Reviews

The Killers Played All Their Hits for Miami

The Killers onstage at FTX Arena in Miami, September 13, 2022
The Killers onstage at FTX Arena in Miami, September 13, 2022 Photo by Chris Phelps
It seems like just yesterday when seemingly every other song played on modern rock stations came from the Killers' debut album Hot Fuss. So it can be a bit jarring to hear them now on classic rock stations. But according to mathematics, 2004 really was 18 years ago.

There are several reasons the Killers are one of the 21st Century's most listened-to rock bands. First, the Killers is a great name for a band. Second, the Las Vegas-based act had a way with a catchy chorus. Their lyrics stayed in your head and included hooks that got people on the dance floor. Though most of their songs were fast-paced and upbeat, their recordings had a dark edge to them that was kind of reminiscent of British bands from the 1980s like Depeche Mode or New Order that added a synthesizer to their guitars.

The absence of that darkness was perhaps the most surprising aspect of seeing the Killers live Tuesday night at FTX Arena. Singer Brandon Flowers walked on stage promptly at 9 pm, accompanied by a pair of guitarists, a bassist, a drummer, a keyboardist, and three female backing singers. They played all their hits from "Smile Like You Mean It" to "Mr. Brightside" over the course of two hours. The packed house was enthralled by the hard-working musicians and sang along to all the familiar words, but there was something unsettlingly wholesome about the whole affair.

I spent much of the 23-song set trying to figure out why the concert reminded me less of an arena rock show and more of something I'd imagine seeing on the stage of a Sunday morning service at a megachurch. Was I prejudiced by Flowers' clean-shaven face, impeccably coiffed hair, and fitted wardrobe that reminded me of a hip youth pastor? Perhaps a little bit.

Was it that lyrics that once seemed slightly sinister were now being delivered in a friendly-for-the-whole-family manner? Definitely a factor.

Was it that when he first addressed the crowd about the two-year delay of the show by saying, "Miami, it has been a couple messed-up years, but we're finally here. COVID caused a lot of isolation. I want you to take a look, Miami, no one is isolated tonight. This is a superspreader event. We're spreading peace. We're spreading love. We're spreading rock 'n' roll," that there seemed to be a sermonizing element to it? Possibly.
click to enlarge
The Killers onstage at FTX Arena in Miami, September 13, 2022
Photo by Chris Phelps
To be clear, the origins of rock are rooted in religion. The newish movie Elvis did a good job depicting how the king of rock 'n' roll was influenced by the showmanship he saw on the stages of churches and revival tents. So much of what we consider onstage rock star behavior from James Brown to Mick Jagger to Prince was cribbed from preachers and holy men. But somehow, when churches began creating their own sanitized versions of rock music, something went amiss.

It was during the encore when it finally clicked why this show felt more like one of those neutered church concerts than you could ever have expected. On their second-to-last song, the Killers invited opener Johnny Marr to join them on a cover version of "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out," by Marr's old band, the Smiths. Flowers did a decent imitation of Morrissey's distinctive voice, but the Killers singer kept grinning like he was happy to be there, a move I can never imagine from Morrissey. Morrissey is an interesting, if controversial, character. He's often claimed to be asexual, but his stage presence oozes sex, intertwined with longing and angst. And that sexuality was exactly what was missing from the Killers and why their concert filled with laser lights felt a bit like a deleted scene from the megachurch satirizing TV show The Righteous Gemstones

At least the night answered a riddle. What is rock 'n' roll without horniness or without the threat of danger, made by seemingly fulfilled, well-adjusted individuals? 

It is the Killers in 2022.
click to enlarge
The Killers onstage at FTX Arena in Miami, September 13, 2022
Photo by Chris Phelps
Setlist:

- "My Own Soul's Warning"
- "Enterlude"
- "When You Were Young"
- "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine"
- "Smile Like You Mean It"
- "Shot at the Night"
- "Running Towards a Place"
- "Human"
- "Spaceman"
- "Somebody Told Me"
- "Boy"
- "Pressure Machine"
- "A Dustland Fairytale"
- "Can't Stay Away From You"
- "Runaways"
- "Read My Mind"
- "Dying Breed"
- "Caution"
- "For Reasons Unknown"
- "All These Things That I've Done"

Encore:

- "The Man"
- "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" (the Smiths cover)
- "Mr. Brightside"
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David Rolland is a freelance music writer for Miami New Times. His novels, The End of the Century and Yo-Yo, are available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland