Live Review: The Killers @ Brisbane Entertainment Centre

30 November 2022 | 9:02 am | Roshan Clerke

Here's what went down at the first stop of The Killers' 2022 Australian tour.

(Pic by Chris Phelps)

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I’m your stepdad” – Alex Cameron’s semi-satirical song about inherited fatherhood (Stepdad) had perhaps never been performed to more real-life stepdads than were in the audience at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on Tuesday night.

Under bright white, static lighting, and joined by his five-piece touring band, Cameron was faced with a tough gig; his music is one long in-joke, and his placement on tonight’s billing felt like a misfire – square peg, round hole. “You don’t like the building, or what?” he asked the crowd at one point (between Country Figs and DIVORCE), receiving a muted, lacklustre response. And while the Brisbane Entertainment Centre is certainly a nightmarish hellscape, Cameron’s attempts at provoking a response from the unfamiliar audience proved more difficult than navigating the venue’s many carparks.

The Killers have infamously tested the limits of how much chicanery audiences are willing to put up with – the lyrics of their songs swing wildly between the poles of startling coherence and egregious nonsense – but lead singer Brandon Flowers is nothing if not sincere in his attempts to forge the appearance of connections with the people in his audience; “I just wanted to get back to where you are” – the lyrics from opener My Own Soul’s Warning could well have been describing Flowers’ yearning to return to performing in-person after years of pandemic-related delays. “Something stronger than COVID has brought us back together,” Flowers said to the crowd early in the set. “I’m talking about a little thing called rock’n’roll! Brothers and sisters, can I get an amen?” 

Pic by Chris Phelps

Flowers has described the band’s recent music as ‘celestial rock and roll’, and the set production tonight mirrored the tension between the band’s Las Vegas show-business roots and their spiritual aspirations: a giant projection of Thomas Blackshear’s Dance Of The Wind And Storm painting framed the band in silhouette early in the night, before it faded to black as confetti cannons burst over the crowd. 

Nevertheless, the feeling of yearning permeates much of The Killers’ recordings – a simple glance at some of the song titles from the night’s setlist reveals as much: When You Were Young, Shot At The Night, Running Towards A Place, Runaways – and it makes for a compelling driving force, especially when paired with Dave Keuning’s aching guitar lines, performed these days by Ted Sablay, who has more-than-capably assumed lead guitar roles in the band’s touring line-up since Keuning retired from the road.

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Faithfully powering through songs from each of their seven studio albums, the band was note-perfect. With the exception of Cody – the only selection from the band’s most recent album, a collection of literary, small-town vignettes called Pressure Machine – which many in the audience treated as an opportunity for a beer and bathroom break, recent songs on tonight’s setlist like Caution and Dying Breed received a warm welcome.

Pic by Chris Phelps

The band’s music stands on the shoulders of giants (especially a famous one from New Jersey), and the concert was as much of a celebration of their own songs as it was a celebration of the music that has inspired them – heard in the echoes of Erasure’s A Little Respect in Robbie Connolly’s synth refrain on Boy; or Ronnie Vannucci’s In-the-Air-Tonight drum fills during Shot At The Night; or Flowers’ decision to cover The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, intimately accompanied by Sablay on guitar. 

Much like the elusive meaning of much of the band’s music, Flowers’ latest keyboard stand, a glowing infinity sign (he has a new design for each tour), was a symbol that seemed to take on different meanings from moment to moment: it was an intimation of eternity during My Own Soul’s Warning; it was a sideways ‘S’ during Sam's Town track Enterlude; jealous eyes during Mr. Brightside; a pair of alien peepers during Human; space goggles during Spaceman; and, during Somebody Told Me, just another item of kitschy Las Vegas ephemera. 

For most of the night, when he wasn’t behind the keyboard, Flowers was running from side-to-side of the stage – a Sisyphean figure ever trying to reach the top of that hill, to communicate something true, to implode the mirage. The band’s catalogue is full of prayers, petitions, religious allusions, and oblique questions about ontology, and the fact that they have managed to build their success on the strength of such slanted and memorably elliptical, if sometimes preposterous, songwriting (it was surreal to look around the crowd during Human, Read My Mind, and All These Things That I’ve Done and wonder exactly how many different pages we were all on regarding these songs’ meanings) is a testament not only to the enduring power of twentieth-century popular music, but also to the rubbery, elastic qualities of the English language; it is truly some kind of mysterious.

For all remaining tour dates, click here.Pic by Chris Phelps