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September 1, 2009

Concert review: The Killers at Merriweather Post Pavilion last night

the killersFrom the moment the roadies started setting up the stage, you could tell it was going to be an over-the-top concert.

Five palm trees? Check. One large urn loaded with fresh flowers? Check. A piano dotted with small square mirrors? Check. Oh, and let's not forget the neon trimmings, pyrotechnics, confetti and video screens.

The Killers brought plenty of Las Vegas flair to Merriweather Post Pavilion last night. They cranked through their high-energy, 80-minute show with business-like efficiency. The music was flashy and bombastic, and the set was filled with fist-pumping dance rock anthems.

Singer (and sometimes keyboardist) Brandon Flowers emerged sporting a black suit coat with feather epaulets. Thankfully, he discarded the thing after a couple songs and proceeded to stalk across the stage. ...

While guitarist Dave Keuning and bassist Mark Stoermer stayed put in their corners of the stage for most of the night, Flowers pranced around, waving his arms, hopping up on monitors and staring wistfully into the audience with an arm outstretched. Every once in a while, he'd hit a few keys on one of his synthesizers, or open a song with a few bars of piano. But it was clear he was there to sing -- not play.

the killersFor all his theatrics, Flowers didn't look all that comfortable on stage. But drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. (how's that for a rock name?) worked it as much as any man who's stuck on a stool can work it.

The Killers tore into "Spaceman," a song from their latest album, "Day & Age," and followed it up with a fiery performance of their very first single, "Somebody Told Me." They started hard and only slowed the pace for "Smile Like You Mean It," which the band began as a surprisingly effective acoustic number and gradually turned electric.

Though the lyrics might sound good, it's often hard to pin down exactly what many of the Killers' songs are about. Take, for example, "All These Things That I've Done," in which Flowers sings, "I've got soul / but I'm not a soldier." Live, he had thousands of young fans chanting the line. What does it mean? Umm ... stop asking questions and just dance.

The four-piece closed out their show with "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine," and Flowers' opus, "When You Were Young." Flowers takes himself a little too seriously, but that's easily overlooked. What mattered was, the crowd wanted to be entertained, and The Killers delivered.

(Photos by Getty Images)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:00 AM | | Comments (27)
Categories: Concert reviews


I was there last night and it was really a great show.

I think your review is fair but as a person who was standing in the pit and watching everything from a close vision point, I would disagree with your comment that Brandon Flowers looked uncomfortable. In fact, I've seen them before in the past and me and my friend both had to say that as well as the massive size of the audience (we've seen them at small venues before), that Brandon Flowers performance had grown greatly. It was a packed venue full of people who ate everything he did up. He owned that place and the audience did everything he told them to do. I was impressed actually.

Are you high? The performance was brilliant and i dont feel like brandon was uncomfortable, if anything he was engaging.

Great show!! They ripped through the hits and the new stuff. I was thoroughly impressed with Brandon Flowers as a frontman. He's developed quite a stage presence. He's got a little Freddie Mercury and Bono in him. Saw these guys a few years ago and they have grown tremendously as performers.
Sam, I think you walked in front of my truck in the parking lot on the way out. Tan jacket?

Grant and GG, thanks for the comments. Brandon's movements were, at times, spastic and jerky.

And occasionally, he would get over dramatic -- like when he was singing "Bones." He held his hand at arm's length and fiercely stared at it while he sang "Don't you wanna come with me / Don't you wanna feel my bones / on your bones." He would twist his hand around between lines, all the time gazing at it as if it were something alien. In-tense! Dude needs to chill.

Oh, and Sturmy -- yeah that was me, in the tan blazer. Say hi next time!

Sam-- that's how he moves. He's spastic and jerky. No lie. It's pretty funny actually. He does these movements that people refer to as Bran-bot moves. Anyway, everyone is welcome to their opinion. I appreciated your article. I just saw things differently.

