Perth Arena, Perth WA
1st May 2018
Supports: Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders and Alex Cameron
I don’t usually go to stadium gigs. Case and point the last stadium concert I went to was Rise Against at HBF Stadium in February, which was half empty, and the only time I had ever been to Perth Arena prior to The Killers was to see The Wiggles with my nephew and sister. So, I was interested to see what the night would bring.
Jack Ladder and the Dreamlanders opened the night to the handfuls of punters that arrived early. Playing a short set of four songs Jack Ladder and the Dreamlanders or “some of the Dreamlanders” as Jack Ladder told the audience, delivered tunes akin to The Doors, slow atmospheric rock with psychedelic guitar solos with deep, low clear vocals. With some laconic lines between the songs, “a beautiful song about a kidnapping”, Jack Ladder’s performance was not overly exciting or dramatic but relied on talent, intensity and his ability to perform his songs.
After a brief break and an addition of a banner, Alex Cameron came on stage with Roy Molloy on saxophone. By now more of the crowd had trickled into the stadium, but it was yet at full capacity. Moving from the 60’s sounding Jack Ladder to the 80’s New Wave inspired Alex Cameron, the show seemed to be a trip down the musical decades. With lots of synths, a leather looking suit, light up neon keyboards and moves straight from a how to dance like a white man instructional pamphlet, the set was entertaining and engaging. Playing a set of about five songs, the final song ‘Marlon Brando’, “a pop song with a message”, brought out everything but the kitchen sink: maracas, bongos, tambourines, along with the guitar and keyboards and a brilliant saxophone solo from Roy Molloy. With a big finish and thanking every member of the band, Alex Cameron left the stage to some appreciative cheers from the audience.
Literally minutes before The Killers came on stage the entire venue finally filled up, and this is when I realised one of the main differences between stadium concerts and smaller club/ pub gigs, the punters at stadium concerts only go to see the band they have paid for, no one is interested in seeing the support acts. This was blatantly obvious during Jack Ladder and The Dreamlanders set and even Alex Cameron’s set, where many people who were in attendance were too busy checking their phones to even feign interest in the supporting acts. As a lover of live music, and someone who appreciates the effort live musicians puts in, even if the band is not my thing, I was a little disheartened to see this.
As the curtain dropped and the set pieces were revealed; a huge arrow (or upside-down triangle) covering most of the stage with images of a dry desert landscape; massive cheers arose from the crowd. As the arrow rose to the roof revealing the entire stage, the long notes and heat lamps built the anticipation as each member of the band came out on stage individually in darkness. The place was buzzing with excitement as the stage was finally bathed with light as The Killers started to play ‘Wonderful, Wonderful’. The crowd was entranced, as the spotlight stayed on Brandon Flowers during the start of the song. Transitioning straight into ‘The Man’ with confetti bursting out of a cannon and the stereotypical neon lights of Vegas being projected onto the screen behind the band, it was clear that The Killers are showmen, who were here to show Perth (on a side note the water tower prop with the word Perth emblazoned across it, was a nice touch) that the money they spent on their ticket was going into giving them the best night of their lives.
Introducing themselves as “The Killers from Las Vegas, Nevada” the crowd went wild as they transitioned into ‘Somebody Told Me’. Phones were out, and by singing “woo hooo” at the top of their voice, the crowd finally showed some passion, after the shock of what they were witnessing had dissipated. Moving to ‘Spaceman’, lasers stretched out over the crowd as the back drop alternated between shots of drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr, Flowers, and touring guitarists Ted Sablay, showing just have hard all three men were working that night. What was even better to see was Brandon Flowers smiling incessantly, obviously in his element and extremely happy to be playing.
Moving from one song to the other, ‘The Way It Was’, ‘Shot At The Night’, ‘Run For Cover’, with relentless energy and joy, The Killers kept the crowd in the palm of their hand. Opening ‘I Can’t Stay’ with a quote from Earnest Hemmingway, it was unexpectedly awesome when Vannucci Jr, Sablay and touring bassist Jake Blanton all sang a line of the song. The Killers know how to build tension, as evident by how they drew out the futuristic opening, teasing the audience, before launching into ‘Smile Like You Mean It’. Seguing straight into ‘For Reasons Unknown’, the crowd sang along participating without any prompting from Flowers or the rest of the band.
The Killers then launched into a cover of ‘Don’t Change’ by INXS saying “we’re going to pay tribute to Perth”, the crowd continued to show their enthusiasm, which seemed to increase when the electro opening of ‘Human’ began with a robotic voice introducing the song. A mass of phones came out as the crowd sang along to the chorus. This began the slower part of the set with the backing vocalists (who were amazing) singing the opening lines to ‘Rut’, the gospel feel of the song had the crowd swaying with their inbuilt flashlights on their phones, creating a magical atmosphere. This continued with ‘Tyson vs Douglas’, ‘A Dustland Fairytale’, before everyone left the stage, leaving Flowers and Sablay to play a stripped back cover of Dire Strait’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’.
As the opening chords began, the crowd began clapping in time to ‘Runaway’, which after a time melded into just the crowd and Flowers singing “we can’t wait for tomorrow”, before building on the song by introducing the synths and then drums. This seamlessly transitioned into ‘Read My Mind’, which included a guitar solo. Then The Killers, showing their flair for the dramatic, held the end note before launching and repeating the opening chords of “All These Things That I’ve Done’ as the stage went dark, apart from the back lighting. The anticipation was palpable, as the band finally played the song leading to some enthusiastic audience participation, Flowers jumping in time on the stacks and a confetti cannon going off during the highest note of the song, quickly followed by a bunch of streamers. But the song did not stop there, the refrain “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier” kept being repeated as the backing vocalists showed off an impressive set of lungs by singing some incredibly high notes. After the fever pitch that was ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’, the band left the stage, while the crowd went absolutely crazy. However, that wasn’t the end of the evening, as evident by the lights remaining off and the low hum of one continuous note being played on a loop.
After a time, the band came back on stage, with Brandon Flowers in a costume change, a bright glittery silver suit with aviators to play ‘The Calling’. Projecting images of death, destruction and political intrigue, the groovy bass line and bright red lights added to a chillingly intense atmosphere. Teasing the audience with “we have a treat for you…” before making jokes about how it wasn’t lamingtons or twisties, the band brought out Holiday Sidewinder, Alex Cameron and Roy Molloy to play ‘Running Out Of Luck’.
The last two songs were by far the biggest of the night. Finishing with ‘When You Were Young’ lights were flashing left, right and centre, a curtain of sparks from the roof enveloped the front of the stage and the crowd were singing at the top of their lungs. But all of that paled in comparison to when The Killers performed their final song. With ‘Mr Brightside’ the entire crowd were on their feet, singing, jumping, dancing and grinning like idiots. With the biggest response from the crowd that night, Perth Arena was quite literally just a wall of sound.
The Killers are performers beyond par, maybe it’s part of their DNA being Las Vegans (is that actually a word?), or maybe it’s because they themselves are super excited to be performing. What I know is that I have always liked The Killers but after witnessing them, I now have a new-found respect for them; respect for their talent, and for their skills as both musicians and performers. If you pay stadium prices, this is what you should get, a show that is a feast for the senses, performances that are visually arresting, professionally executed and exhilarating. Seriously, go see The Killers. You can thank me later.
Review by Carys Hurcom
Photo Gallery courtesy of Rob Loud @robloud
The Killers – 2018 Australian Tour