Writing about the Killers at 1 a.m. 🎶 for reasons unknown 🎵

I mean, I know why I’m writing this—I saw the Killers in Boston on January 7th and in Las Vegas on February 3rd, and both were phenomenal gigs—but the question is, why do I gear myself up to write long-ass blog posts when I should really be going to sleep?

Tracy Jordan tells a pigeon to have some self-respect. Don't you know you can fly?!

The simple answer to this question is that I got home from work at 8 the day after the Boston gig1 and immediately had to finish a freelance assignment,2 which I’ve had a lot of lately—great for my bank account, less so for my personal life/sanity. The more complex answer has a lot to do with me doing what I want to do rather than what is actually good for me,3 and I’m still figuring out how to break that habit. But in the meantime, I need to dump out the contents of my brain while the memories are still fresh!

The morning of the Boston show was a little frustrating. The last time I had a general admission ticket to a show at the TD Garden was Muse in January 2016,4 and because that gig was on a Monday and the TD Garden staff and the MBTA don’t want people congregating in such a busy station, we were given numbered wristbands and were told to leave and come back at 5 p.m. to line up. Worked great. They did not do that on January 7th. I ventured down to North Station around noon to see if I could find a security guard or someone else who could hook me up, but I guess because the commuter rail is a ghost town on the weekends they don’t schedule any venue staff until the afternoon if there’s an event taking place in the evening. So after an hour of wandering around looking for anyone who wasn’t a janitor to no avail, I gave up and went home to roast a chicken because I wouldn’t have time later in the week and letting raw poultry hang around in your fridge is just asking for trouble.

Because I’m a hideously disorganized cook, I didn’t finish cooking and carving and putting everything away until after 5 p.m., so I didn’t make it back down to the TD Garden until 5:45 for a show with doors opening at 6:30. I was kind of banking on people not wanting to wait in the cold to be let inside,5—and I think a lot of them didn’t show up until closer to showtime for that reason—but the venue staff had actually started the line inside of the station, which was decent of them. The line wasn’t obnoxiously long by the time I arrived; I think I was maybe 70 or 80 people back? So by the time they let us into the pit, I was six rows back (10–15 feet, I think) from the barrier—not bad. Not ideal, but a hell of a lot better than the first two times I’d seen the Killers (festivals, ugh).

The opening act came on half an hour late, which is super obnoxious when your feet hurt and you couldn’t care less about watching them anyway, but Alex Cameron and his band were surprisingly not terrible.6 A little derivative at some points—you can definitely tell he’s a Bowie fan—but I might track down a couple of their songs. I particularly liked “Runnin’ Outta Luck.” And he’s definitely got stage presence;7 I can tell why Brandon Flowers liked him.

Luckily, their stage set-up was really simple and the Killers’ stuff was all good to go behind this giant black curtain, so I think it was almost exactly half an hour between AC’s set ending and the Killers coming on.8 And how! Their staging for this tour is incredible. It’s flanked by these huge arrows (like the kind you shoot from a bow) plunging into the right side of the stage and a giant water tower on the left side with BOSTON emblazoned across the front of it.9 The platform for the backup singers is near the tower, and their mic stands all have these LED Venus (♀) symbols attached to them, which coordinate with the big LED Mars (♂) symbol on the front of Brandon’s keyboard rig (which normally has the Killers’ stylized k logo attached to it). The sides and back of the stage are completely covered in screens for video. There’s this giant upside-down triangular panel blocking center stage as the touring musicians gradually come out—first the keyboardist, then the rhythm guitarist, then bass, then lead guitar—and then the panel swings back on the z-axis and lifts up toward the ceiling so the screen is parallel to the floor as Ronnie climbs up onto the platform where his drum kit’s set up and everyone simultaneously loses their shit.

But that reaction is nothing compared to the explosion of noise from every crowd I’ve ever been in10 when that beautiful flamingo Brandon Flowers makes his way onstage. People love him because he’s so fun to watch and he so obviously loves what he does. When I see him perform, I feel like I truly understand what Beatlemania was about, because I feel like I lose my mind a little bit when it comes to B.Flo. I mean, the Killers have been one of about three bands I’ve consistently listened to since I was about 15, the other two being Muse and Franz Ferdinand. I still remember very clearly seeing the videos for “Somebody Told Me” and “Mr. Brightside” on VH1 when they first debuted and immediately feeling like, “Oh, this is good.” But I was never a die-hard fan in the same way I was when I was first introduced to Muse and Franz Ferdinand. It took me a while to get around to buying their album,11 but of course I loved it once I did.