The guy next to me asked the same question: 'I've got soul but I'm not a soldier...what does it mean?' At the time, I didn't have an answer; but I thought about it on my way home and I just watched the video and read the lyrics, as well. Not to find an answer necessarily but to understand the resonance of the song upon me. For me it means: I've weathered some hard times that have developed my sense of self and character - soul. I have fought to keep my head on straight and not be defeated by the things that life threw my way. But I don't want to have to fight everything and everyone in this life all the time - become a soldier. So even when my spirit is broken and I must 'soldier on'...I've got soul but I'm not a soldier.

P.S. I thoroughly enjoyed this show and the musicality of this band. Brandon Flowers was charming. One of the best shows I've ever seen. Hands down.

GG, "Bran-bot" is awesome. Thanks for the feedback. Cheers!

I was there. It was absolutely terrific. Far beyond my expectations. Brandon Flowers' live vocals have improved drastically, and he carried the crowd with him on a wonderful journal through the band's last five years' worth of music.

Your review lacks the very creativity and and energy it accuses the Killers of lacking.

Sam you are sort of right. But the key point was that the show was just flat out great fun. The songs are great to dance and shout and sing to. I wish the songs had a bit more meaning, but that doesn't make them less enjoyable.

As for the performance, I agree that only Flowers and Vannucci have any semblance of charisma. The guitarist has just zero stage presence. He makes the Edge look like Michael Jackson.

However, I thought Brandon looked as at ease as he looks. He does the spastic awkward thing on stage like Baltimore's own David Byrne in his Talking Heads heyday. It's part of his schtick.

I actually thought to myself during the show that as a live band they've improved a lot since I saw them earlier this year (and exponentially from prior shows). They carried a really big crowd for 90 minutes straight with no let up.

It was a helluva performance.

Brandon owned the stage last night and Ronnie was awesome too. Dave tried to get in to it onstage, but you just can't compete with Brandon's presence. He's a rock star through and through - awkward dance moves and all.

concert was good...the weather was better.

regarding brandon's stage performance...that's this style. He's not going to have a hair metal band or arena rock style of Vince Neal or Steven Tyler or even blowhard Bono.

He's more of the old school new wave style of performers who were actually talented musically, so they didn't have to spend 50 hours of stage persona dance moves choreography to compensate for their awful musical talent. So they do those jerky robotic cheesy move styles which go with their style of music.

He's not going to hump the microphone stand and pump his groin out to the crowd if you preferred that.

The Killers performance was fantastic! It was an amazing show!

I'm sort of a novice to the killers, but I went with a few die hard fans. I managed, however, to do something that I believe you as reviewer did not, and that was "get" them. You didn't get it. Your criticism of the show led me to believe that you were reviewing a community theater musical production as opposed to a pop/rock concert. Is this your first exposure to a quirky front man? have you never encountered the use of figurative language in song lyrics before? Another reviewer mentioned David Byrne, I would also say the killer's performance last night brought to mind U2, David Bowie, and Bruce Springsteen. Just like those performers, The Killers nailed the conventions of any really awesome rock concert.
The energy of the show was infectious and I am probably going to become a huge killers fan as a result of last nights performance. I would enjoy hearing a counterpoint to my own enthusiastic response, provided it came from an informed standpoint. Someone who can appreciate what the killers are doing, without necessarily being a fan of them. It needn't t be everyone's bag. Some people don't get rock concerts, just like some people don't get roller coasters, or horror films. I just wish that those people weren't the ones writing the reviews.

My wife and I have been to a lot of concerts over the past 20 years or so, and we both thought that it was one of the best shows that we had ever seen.

I went to the show last night and loved every minute of it! Brandon Flowers had fabulous stage presence and The Killers sounded strong from start to finish (and the beautiful weather was really the icing on the cake). This was the first time I have seen them live, and I CANNOT wait to see them in concert again!

I don't know about GGD having zero stage presence but anyway, everyone is welcome to his own opinion.

