During the third song in The Killers’ set at the United Center on Tuesday night, frontman Brandon Flowers had to break up a fight in the front row. “Let’s all take deep breaths,” he cajoled, forcing the spotlight to turn toward the crowd so he could see for himself when the sparring had died down. It was commendable that Flowers would bring the show to a screeching halt in the middle of radio hit “Somebody Told Me” to ensure the fans were okay.
The Killers themselves started the show a bit conflicted, at first exalting the room with a near gospel-level version of dark horse “Wonderful, Wonderful” (the title track from their 2017 album), and quickly following it with the album’s disco-funk party starter “The Man.” The intensity dimmed momentarily as the band moved on to 2004’s “Somebody Told Me,” (even before the house lights came up for the aforementioned fracas).
While The Killers made a name for themselves with the 2004 album “Hot Fuss” (which produced “Somebody,” “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” and “Mr. Brightside”) and the 2006 follow-up “Sam’s Town” (featuring “When You Were Young” and “Read My Mind”), the synth-wave outfit has grown by leaps and bounds in the past decade. That growth is clearly evident on “Wonderful Wonderful,” their first album after a five-year recording drought, and the first to feature legendary producer Jacknife Lee — a driving force behind the slick polish and dimensional layers on songs like Depeche Mode-inspired bait of “The Calling” and the “believe in me” ballad “Rut,” which might as well be the theme song for this winter’s Olympics.
Of course The Killers did not forget all their classic material, and while those tracks often took a back seat to the new songs, they were helped with a double-decker wall of sound and video, which the band enlisted to give the show a pulse. Though original Killers members Dave Keuning and Mark Stoermer chose to sit out the current world tour, in their place was the equally talented combo of guitarist Ted Sablay and bassist Jake Blanton, plus keyboardist Robbie Connolly and second guitarist Taylor Milne, fleshing out the full sound of long-time drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr., who continues to give the band its thumping heart. Powerhouse backup singers Erica Canales, Danielle Withers and Amanda Brown were pitch-for-pitch amid Flowers’ incredible range and provided extra depth to the vocal basin.
The stage setup looked like something out of the band’s Las Vegas hometown, with large neon arrows, videos of sprawling deserts, confetti guns (and an odd water tower with the word “Chicago” sprawled on it looming in the background). The band put on their “Sunday best” black suits, while Flowers returned for the encore in a gold Elvis comeback-edition jumpsuit and aviators — a tongue-in-cheek homage to a long line of showmen which the band has done well to live up to, always intent on putting on a killer show.
“Evel Knievel once said, ‘People pay their hard-earned money to see a great attempt not the landing,’” Flowers told the crowd. “And we’re trying our hardest tonight to pull this off.” Mission accomplished.
Selena Fragassi is a local freelance writer.
Somebody Told Me
The Way It Was
Run For Cover
I Can’t Stay
Smile Like You Mean It
For Reasons Unknown
Runnin’ Out of Luck (cover of opener Alex Cameron)
Jenny Was a Friend of Mine
This River Is Wild
A Dustland Fairytale
Read My Mind
All These Things That I’ve Done
Have All The Songs Been Written?
When You Were Young