The Killers Look Forward and BackJuly 24th, 2012
The Killers – Webster Hall – July 23, 2012
To watch the Killers in 2012 is an act of disjointed historical remembrance. This sort of anachronism isn’t simply a product of the band’s ability to resurrect the musical genres of everyone from Joy Division to Springsteen. Because these days, the Killers turn backward twice, using old influences with a wink and trying to escape and revive the songs that made them stupidly famous in 2004. It was then that the opening five songs of their debut LP, Hot Fuss, were as ambitious and outstanding as any popular rock album of the previous decade not made by the Strokes. This is and was the past, before the band nearly broke up, before the litany of solo records that take us up to present day. This sold-out crowd in the East Village would serve as the rough approximation of now, or the scene of where we might figure out the dimensions of the word. The Killers, four guys who wanted to lionize and transcend Las Vegas, the most anachronistic place on the planet, arrived at Webster Hall with a new single, “Runaways,” and a forthcoming new album, Battle Born, rich with the interstitial tension over whether to dig up or completely bury the past.
Appropriate to this dichotomy, the band opened with “Runaways” followed by their first American radio single, “Somebody Told Me.” The packed crowd was in full throat on the night’s third song, “Smile Like You Mean It,” before lead singer Brandon Flowers asked, “Are you guys in or are you out?” perhaps unaware that these fans had either passed up or taken advantage of the huge scalping price on the secondary market. For those who passed on the urgent, big offers in the line outside, they were, most definitely, in by the time Flowers climbed his stage monitor to shout the lyrics of “Spaceman.” It only served to raise the stakes, as the band oscillated from older material, like “This Is Your Life,” and new-album cuts, like “Miss Atomic Bomb,” full of future tense fatalism—Flowers soaring on the lyric “You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.”
The main set concluded with the Hot Fuss long-form anthem, “All These Things That I’ve Done,” arriving at this denouement by way of “Reasons Unknown,” “Bling (Confessions of a King),” “Human” and the band’s first UK single from 2003, “Mr. Brightside.” But it was the present perfect tense of “All These Things That I’ve Done” that suitably served as the ending for a band standing on the very fulcrum of itself. Those in the crowd screamed the meaningless and perfect bridge, “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier,” along with Flowers, a slice of 2004 in 2012, these things we’ve done acting as a beacon for whatever it is that comes next. —Geoff Nelson