with Alex Cameron
Hard Rock Live; Orlando, FL • January 24, 2018
by Jen Cray
It’s only fitting that the themed restaurant next door to Orlando’s Hard Rock Live is a near total rip-off of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory because picking up a last minute ticket at the venue’s WillCall window felt like opening the wrapper on a golden ticket. The Killers “intimate” date (Hard Rock’s capacity is 3,000) on an otherwise Arena tour was an immediate sell-out and, even on the night of, scores of hopeful fans with fists of cash in hand were searching for the ticket-pushers. And if getting inside felt like an acheivement, staking claim on a spot deep within the barely breathable crowd right near the stage felt like winning a damn prize — even if it did mean being hosed by a smoke machine and a confetti canon at close range.
Why the fuss (the Hot Fuss you could say)? Because The Killers have matured into the kind of band that their hometown of Las Vegas can be proud to call their own. Their performance is less a rock concert and more a study in how a well done rock concert should be. From the well tailored suits of Brandon Flowers (who swtiched from classic black to gold and sparkly for the encore), to neon signs and laser lights, and the aforementioned fog and confetti theirs is a Show, with a capitol S. Flowers has mastered the charming smile and teasing edge-of-the-stage untouchableness that makes the fans feel like he’s almost, but not quite within reach. He’s every bit the Star and I mean that in the best possible way. Sometimes you want a band to be just like you, you want to touch them and feel a connection to them… but sometimes you want a band to feel larger than life, to feel unattainable. The Killers give you that as very few bands do anymore.
Even with half of the core members of the band missing (guitarist Dave Keuning and bassist Mark Stoermer both sat this tour out), they dazzled their way through an impressive history of hits that sounded downright epic when embraced with the exalted voices of thousands. The earliest songs hit obvious sweet spots for this early adopter of The Killers’ sound (“All These Things That I’ve Done,” “Somebody Told Me,” “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine”), but even their recent offerings took on a gleam that I hadn’t hear on record. “A Dustland Fairytale” is one of the best songs the band has ever done and yet I had missed it, lost as it was in an album that had initially escaped me (2008’s Day & Age), and though I still haven’t quite been won over by the disco-esque, over-the-topness of Wonderful, Wonderful, even the most forced-anthem attempts like “Rut” and “The Man” were delightfully fun.
During the encore, the band brought out opener Alex Cameron and his band to do a two band cover of one of his songs (“Runnin’ Outta Luck”). Though that attempt was a bit too 70’s easy listening for its own good, Cameron’s opening set was a total success in spite of his Michael Bolton crooning and odd slow motion shimmy and shake. He’s got a saxophonist (a real charmer) and a adult contemporary sound, but the Aussie makes it work. “Marlon Brando,” a cheeky song dedicated to “the confused straight white male” was a particular highlight.
After the Cameron cameo The Killers closed out strong with a couple more debut album classics, “Midnight Show” and “Mr. Brightside.” Fun fact: the first time I saw The Killers it was 2004 and they actually opened with “Mr. Brightside” — then a brand new song! The song has proven to be timeless.
You’ve proved your point, Killers — you guys are Rockstars. I take back every bad thing I ever said about you after you put out that silly song “Human.” I still don’t know what the hell you mean by “Are we human or are we Dancer?” but I was even singing along to that song when you played it. You win. I guess I’m a Dancer.