Photo: Rob Loud
The Killers lived up to their name on Monday night.
In a 20-song, pyrotechnic-popping, nonstop dance party, the Las Vegas band also lived up to the showmanship and swagger of their hometown. For nearly two hours, the band entertained and otherwise thrilled a full house at the venue in Rogers. I’m not sure it was a sellout, but I’m also not sure how you could have packed more people into the venue.
Before the show started, a seat neighbor asked me about my favorite shows at the Walmart AMP in recent memory. There are a few that stand out at the present facility: Miranda Lambert put on a great show in 2015, as did Chris Stapleton (in 2016; I didn’t see the one last year) and Tedeschi Trucks, too. Monday night’s show with The Killers inserts itself into the discussion of the best I’ve witnessed at the current venue.
Next at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion
Who: Earth, Wind & Fire
When: 7:30 p.m. May 17
Where: Arkansas Music Pavilion, Rogers
Cost: Starting at $42 plus fees
Tickets: 479-443-5600 or visit arkansasmusicpavilion.com for information.
The quality of their performance shouldn’t be that surprising. The Killers are a major touring draw, and they’ve been at this for a while now. Frontman Brandon Flowers acknowledged as much when he told the crowd it was the band’s first time in Arkansas. He apologized, then said the good news about the long delay was that they’ve had a lot of practice before coming here. Which means a big show with lots of gadgetry, too – lots of stage lights, a pyrotechnic curtain, backing vocalists, lasers and confetti.
But their status is somewhat surprising considering their studio output. The band last released an album, “Wonderful Wonderful” in late 2017. I remember liking it, but not being thrilled by it. The album fell out of rotation for my pretty fast. Perhaps the exact same thing has already happened to the members of the band themselves. They played only one song from “Wonderful Wonderful” but six each from their two earliest records, “Hot Fuss” (released in 2004) and “Sam’s Town” (2006). It means their current popularity is based heavily on live performances like the one we witnessed here last night.
Photo: Rob Loud
But the one song they did play from “Wonderful Wonderful” is indicative of what the band can do. “The Man” is not a good song, but it was entertaining live. The bass riff thudded mercilessly in the background as lights flashed all around. (Side note: Anyone else think Jake Blanton’s bass playing was really, really good?). Images of neon cowboys flashed behind on the main video board as the first of two confetti showers rained down on the crowd, and Flowers paced the front of the stage belting out bursts of staccato phrases and vocal melodies. No band can get away with glossing over a full night’s worth of sub-standard material with larger-than-life production values, but it works sporadically.
The band is down to just two members who were with the group when the album “Hot Fuss” made them famous – Flowers and drummer Ronnie Vannucci, Jr. But the band has found capable touring replacements and orchestrated a show that accentuates the abilities of its frontman. Flowers is a Vegas showman at heart, but it helps to have a voice like his. It’s not the rangiest of instruments, nor the most powerful I’ve heard. But it’s distinct and he sounded very much like you expected him to sound. You could also understand every word he sang. That’s a rarity of late, and credit is due to his enunciation and the sound folks who made it work. In a related note, I enjoyed the opening act, White Reaper, a punk/garage rock outfit from Kentucky. They borrow bits from The Strokes and The Clash and perhaps the modern sounds of their fellow Kentuckians in Cage the Elephant. But you couldn’t understand a word that White Reaper lead singer Tony Esposito had to say. Many bands could take a lesson from Flowers’ vocal precision.
Or maybe the whole package, considering how well it all played out Monday. Just know which of your songs are hits and play them, even if it means cutting out more recent material. Add heaps of glitz and glam and confetti, then deliver it with precision and passion. You’ll too have a killer performance.