After the first two songs of The Killers’ set on their Wonderful Wonderful tour, frontman Brandon Flowers quotes Evil Knievel: “People don’t pay for the perfect landing; they pay for the attempt.” Unlike Knievel, The Killers don’t land as much as they attempt, and their performance at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center left me wondering if I’d pay for another attempt.
Walking through the Barclays’ corridors, my friend mentioned, “This looks the same as a Green Day crowd[i].” She couldn’t be more wrong. I went to two Green Day shows last year, and the audience could not be more different. Green Day fans are ultra-passionate about a band that has delivered a handful of classics, and they’re hoping for the sort of magic that may never be captured again. The crowd at The Killers show didn’t seem like they cared about anything. This isn’t some sort of too-cool-to-give-a-shit hipster attitude. These people were boring. Thy were there to see a pretty good rock band who had a few hits. That’s not to say that these people don’t exist at every show[ii], but it doesn’t make for the type of audience that creates a good show. There wasn’t any fanatic energy to feed off of, and that was a large detriment to my own personal enjoyment.
Walking in during Alex Cameron’s set showed he was the perfect opener for this crowd. He’s the type of pretty good pop that’s offbeat enough that he’ll never be massively popular but clean cut enough that he’s stomach-able to any audience[iii].
When it came time for Flowers and company to enter the stage, it’s obvious that the band enjoy their success but crave the validation of critical praise. They’re part arena-rock spectacle, part indie-twee darlings that look like they’re trying to crowd your tumblr page. Flowers strikes every pose with the same amount of gusto as David Lee Roth as soon as Van Halen reunited. His mic is shockingly low in the mix, and my aforementioned friend said he sounded like he was straining to hit the notes. She was probably right.
The setlist was carefully crafted to focus on Wonderful Wonderful enough that it got airtime, but to hit the right notes to keep fans happy. The album’s title track and “Rut” were incredibly lacking in energy all around. It is baffling as to why they would enter to “Wonderful Wonderful,” because it’s incredibly tedious. It dragged on making “The Man” feel lackluster. Even during “Run For Cover,” Wonderful’s peak, the band didn’t really have the energy. Any excitement that could be elicited from the crowd came during the third song of “Somebody Told Me,” only to remain dormant until “All These Things I’ve Done,” arguably the climax of the evening. The band was most high energy during the Sam’s Town cut “This River is Wild,” and there was a large reaction from Killers diehards. Still, this wasn’t the type of crowd looking to hear deep cuts. They were looking for hits that the band saved for the encore.
Entering for the encore, Flowers was adorned in a silver reflective suit. This moment seemed to sum the band’s legacy up as a whole. The Killers want to be seen as indie-rock pioneers like most of their Meet Me in the Bathroom peers. Flowers obviously thinks highly of Interpol and The Strokes, but his band falls in a weird area between the cool indie rock scene and the extra corny pop-punk emo of Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance. Flowers has been rallying against punk since his band got famous, but he never landed in the scene he wanted. “When You Were Young” had such a huge appeal to the dorky pop-punk kids and still does. I feel like this is why the audience seemed so tired and boring. They like things that are just fine, which is where these songs land. “When You Were Young” and “Mr. Brightside” are unobjectionably the band’s biggest songs, and they both sort of fell stale. The pyro in “When You Were Young” was cool, but I’d rather hear Modern Baseball’s cover, because at least they embrace the cheesy, heart-on-the-sleeve nature of the tune. The show was fine, but they didn’t stick the landing. Arguably, it felt like they barely even made an attempt, but I guess that’s what you get when you follow Evil Knievel.
[i] She meant age-wise, but I digress.
[ii] Nor is it to say that there’s something wrong with people like this. We’ve all been dragged to gigs we don’t want to go to.
[iii] Save for one lyric in “Marlon Brando.”