(SIDEBAR: I literally took a two-and-a-half hour break from writing this post to scour my LiveJournal entries from 2004–2005 to find out when exactly I bought Hot Fuss—January 27, 2005, apparently. I also learned that I bought a Killers t-shirt on March 25th of that year.)

But then I spent most of 2005 either fanatically in love with Franz Ferdinand12 or in the absolute depths of “I can’t get out of bed” depression,13 so that kind of explains why the Killers were never really at the top of my list of priorities. In fact, I was sort of unimpressed with both Sam’s Town and Day and Age, especially the latter. I have since learned the error of my ways, particularly regarding Sam’s Town, which is an absolute masterpiece. Like, “I literally started bawling while listening to ‘Why Do I Keep Counting?‘ on my flight home Sunday because the lyrics are so affecting and it’s not even a single“–great.14 But D&A isn’t so much bad as it is just wildly different from their earlier work. It’s actually pretty good—watching their 2009 Live from Royal Albert Hall performance changed my mind about that. I mean, the singles alone were incredible—I think I played “Spaceman” and “Human” on repeat for almost my entire sophomore year of college—but “A Dustland Fairytale,” “This Is Your Life,” “I Can’t Stay“… all fantastic. Hindsight is 20/20, though, so between that initial disenchantment and falling deep into the K-Pop rabbit hole in 2011, I didn’t even know they’d released Battle Born until I bought my tickets for Governor’s Ball in 2016 (the first Killers gig I attended) and was like, “Huh, I wonder whatever happened to the Killers.” I thought they’d have a new single out if they were touring, so I checked iTunes to discover that a) they did not have a new single, and b) their most recent album had been out for four years?!?! In my defense, it was released a month after I moved to South Korea, and I was a little preoccupied with getting over my culture shock and being deep in the throes of EXO standom. Plus, all of my Anglo band hype at the time was reserved for Muse, who released their sixth album a couple weeks after Battle Born dropped (and in my world, every band is the proverbial red-headed stepchild compared with Muse). So I had some catching up to do. But, in the end, I think it’s good that I wasn’t able to get really invested in the Killers before now, because I think I appreciate the emotional honesty of Brandon Flowers’s songwriting more as an adult. And it certainly made finally seeing them live (12 years in the making!) more special.

The Boston gig was particularly important to me because it was the first time I’d seen them outside of a festival15, so for once the viewing experience was moderately comfortable.16 And they played a much longer set than most festivals allow for—a full two hours vs. maybe an hour and a half at a festival.

BOSTON SETLIST

  1. Wonderful Wonderful
  2. The Man
  3. Somebody Told Me
  4. Spaceman
  5. The Way It Was
  6. Run for Cover
  7. I Can’t Stay
  8. Smile Like You Mean It
  9. For Reasons Unknown
  10. Just What I Needed (Cars cover)
  11. Shot at the Night
  12. Rut
  13. Human
  14. This River Is Wild
  15. A Dustland Fairytale
  16. Runaways
  17. Read My Mind
  18. All These Things That I’ve Done
ENCORE
  1. The Calling
  2. Jenny Was a Friend of Mine
  3. When You Were Young
  4. Mr. Brightside

It was a long-ass set. Like, they give you your money’s worth, that’s for sure. And it was a nice mix of new and old stuff. That opening combo of The Man > Somebody Told Me > Spaceman damn near killed me, though. SO MUCH DANCING. I had dry mouth for the rest of the concert because I was so dehydrated and wiped out from jumping and screaming.

I also went to see them in Las Vegas—the band’s hometown—this past weekend. I had been planning this trip since September and was sort of nervous about it after the initial excitement wore off because I lived in Vegas for five years (age 7–12) and I hadn’t been back since we moved away after my dad died. Every time I thought about the trip, I’d get this irritating “that’s where my dad died” loop going on in my head, and it culminated in a panic attack on Thursday—the day before I was supposed to fly out—which was super fun, let me tell you. I spent pretty much the whole day trying not to start crying at the drop of a hat while also feeling like there was an anvil sitting on my chest. And the next morning, I was filled with such dread that I spent the entire Lyft ride to the airport wishing that the snow would be bad enough that my flight would be canceled and I wouldn’t have to go. I was on the verge of tears for both my flight to Chicago and my connection to Las Vegas, especially once we started descending into the Vegas area and I could see the mountains and the cookie-cutter housing developments with their stucco exteriors and clay tile roofs and all the memories started flooding back. But as soon as we touched down and I got off the plane, it was like a switch flipped and I felt fine.17

