Las Vegas indie rockers The Killers brought their tour for their sophomore album, Sam's Town, to Montreal last Sunday, and by the looks and sounds of the 10,000+ fans who attended, there weren't very many disappointed by the show.
The Red Romance opened with a half hour set of indie rock that had a vibe similar to The Killers, but much less developed; it was evident that they were relatively new to the music scene. The band members appeared unemotional and distant, not only to the crowd but to each other as well. What seemed to get the most enthusiasm from the band was the fact that they were playing the city of Montreal, as lead singer Matthew Dublin repeated and reminded the crowd almost every time between each and every tune of their 8-song set.
While the 40-minute long intermission between the openers and The Killers was a bit on the lengthy side, The Killers made up for it with a grand entrance. A slightly transparent, white sheet draped the front of the stage during the preparations and sparked the curiosity of audience members: was this sheet merely to hide what was going on behind or was it part of some more elaborate set decoration?
At a quarter to nine, that question was answered. A Sam's Town sign hanging above the Bell Centre stage lit up like one you'd see in front of a traveling carnival and images evoking the tone and themes of their most recent album artwork ran across the previously blank (now-known-to-be) screen, such as black and white photos of the city of Las Vegas, desert landscapes, the hotel-casino Sam's Town Hotel and Gambling Hall that the latest album was named after and more.
The Killers began their set exactly the way the tracks are laid out on their second record: the beginning notes of title track "Sam's Town" started up as the video screen dropped and the crowd roared in excitement as red, silver and blue confetti burst from the top of the stage. The "Enterlude" came next, which fans embraced and sung along with in surprising accuracy, followed by first single, "When You Were Young", just like on the album.
The fourth song was another new one, "Bones" - so those afraid that the show would be a full-on promo tour for Sam's Town were probably relieved when "Somebody Told Me", began a series in the set of songs from The Killers' debut, Hot Fuss. While the crowd knew the lyrics of the new tunes, it was definitely the standout tracks from the first record that drew the biggest reactions that night.
Wearing a suit vest, white dress shirt and bright green neck tie, lead vocalist Brandon Flowers was in full form: walking around from side to side, sometimes playing guitar, sometimes keyboards and other times just concentrating on his singing with the rest of the band - at one point he even climbed on top of a piano during a vocal solo. At almost an hour and 45 minutes long, The Killers were able to play all of their singles, every track on their new album except for "Why Do I Keep Counting" and plenty goodies from Hot Fuss. The first part of the set list ended with fan favourite, "Mr. Brightside", before the formation came back with an encore that included a cover of Lauryn Hill's "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You", single "All These Things That I've Done", and ended with a reprise of the second half of "When You Were Young".
The backdrop had an old school retro feel to it, with several lights hung in the fashion of mobiles across the back of the stage, illuminating the performance of "Smile Like You Mean It" in addition to other songs later on. The confetti made a few return appearances throughout, providing a celebratory air to the show, and the lights, while at times quite bright, added a pretty touch to the atmosphere.
Minor criticisms include the lack of improvisation as nearly each and every song sounded identical to the way it is performed and recorded on The Killers' two albums. No changes in the lyrics, in the way Flowers sang nor any longer instrumental jams were present - though on two occasions, Flowers did perform the intro or outro of a song alone in front of the piano with just the strength of his voice to lean back on. There was also little banter between the band members themselves or with the audience, besides the requisite thank-yous during song breaks. Also, there were no introductions of the band members and a somewhat mysterious fifth member who played guitar and piano remained partially hidden through most of the concert near the back of the stage beside the drummer.
In all, The Killers impressed - while Sam's Town may have received mixed reviews as a studio album, the songs took on another life in a live setting. And considering that the band played almost every song they had in their repertoire, it seems safe to say that fans were left feeling quite satisfied at the end of their weekend.
Writer: Stephanie Ng Wan