Hisense Arena, Melbourne, May 6, 2018
You need to be a big band to fill an arena for a concert. To fill it two nights in a row you need to be huge. Three sell out nights… well, you have to be absolutely massive, especially if you’re a rock band in 2018. But that’s exactly what the Killers did over the weekend, filling out Melbourne’s 10,000 capacity Hisense Arena three nights in a row as part of their Wonderful, Wonderful world tour.
As the crowd of mostly thirty-somethings file into the venue (having endured the tight security that’s seemingly now part of seeing a major concert in Melbourne), Jack Ladder & the Dreamlanders kick off proceedings with a short set of Nick Cave or The National sounding songs that don’t cut through the crowd chatter at all. It just isn’t the right sound for a night like this.
Next up is Alex Cameron (who incidentally co-write five songs on Wonderful, Wonderful), with a sunnier indie-sound and cheeky faux-ego that is a much better fit. The crowd in particular like Cameron’s “saxophonist and business partner” Roy Molloy (more about him later). They only play five or so songs, but it’s enough that I make a mental note to listen to them later on.
Some party tunes to prime the crowd between Cameron and the main event would have been nice but instead we wait for half an hour before the Killers emerge, with Pink Floyd-ish instrumentals segueing into the brooding ‘Wonderful, Wonderful’. It isn’t the most obvious song for a band like the Killers to open with, but it works, building anticipation and hinting something big is about to happen.
The party starts for real with the next song, ‘The Man’. The Vegas Strip comes to Melbourne as confetti rains down and front-man Brandon Flowers struts around in front of enormous triangular video screens emblazoned with neon cowboys.
It’s all very impressive. This is a no expense spared production, with lasers, pyrotechnics and wall-to-wall video screens filled with images of everything from the Nevada desert to geometric hearts and even boxer Mike Tyson.
As for the band, Flowers is a magnetic front-man with an incandescent smile and endless stamina marking him out as the rockstar love child of the Energizer bunny and a Vegas showman.
He fist pumps and prances around the stage all night, but it isn’t enough for some around me in GA who seem motionless and disinterested, even during songs like ‘Somebody Told Me’. It’s no fault of the band. If the Killers playing a Hot Fuss classic isn’t enough to make you at least tap your foot, well sorry but I don’t know what to tell you..
The set has a real ‘Greatest Hits’ feel to it, with 14 singles from across all five studio albums featured. Obviously the new album is well represented, with five songs, but I’m particularly happy to hear a few older favourites of mine: ‘The Way it Was’ from Battle Born and ‘Read My Mind’ and ‘For Reasons Unknown’ from Sam’s Town (still their best album if you ask me).
During the latter a teenage fan from the crowd is invited up on stage to drum. It’s good fun and the crowd love it although I’m going to be selfish here and say I wish they’d got him up for another song instead of one of my favourites.
The main set comes to end with ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’ and a giant “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier” singalong as red, white and blue streamers fall down onto the crowd.
A few minutes later Flowers returns to the stage in a gold metallic suit and aviators (it’s like a mashup of George Michael and the Tin Man) for an encore that begins with ‘The Calling’ from Wonderful, Wonderful, a song that recalls the better parts of Queen’s Hot Space.
A cover of Men at Work’s ‘Who Can it be Now?’ is next, with Alex Cameron again returning to stage along with a now shirtless Molloy on saxophone, who for some reason increasingly reminds me of this video. It’s kind of fun, but for a band with much better covers (such as this or this), it does feel out of place in the encore.
Any doubts about the song choice are immediately obliterated the moment ‘When We Were Young’ begins. A pyrotechnic waterfall provides the backdrop as the crowd scream out the words before the arena lights up with lasers for—what else—‘Mr Brightside’. That one even manages to jolt the most comatose punters around me into life.
Flowers disappears into the night (it’s all a bit ‘Elvis has left the building’), leaving the last word to drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr (the only other original band member touring these days), who delivers a volley of drumsticks into the crowd—or as he calls them, “flowers”, this being the “third date” with Melbourne. All that’s left then is the now-traditional closing message: “oh… and remember to tell all your friends”.
With that, the house lights come up, a floor ankle-deep in confetti and streamers the only thing left behind from one of the greatest arena rock acts in the 21st century.
Somebody Told Me
The Way It Was
Shot at the Night
Run for Cover
I Can’t Stay
Smile Like You Mean It
For Reasons Unknown
Tyson vs. Douglas
A Dustland Fairytale
Read My Mind
All These Things That I’ve Done
Who Can It Be Now (Men at Work cover)
When You Were Young