I got myself a Jamba Juice and Lyfted over to the hotel—the Ancient Egpyt–themed Luxor, which is the giant pyramid you’ve probably seen in the aerial shots of Vegas from literally every episode of CSI. It’s kind of chintzy and goofy (in an endearing way), and it’s definitely starting to show its age,18 but the room was cheap and the location was good. Because the main part of the hotel is pyramid-shaped, though, the elevators move on a diagonal, which I found extremely disorienting and terrifying. I spent the entire trip to the 20th floor clutching the side of the elevator and looking frantically for one of those certificates that states when the elevator was last serviced, because that was one rickety-ass ride. I’ve never been in an elevator that rattled so much.19

Once I got settled and my friends turned up, we ventured out for dinner. We ended up going to the Wicked Spoon buffet at the Cosmopolitan (which, funny enough, is the hotel where the Killers’ “Shot at the Night” video was filmed), and after we’d stuffed ourselves to the gills, we wandered around the Strip. I have very few childhood memories of this part of Vegas because it’s not really somewhere that locals hang around at all the time. We’d only ever go if my dad had won a comp or if we had company visiting. I remember going to the MGM Grand theme park when my aunt and uncle visited in 1997, and going to the arcade at New York, New York when they visited a couple years later. I definitely attended another uncle’s wedding at the Tropicana.20 One time my dad got a comp at the Rio, so we had a one-night staycation there, which was pretty cool. My first-grade class took a field trip to the Mirage to visit the aquarium; I still have pictures from that trip floating around somewhere because I think one of my parents chaperoned. And I remember during one of my aunts’ visits we all walked around the shops at the Venetian, which had recently opened; I think I have pictures from that as well. But if I was around casinos at all as a kid, it was usually the ones frequented by locals, like the Santa Fe and Texas Station, or the ones around Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas.21 So it was really interesting seeing the Strip as an adult, even if I didn’t partake of its gambling attractions. We didn’t really get up to much that night; we stopped to watch the Bellagio fountain show, wandered around the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace, bought some snacks at CVS, and went back to the hotel to crash (because at that point I’d been awake for about 23 hours).

On Saturday morning, we waited entirely too long before leaving the hotel to pick up our tickets at the MGM Grand Garden Arena’s will call and feed ourselves, so we were nearly keeling over by the time we made it through the Aria’s buffet line. I inhaled a ton of food, but alas, that didn’t stop me from getting shitfaced on a grand total of two mimosas.22 (In my defense, they were basically giant glasses of prosecco with a splash of orange juice.) After brunch, as we were walking through the casino to the Crystals so Vee could buy some new shoes, they started playing “Human” over the PA system, so of course I started dancing and singing without a care in the world as we weaved between slot machines. Good times. No reasonably priced shoes to be found, though, so we zipped back to the Luxor and Vee hit the Mandalay Place shops while Gaby and I went upstairs and got ready for the show, and by that I mean Gaby got ready and I passed out for twenty minutes. (Honestly, though, I didn’t have much readying to do beyond putting in my contacts and slapping on some eyeliner.)

After Vee came back with comfier shoes, we swung over to the MGM Grand to wait in the general admission line for three hours. Shockingly, even though there were many more people in line ahead of us compared to where I was in line in Boston, we had a way better view for this show—third row! And the crowd was so chill that we still had time to hit the merch stand for new t-shirts before finding our places. The first opener, Amanda Brown, came on very soon after we arrived (because doors opened later than expected), and man, she was great. I normally expect very little from opening acts, but she’s got one hell of a voice on her. Apparently she finished in fifth place on season 3 of The Voice. She’s one of the Killers’ backup singers, too! Anyway, she’s got a new single called Believers, and her first album is dropping in April, so I think I might actually pick that up—there aren’t enough female rock artists out there! She was followed by Albert Hammond Jr. (rhythm guitarist for the Strokes). I thought I might like his stuff more but there was only one song I really liked (“In Transit”). That might be because it was impossible to hear anything he was saying or singing because he mumbles worse than Matt Bellamy and the music was kind of loud compared to his voice. Also,  I’m just really impatient and I think that having two opening acts should be a criminal offense. JUST SAYING.

