News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Sounds: The Killers In Richmond
BY BEN SELLERS
FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Despite a lengthy hiatus, The Killers had no trouble knocking the rust off last Friday.
The Las Vegas band’s July 20 show at The National in Richmond was only the third official show they had played together in the past year.
“It’s been a little while—I think we still got it,” lead singer Brandon Flowers told the audience. “All these lyrics, they just kind of spit out like they’ve always been there. I don’t know how I remember.”
But if Flowers did stumble (which he seemed to once, during “Read My Mind”), the audience was all too ready to jump in and help, singing along with hits like “Mr. Brightside,” and “All These Things That I’ve Done.”
The Killers are gearing up for the September release of “Battle Born,” their fourth album since bursting onto the rock scene in 2004.
It has been a long wait—the four-year gap since the band’s last release is almost as long as it took them to put out their first three albums combined. In the interim, solo projects and the suicide last April of touring saxophonist Tommy Marth added to speculation about the band’s future.
Yet, local fans’ appetite for more Killers music stoked fervent anticipation when The National landed one of a handful of U.S. stops on their current tour. It was an opportunity to see the band in an unusually intimate setting—their last area show was at Merriweather Post Pavilion in 2009. Tickets to the Richmond show sold out seconds after going on sale in June, leading Craigslist scalpers to offer them for as much as $2,000.
The band took the stage around 9:30 p.m. on Friday with their first hit, “Somebody Told Me.” Feeding off the crowd’s energy, the spry Flowers prowled the stage, hopping on amps as guitarist Dave Keuning did his best rock-star poses for the sea of iPhones on the general admission floor.
The Killers often weave various styles of pop into their rock ’n’ roll. Their synth-heavy 2004 début, “Hot Fuss,” had some calling them a new-wave group, while 2008’s “Day & Age” added a layer of disco to their repertoire.
Whether it was simply the live show experience or something different about the arrangements, Friday’s show continued to blur the genre lines. The guitars seemed to give songs like “Human” (with its poppy refrain, “Are we human or are we dancers?”) a harder edge. Meanwhile, Mark Stoermer’s funky bass line, paired with strobe lighting, lent a techno feel to “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine.”
Although the 17-song set spanning all the band’s phases offered only a few samples of the new material, “Runaways,” the leadoff single for “Battle Born,” hinted at yet another variation on the rock theme. Its distinctly power-ballad feel recalled (in the best of ways) ’80s anthems like Asia’s “Heat of the Moment” and Alphaville’s “Forever Young.”
The fans blowing back the flowing mane of drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. left little doubt that the band was channeling the ghosts of Winger and Whitesnake with the new material.
For those who prefer not to relive the ’80s, the new album also features the more inviting “Here On Out,” a rollicking, four-chord ditty that Flowers aptly introduced as “short, fun and sweet.”
If there was one problem with the concert, it would be that minor sound issues occasionally muffled Flowers’ vocals. It was a forgivable flaw in a show fans had waited years for.
Ben Sellers, an English teacher in Stafford County, is the former youth and music editor of The Free Lance–Star.