It's not a competition between band members to be more alive on stage, so I don't think the guitarist doesn't try because Brandon is just so awesome. I think if you've seen them before, you know that GGD stances, allot...and some times he's more active in the show, other times not. But that's who this band is. It's not a bad thing that they are all so different. That's what I like about them. They seem like the whole thing just shouldn't work. Yet it does. They seem like mis-matched puzzle pieces by way of dress and performance style, and yet, none of them are as good on their own. Basically, the whole of the band is only as good as the sum of its parts. They need each other.

Sam - you are welcom for the Bran-bot. I didn't make it up. It's a dance he did early on during the Hot Fuss days, and fans aptly named it, because he looks like a robot. lol It's been creeping back in lately.


I'm a little confused -- I never said it was a bad show. If you go back and read my review, I called their performance "fiery," "high-energy," "bombastic," and said it was entertaining.

Did I criticize Brandon Flowers a little bit instead of drooling all over him? Guilty as charged. Flowers is definitely a good songwriter, singer and front man. But he ain't nowhere near David Byrne, buddy.


Going to the show tonight... wondering if Wolfmother opened for them in Baltimore too? What time did the Killers go on? Did they really only play for 80 minutes?? Anyone that was there if you could give the lowdown? Thanks...

Sorry, but your interpretation of the lyrics "I've got soul, but I'm not a soldier" are incorrect. Brandon wrote these lyrics about a struggle with religion. "I've got soul, but I'm not a soldier" simply means that he is Mormon, he believes in his faith. He is religious. That would be the "I've got soul" part. However, he feels that he has waivered in the faith and this is the "but I'm not a soldier" part.

@MrsBrightside - Thanks for filling us in on the background of Brandon's intention for the lyrics, but isn't the best thing about music taking songs and making them personal to you? I appreciate that GC spent that much time thinking about it, and I think it's better to be off base from the original intention rather than just mindlessly singing along. It is cool to hear some of the back story, but calling someone's personal reflection incorrect seems little harsh.

Kate's right, MrsBrightside. There is no right or wrong in personal interpretations of art or music.

In fact, I'll take it a step further to say, one of the fundamental purposes of art is to provoke a reaction -- for better or worse.

If Wolfmother opened for The Killers I'll be disappointed that I missed the show. Those guys are great! I did catch The Killers a few years back the first time they played Merriweather and they were phenomenal.

With 24 Day & Age shows I'll admit to being somewhat obsessed, but this is one of the best live rock n roll shows touring. It's not that "Flowers takes himself a little too seriously," he is a perfectionist about his music, the bands performance, and crowd perticipation. A very admerable trait, I'd say. Off stage you'll never meet a more pleasant yet shy soft spoken guy.

Having witnessed this show from the pit, I can say that the Killers turned in a spectacular performance in every way. I really don't get your comment that Flowers looked uncomfortable. I would argue that he is one of the most charismatic and unique front men to ever take the stage. He was thorougly enjoying himself, breaking out in broad smiles throughout the show. He delivered a performance in every sense of the word; his one-of-a-kind dancing style, hand and arm gestures, combined with facial expressions, etc. are simply enthralling to watch close up. Combined with the ferocity and power of the music, it was an absolute amazing show. The live version of "Dustland Fairytale" is one of rock's finest moments. Check out the Letterman version on YouTube that includes a full orchestra and prepare to be blown away! Song of the year!

Just because someone "feels" as song means one thing does not make it so. MrsBrightside is on the money.
This happens in literature all the time ... every would be reader thinks that what they see is correct.
Sorry folks ... all interpretations are NOT correct ... no matter how heartfelt they may be. A text, in this case lyrics serve as the text, usually has one correct answer. The intellectually lazy may want to believe this is not so. But instead of crying about it, why not just think and research. Oh, and simply accept when you're wrong ... as most of you are on this board.

jalrod -- all interpretations are not correct, just yours, right? hee hee.

oh, and jason -- you're saying that brendan flowers is "one of the most charismatic and unique frontmen ever to take the stage?" hahahahaha thanks, mrs. flowers.

Anyone know what time they hit the stage? I"m going tonight to the show in Vegas and the doors open at 8pm. I'm going to be a bit late and don't want to miss them.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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