But then they finally came on. God, the crowd was great. You could tell the band was psyched to be home—well, at least Ronnie and Brandon were, anyway, considering they’re the only members of the band actually touring this time around. I MISS DAVE KEUNING’S LUSCIOUS HAIR. 😭 Brandon looked fiiiiiine, holy hell. In Boston he wore a black jacket with silver embellishments around the shoulders, but in Vegas he wore this gorgeous black blazer with colorful embroidery all over it, and his hair looked really good, and his face is perfect and he just keeps getting better looking as time wears on and god I’m so in love with him. 😍

LAS VEGAS SETLIST

  1. Wonderful Wonderful
  2. The Man
  3. Somebody Told Me
  4. Spaceman
  5. The Way It Was
  6. Run for Cover
  7. I Can’t Stay
  8. Smile Like You Mean It
  9. For Reasons Unknown
  10. Jenny Was a Friend of Mine
  11. Rut
  12. Tyson vs. Douglas
  13. Human
  14. Viva Las Vegas (Elvis Presley cover)
  15. This River Is Wild
  16. A Dustland Fairytale
  17. Runaways
  18. Read My Mind
  19. All These Things That I’ve Done
ENCORE
  1. The Calling
  2. Sam’s Town
  3. When You Were Young
  4. Mr. Brightside

They went real heavy on the Vegas vibe—”Tyson vs. Douglas,” the Elvis cover, and “Sam’s Town,” which they hadn’t performed in more than a year. Each night of the tour, they’ve been doing a cover of a song by a band or artist local to wherever they’re playing, so in Boston they covered the Cars (not least because Brandon Flowers is a massive Cars fan and regularly cites Ric Ocasek as an influence) and of course they had to cover Elvis in Vegas!23 Honestly, I think Brandon Flowers is getting ready for his inevitable Vegas residency 30 years from now. The man showboats like nobody’s business. He has a costume change between the end of the set and the encore, and when I saw it in Boston I stood there with my mouth wide open for most of “The Calling,” repeatedly muttering “I can’t even.” He came out in this brassy gold sequined suit with matching shoes and aviator sunglasses, and when the spotlight hit him it literally hurt my eyes because he was that shiny. I didn’t spoil it for Vee and Gaby, so when he came out for the encore I just watched their faces and cracked up because they had the same exact reaction I did. BRANDON FLOWERS IS TOO MUCH TO HANDLE.

The setlists haven’t changed too much throughout this tour—seems like they’re alternating between playing “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” in the encore or keeping it in the main set, and when it’s in the encore they rotate between playing “Shot at the Night,” “Bling (Confessions of a King),” and “Life to Come”—but I just got real mad because I found out they played “Midnight Show” in Orlando and San Diego but not Vegas WHHHHYYYYYYYYYYY?!?!?!? First time it’s been played live in, like, two years. And a bunch of places have gotten “Andy, You’re a Star.” All these deep cuts from Hot Fuss and none for me!!! 😭😭😭

(Oh no, I just saw they played “Why Do I Keep Counting?” in St. Louis a couple weeks ago for the first time since 2016. I gotta stop looking at these setlists before I give myself an aneurysm.)

So after we got our ears blasted off, we went back to the hotel to decompress and look at all of the pictures and videos we’d taken and dry sob about how hot B.Flo is. It took us until about 1:30 a.m. to realize we were starving, so we pulled ourselves together and headed right back out to the Taco Bell Cantina. They were playing music in there so loudly I felt like I was in a nightclub, so Vee and I went next door to McD’s and Gaby met us there with her nachos. We inhaled our food and walked up Las Vegas Boulevard trying to find a place where we could get a Lyft because you can only catch a rideshare at very specific pickup points on the Strip, which is super annoying at 2 a.m. when your feet are killing you and your eyes feel like they’re full of sand. At one point we walked past a bar that was playing “Mr. Brightside” and immediately started singing and dancing and jumping around, as one does whenever that song comes on.24

