At the start of 2020, the Killers had plans to release a new album and to support it with a worldwide tour. The pandemic had other plans which forced them to postpone their album to August 2020 and a tour that would remain unannounced and on hold. What no one had anticipated at that moment in time was how the Killers would have their most productive period and create their best top-to-bottom albums of their career. With most tickets going on sale in mid-2021, the anticipation for their Chicago stop was at an all time high. The last time they performed in Chicago, it was January 2018 at the United Center and was without their original guitarist and bassist and found the band, successfully, navigating new waters with vocalist Brandon Flowers and drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. taking their show on the road with an expanded band.
Released in August 2020, Imploding the Mirage stunned many as it featured all the hallmarks of the band's early work but with a clear eyesight on the future. The band made a record that skyrocketed out of the speakers. Every song featured choruses that bulldozed their way into your memory banks. Not to be outdone, the pandemic allowed them to continue their creative streak with Pressure Machine, a stripped back folk record that once again, upped the ante with them truly challenging themselves and going headfirst into their classic rock roots. By the time the tour started, the band had more than two-dozen songs ready to take on the road along with all their arena-ready hits.
The Killers tore through twenty-two songs in two-hours to a sold-out crowd at the United Center. The indoor confines really helped the interaction with the crowd as well. Opening with "My Own Soul's Warning" the band kicked into high gear bringing the crowd along for the loudest and wildest of rides. Returning to the stage for the first time since 2017 was guitarist Dave Keuning, who is the band's X-Factor. His svelte guitar playing was majestic to hear as his guitar chords echoed throughout the arena. He played off Flowers for most of the evening and on "When You Were Young", "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine", "Human" and the show closer "Mr. Brightside", he flexed his chops and shredded his fiery guitar licks to the masses who were exhilarated to see him back on stage. Drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. channels John Bonham and Max Weinberg as a force behind the drum kit. His energy is contagious, and one could argue his presence is as important as Flowers.
The set list was perfectly crafted with the hits and a smattering of new songs throughout the show. There was no bathroom break moments and the band never relented during the two-hour performance. Even their new single "Boy" was met with fervour as it pledges allegiance to New Order, Erasure, and other new wave greats. One of the night's biggest surprises was watching Flowers work the crowd into a tizzy for the midtempo "Shot at the Night" from their 2013 hits compilation Direct Hits. Flowers had the crowd in the palm of his hand and the back-and-forth swaying of arms was a moment no one will forget.
The Killers are a distinctive band at this moment in time. They're creating some of the most invigorating music of their career without significant airplay from pop radio formats and yet every single person was fully engaged for "In the Car Outside", "Caution", "Dying Breed" and "Running Towards a Place". They have always been a strong album artists with killer singles, but their last few albums have proven that the band still has a lot in the gas tank. Established acts usually struggle selling the new material to the crowd but the Killers delivered such high-quality albums that the new songs went over like their greatest hits in the show flowed seamlessly as lead singer Brandon Flowers worked the crowd into a tizzy proving themselves to be one of the best arena bands on the planet. Opening the show was Johnny Marr, the legendary English guitarist best known for his work with the Smiths, whose set was a good mix of solo material, Smiths songs and even one from his supergroup Electronic, "Getting Away with It". Marr joined the Killers during the encore for "This Charming Man" before remaining onstage for the finale of "Mr. Brightside". It's one thing for an act like the Killers to give Marr an opening slot but it's truly special to see Marr flex his muscles and wield his magic in front of 17,000 fans. The Killers return was nothing short of triumphant as they drove through the winding roads with their audience performing a perfect setlist while fully engaging their fans along on the journey, who in turn, sang, danced, and screamed their hearts out to every word.
Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMusic Network. His daily writings can be read at The Screen Door. He has seen over 1,000 concerts in his life, has far too many CD's and DVD's. He can be followed on Twitter
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