arena, Malmö, SWE

Entering Malmö Arena, there's still a thick queue behind me that looks about 100 metres long, and that's just for one of the entrances to the place. So yeah, this is a proper arena show alright, of the kind that only rock's biggest stars get to play around these parts. Not that there was any doubt that The Killers are stars, considering how even the most musically indifferent friends of yours can likely recognise at least a handful of their hits with ease. All is set for a big night then, except of course for the strict adherence to Sweden's alcohol laws: Security making sure that people are only allowed to drink alcohol in roped off bar areas and not inside the actual venue. I can only understate my dislike for this concept, so swallowing my annoyance, I make my way to my courtside seat and await the emergence of the opening band.

Louis XIV

Returning from a hiatus that started in 2009, San Diego quartet Louis XIV - who have public endorsements from people like Brody Dalle, Josh Homme and even David Bowie under their belt - are back at supporting The Killers, just as they did prior to their break-up. Clearly inspired by classic rock virtues, the sharply dressed guys come off like a mix of Jet, Rolling Stones and Cage The Elephant, with frontman Jason Hill turning his vocals, half singing/half dirty talking, on the slowly growing audience in the still half-empty arena, while the remaining band lay down suggestive rhythms and riffs that sound like the want to encourage some sexy dancing at the very least. The audience beholds the spectacle with part curiousity, part total lack of recognition, but they do at least respond to the band's occasional attempts at summoning some clapping along. Watching the performance, it's hard not to see what the people tooting this band's horn are on about, as the Who-ish windmill-strumming and rock-and-drop moves are performed with the badass swagger of a band that should be headlining its own shows. Still, the beats occasionally feel like they chase their own tail, and for all their impressive professionalism at both singing, playing and performing, Louis XIV never lift their support set to more than that, not even when Killers drummer Ronnie Vannucci, Jr. joins them to help out on guitar for a song. The crowd seems to enjoy the music, but any real signs of elation are seemingly saved for tonight's main event.

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All pictures in this article courtesy of tor3y.com

The Killers

After a changeover during which the (parched! damn you Sweden) crowd entertains itself by sending a 'wave' for several rounds around the arena's tribunes, the 'Killers show suddenly starts with the band rushing on stage to perform "Mr. Brightside" while the room is still fully lit. At first this has me wondering if there's a technical difficulty, but everything seems to be in order - I just don't know if I think this is cool, because I feel the sterile house lights only make a sober audience even more self-conscious, discouraging them from really committing to the song and the moment. So I welcome the darkness and the way it caters to the elaborate stage lights, with a massive backdrop lending canvas to all sorts of graphics, as the band proceeds with "The Way It Was", "Smile Like You Mean It" and "Spaceman", the latter of which gets the majority of the floor crowd jumping in proper big-show fashion for the first time, with it's up-tempo beat and excited chorus.

"Heart Of A Girl" and "Bling" follow and things are clearly heating up. The show's production values are scary good, with top-tier lights and mix and all, and The Killers sound so tight they almost make their own material seem a little like child's play. Guitarist Dave Keuning for instance, calmly strolls around looking like a brunette Robert Smith and brandishing his instrument in a way that seems to say "this might not be math-rock guitar-wizardry, but let's see how you do at writing melodies that get this many people off their feet every night". "Miss Atomic Bomb" arrives and the centrepiece of newest album "Battle Born" has it's title lyric fittingly emphasised with the night's first display of explosive pyrotechnics. It's predictable and maybe even corny, but still damn effective as it seems to take things up a notch.

Then it's hit-parade time, with "Human", "Somebody Told Me", "Flesh And Bone" and "For Reasons Unknown" following in quick succession, and when the mix from the stage isn't overpowering you can hear a sea of voices seeing along with dedication. Frontman Brandon Flowers leads the choir looking more the young Springsteen impressionist than ever, complete with the vest, the rolled up shirt-sleeves and on occasion even toting a bass in the same colours as The Boss' legendary Fender. And it's not just in his attire - It's in his demeanour, in his facial expression, in the way he walks about like a man among friends, then steps up to the mic, muscles flexing and veins popping, crooning his choruses like a man who's standing up to a fight. The similarity is uncanny, bordering on the comical, yet while Flowers may never be the real Boss, you can't put a finger on the amazing clarity of his vocal performance tonight.

Flowers nails everything on a technical level that competes with his recorded performances, especially shining when he does indeed get a touch of soul into the "I've got soul but I'm not a soldier!" refrain of "All These Things That I've Done", which gathers massive response from the audience. The "Hot Fuss" classic caps a regular set that also gave us a match-made-in-heaven cover-bit of Alphaville's "Forever Young" and a blast of confetti during "Runaways". Clearly we're due for an encore however: Everybody here seems so sure of it that they almost can't be bothered to chant for the band (Question: are mainstream concert audiences too ungrateful?). Personally I excuse myself from such activity because I'm busy cursing the setlist under my breath. I mean, The Killers wrote some of the best songs in 2012 in "Here With Me", "A Matter Of Time" and "Deadlines And Commitments", and yet none of them find their way into a show that's part of the touring cycle for that album.

Again, I can't but understate a feeling of disappointment, but I have to concede that with the way tonight's show ebbed and flowed, the sequencing of the set feels as characterised by top-shelf professionalism as everything else has. The laser-show that accompanies encore-starter "Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine" perfectly brings the audience back to the band's roots, while the cascade of sparks that rains on the stage during "When You Were Young" feels perfect for its sentimental bridge, as does the cannon-like explosions that amplify the beats of set-closer "Battle Born", while more confetti comes down and Flowers introduces every member of the touring band. Everything is exactly as you could hope for coming in, yet if you press me on the matter, I still don't think it had the necessary intimacy or urgency to really hit the greatest marks. For me, nothing underscores this better than how Flowers pauses briefly to hide his rings in his pockets before bidding the audience goodbye down at the barrier. One understands perfectly why he does it, but it cracks the illusion and casts a pale light on the perceived gap between band and audience, that all the awesome fireworks in the world can't quite drag up beyond of the rank of "really damn big and solid".

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Setlist:

  • 1. Mr. Brightside
  • 2. The Way It Was
  • 3. Smile Like You Mean It
  • 4. Spaceman
  • 5. Heart Of A Girl
  • 6. Bling (Confession Of A King)
  • 7. Miss Atomic Bomb
  • 8. Human
  • 9. Somebody Told Me
  • 10. Flesh And Bone
  • 11. For Reasons Unknown
  • 12. From Here On Out
  • 13. A Dustland Fairytale
  • 14. Forever Young
  • 15. Read My Mind
  • 16. Runaway
  • 17. All These Things That I've Done

- Encore -

  • 18. Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine
  • 19. When You Were Young
  • 20. Battle Born

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