We finally made it back to the hotel shortly before 3 a.m. and I immediately sank into a deep sleep that was unceremoniously interrupted at 4:30 a.m. by an emergency alert over the hotel PA system that scared the living daylights out of me. It ended up being a false alarm, but the all clear signal was repeated like fifteen goddamn times and I thought I was going to go insane. I slept pretty restlessly after that, and I had to get up at 8:30 because my flight out was just before noon, so currently I’m on about day five of sleep deprivation (tossed and turned from midnight to 5:30 this morning) at this point. But in spite of the exhaustion and reminders of traumatic childhood memories and flight delays,25 I had a really great weekend and I’m glad I didn’t let myself punk out. I just hope I can get my circadian rhythm into some semblance of order by tomorrow. 😵

A photo I took during the Vegas concert of Brandon Flowers smiling at the audience

notes

  1. Which is when I started writing this post, so please forgive any temporal whiplash it may induce.
  2. which I would have completed sooner than midnight if I hadn’t spent an hour dicking around looking at knitting websites
  3. e.g., playing Xbox until 5 a.m. when I have to leave the house at 10:30 for an appointment
  4. Why the hell do bands tour in New England in the dead of winter? DO YOU WANT US TO FREEZE TO DEATH IN LINE????
  5. because any other time of year, GA lines up outside of the west entrance, where those new Avalon condos are
  6. I can count the number of opening acts I’ve genuinely liked on one hand: Metric, who opened for Muse’s Resistance tour in 2010; Big Data, who opened for Fitz and the Tantrums’ More Than Just a Dream tour in 2014; and Amanda Brown, who was the first opener for the Killers’ Vegas show and also one of their backup singers! End of list.
  7. He dances like Napoleon Dynamite, though, good grief. (That said, I friggin’ love that movie.)
  8. So profesh. TAKE NOTE, OTHER BANDS.
  9. It’s customized for every city they play in.
  10. So, like… four. 😐
  11. I don’t know why I didn’t ask for it as a Christmas gift in 2004, because I certainly asked for a lot of other CDs: Franz Ferdinand’s eponymous debut, Muse’s Absolution, Green Day’s American Idiot, and Keane’s Hopes and Fears.
  12. I lived on the franzferdinand.org message board and I sent Alex Kapranos a story I’d written about the song “Van Tango” for his 33rd birthday in 2005. CRINGE.
  13. during which I pretty much exclusively listened to Coldplay
  14. It was also an extremely turbulent flight, I have debilitating acrophobia, and I was exhausted from operating on four hours’ sleep after a 46-hour-long trip to Vegas. I just needed a good cry and I knew that song would make it happen. Plus, apparently the slight hypoxic effect you get from flying makes you more emotional.
  15. Gov Ball 2016, Lollapalooza 2017. And I’m seeing them at Boston Calling in May 2018. I have to stop going to festivals.
  16. Festivals are miserable. Like, just before their set at Governors Ball in 2016, there was a torrential downpour and I was so completely drenched I almost decided to call it quits until some kind strangers loaned me a spare umbrella. But then the Killers came on and Brandon Flowers made the rain stop because he’s an angel.
  17. What the fuck? God, I hate my stupid maladjusted brain sometimes.
  18. Much like its sister property, the Excalibur, which I thought was built in the 70s after the whole Kennedy Camelot thing, but it actually opened in 1990!
  19. I need to add that complaint to my review, along with the fact that an emergency alert went off at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday and scared the bejesus out of me and my friends. We had only gone to sleep at 3 a.m. and the Luxor is right next door to the Mandalay Bay, so obviously I thought something had gone terribly wrong. But no—apparently it happens all the time.
  20. Two of my dad’s three brothers moved out to Vegas after we did; one still lives there.
  21. My dad played poker pretty regularly at Binion’s and the Orleans. Main Street Station had the absolute coolest kids’ playplace, as I recall.
  22. I am such a cheap date.
  23. Not that they had a lot of options… the only bands from Vegas I can think of are the Killers, Panic! at the Disco, and Imagine Dragons.
  24. It’s the law.
  25. Seriously, why do I keep booking flights through Philadelphia? Without fail, the weather is always shit, the descent is always horribly turbulent, and I end up with a delayed connection. My flight from Vegas landed in a rainstorm and I literally could not see the ground until three seconds before we hit the runway. I was surrounded by screaming Patriots fans watching the Superbowl on their tablets and all I could do was white-knuckle the armrests and try not to scream for a different reason. My connection to Boston was delayed by 40 minutes because the fuel truck ran out of jet fuel and they had to go find another truck, and the pilot told us straight off the bat that there would be turbulence for the entire flight, hence the full-on weeping while listening to “Why Do I Keep Counting?” I mentioned earlier.

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