For just under two hours Tuesday night, Las Vegas rock quartet The Killers rolled through a polished set on stage at United Center...
As was the case last summer at Lollapalooza, The Killers have embarked on their 2018 U.S. tour minus guitarist Dave Keuning and bassist Mark Stoermer who record with the band but are no longer touring members.
Tuesday night at United Center, The Killers performed as a six piece group (backed by a trio of background singers) with Ted Sablay and Jake Blanton taking over road duties for Keuning and Stoermer respectively.
"If you would've told me when I was 11 years old that I'd be playing to a packed house at the United Center, I would've said, 'Surely my dream of playing power forward for the Chicago Bulls has come true!'" remarked frontman Brandon Flowers early in Tuesday night's set. "But if this is the alternative dream, I'll take it!" he continued, playing to the Chicago crowd.
Opening with a pair of tracks from their latest studio album Wonderful Wonderful, their fifth, the band began Tuesday's concert with that album's title track and new single "The Man."
Self-absorbed humble brags like, "I got gas in the tank / I got money in the bank / I got news for you baby, you're looking at the man" scratch at the surface of a single that's about as creatively bereft as anything the band has ever released.
But, that said, Wonderful Wonderful is the first Killers album to hit #1 in America. It debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 albums chart upon its September release.
Following recent Chicago appearances at UIC Pavilion and Northerly Island, Tuesday's sold out show at United Center stands as the band's largest, non-festival headlining appearance here. That, coupled with crowd reaction to new tracks like "The Man," would certainly seem to indicate a band running commercially at the top of its game.
Following the pair of new tracks, the group went back to their 2004 debut Hot Fuss. "Somebody Told Me" set the pace early despite the fact that Flowers had to stop the band mid-song to break up a fight in front of the stage, singling out an idiot in a jean jacket.
The group's stage was flanked by a number of giant video screens throughout a set that featured raining sparks and massive amounts of confetti. There was a water tower on stage emblazoned with the word "CHICAGO," pandering to the local crowd, with references to the group's Las Vegas roots interspersed throughout: neon cowboy Vegas Vic appeared on screen, Flowers quoted Evel Knievel and Elvis Presley was referenced during "The Way It Was."
The band hit on just about every corner of their recorded career over the course of twenty-two songs Tuesday night. Wonderful Wonderful was the subject of the most focus as The Killers performed almost all of it; six of its ten tracks.
Opener Alex Cameron worked with the group in the studio on the album and joined for a performance of "Runnin' Outta Luck."
Flowers took over bass on "For Reasons Unknown" but it was the rhythm section of longtime drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. and live bassist Blanton that provided the show's finest moment during a pulsating live take on "Smile Like You Mean It."
Tuesday's was a show filled with unquestionable highs... but also questionable decisions.
The show hit its strongest stride moving from a typically earnest take on "Read My Mind" into "All These Things That I've Done." Knee up on the monitor, Flowers talked about the recent tenth anniversary of their sophomore effort Sam's Town and had the crowd eating out of his hand.
But the show ground to a virtual halt heading for the encore with the new "Have All The Songs Been Written?"
"Have all the songs been written? / Have all the truths been told? / Has all the gas been siphoned?"
Those are the opening words to Wonderful Wonderful's closing track. It's an ironic question to ask for a songwriter who's resorted to referencing his gas tank on not one but two new songs and seems to indicate the answer might be yes.
To be fair, according to setlist.fm, Tuesday night marked the first time the band has taken a stab at the song live in full (and it's worth noting they didn't try it again the next night in St. Paul, Minnesota).
It was the show's most notable misfire but the band made it good quick opening the encore with the new "The Calling." Flowers hammed it up for the crowd retaking the stage in a silver sequined suit, looking and preening like he's seen Bono's MacPhisto act once or twice.
The Killers closed Tuesday night's performance with a rousing, sold out sing-a-long to arguably their two biggest hits in "When You Were Young" and "Mr. Brightside."
- Jim Ryan ( @RadioJimRyan )