“Thank you for not giving up on us,” charmingly begins the Killers‘ front man Brandon Flowers when he finally stopped dancing for an intro and a hello. I had the graciousness to feel guilty because I kind of did give up on them, nursing a hurt spot for when they cancelled the Manila leg – among others – of their Day and Age tour last January 2010. There is no pain like an excited fan returning a worthless ticket. After waiting in vain for “further details on tour scheduling”, I had to let go of the dream since the next few months saw the band taking a hiatus, Brandon launching his first solo album, followed by the band’s latest outing, Battle Born, records that I both ignored (out of revenge? ignorance? K-pop persuasion?). But then a new album means a new world tour, and hallelujiah, also meant that the Killers were (as Brandon said,) “sa wakas, finally” in Manila. A butt hurt fan cannot stay butt hurt for long.
No hosts, no gimmicks, and a bad ass opening act
Fast forward a few clicks, a credit card bill, and months that flew by and it is September 26 at the Araneta Coliseum. By 7pm the place was too quiet and sparsely populated for a concert night. But by the time the clock hit 8pm, Araneta was quickly filling up, as if they knew the front act will be at least 5 minutes late. Cue their entrance, lights hit the stage, and we sink on our seats already bored. The three giant screens shift to focus and I see the giant face of Raymund Marasigan. Why hello there Sandwich, what a pleasant surprise! Raymund, Mike, Diego, Myrene and Mong performed a four-song set in 30 minutes that felt too short for a recovering fan like myself. For one, Raymund’s somersaulting moves made an appropriate prequel to the main show.
Vegas in Araneta
There was plenty of time for a bio break and selfies as the crew tweaked the stage and installed the ever important lightning bolt that marked Brandon’s spot. At about 9:20, drummer Ronnie Vannucci, guitarist Dave Keuning, session bassist Jake Blanton (in place of absent member Mark Stoermer), and session guitarist-keyboard player Teddy Sablay climbed the stage–no fuss and matter of fact–with Brandon closing the rear. He hit the stage last with a jolly good jump and surprise, to the beloved rifts of Mr Brightside. With that opening song, my ticket was already well worth the price. The crowd in the pit moshed into one wild jumping unit, and the rest of the coliseum was up from their seats. The band followed relentlessly with Spaceman, during which the crew remembered to dim the lights and a Vegas-style light show followed, going on until the very last beat of the night.
Thank you. You’re Welcome
Sometime between that and The Way it Was, Brandon took off his jacket and resumed working the stage in his skinny jeans, dancing shoes and star-spangled blue shirt. Even all the way up from Upper B, these are details you don’t miss. He promptly gave his intro speech, the shrieking response proof of his disarming charm. You are very welcome, Mr Flowers. Soon we were screaming along again as the band followed with Smile Like You Mean It. Brandon then climbed a few steps to play the piano next to Ronnie’s drums, singing a few haunting lines of Human that left us wanting but led to Bling (Confessions of a King). Not released as a single and thus less popular, Brandon took the full reins taking the crowd higher/and higher, leading to their cover of Joy Division‘s Shadowplay.
The band’s dynamic showman took the habit of orchestrating the crowd to a full chorus on almost all the songs. He did that with Miss Atomic Bomb, leading us to sing “you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone” along with him. He followed with the full performance of Human and another Killers-certified confusing yet catchy hit Somebody Told Me.
The band’s only breaks were swigs of water between 2-3 songs and it was mindless energy and soul-catching vocals all throughout. Brandon introduced their second cover of the night, originally from the 60s and covered in the 80s, 90s and 00s (latter versions Brandon thought his crowd would be more familiar with, thanks for saying so), and pronounced that we were now about to hear the 2013 Killers version. Thus came I Think We’re Alone Now by Tommy James and the Shondells, with Brandon joyfully teaching the melody and lyrics.
Brandon followed with a non-hit (though one of my personal favorites) For Reasons Unknown. Next came my favorite part of any concert. The front man sidesteps (well only very slightly for Flowers) to introduce his members. Brandon started by asking about our respective dancing shoes, then directed the question to each Killer for their time in the spotlight. Favorite moments: Ronnie killing his drums, and meeting Teddy, “the part of the Philippines that they take everywhere with them,” hailing all the way from “Pam-pang-ga”, says Brandon.
“I’ve got just the thing,” he promised after all the intros, launching to the fast thumping, cowboy-boot shuffling, hand-clapping, easy, funky beat of From Here on Out. The dancing shoes came out for sure.
What is your motto?
A strange question to be asked in a concert, I must say. But ask, Flowers did. And he even answered, saying that the Filipino motto is “Makatao, makaDiyos, makakalikasan at makabayan.” The crowd went even wilder. Why, the man did his homework beyond the standard “mabuhay” and did not even bother to fool us with a “mahal ko kayo.” I’m impressed.
He continued: “That’s your motto but we’re from Vegas and you know our motto is ‘what happens in Vegas…”, letting the crowd shout back the rest. And with that he brought us deeper into the Battle Born state with his personal favorite, A Dustland Fairytale.
The beginning of the end
What followed was the short fuse to total pandemonium. Coming from the soulful strings of A Dustland Fairytale, the Killers went on hyper drive with Read My Mind and their current hit Runaways. No one in the Big Dome could think that Brandon was holding back before this. His strut and spins were boundless and his voice was full and strange and bigger than the dome. But he really gave the crowd even more in these songs. By the time first words of All the Things I’ve Done left his mouth, we knew why. The show was hitting its magnificent end. Singing “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier” with him was surreal and bittersweet, and sooner than was fair Brandon had sung the last words and he had trotted out of our view, leaving the rest of the band to finish the set.
Crew members took over the stage to forlorn boos and a rousing chant of “we want more.” The lights remained dim and it gave us hope. After 5 heartbreaking minutes, the boys were trotting up the stage again. Brandon only grinned and launched to Change Your Mind, followed after a short introduction of Jenny Was a Friend of Mine. After the song, Flowers tried to quiet down the last cheer, asking the relentless crowd, “What else do you want to hear?” I don’t think he came up with anything conclusive from the things screamed back to him, but he slipped on his secret smile and said, “okay, okay,” leading the band to When We Were Young. Bones and World that We Live In were running through my head, but I will take that. I resumed jumping and shouting back the lyrics to my Killers, already excited for their return.
He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus/ But he talks like a gentleman/ Like you imagined when you were young
(Talks like a gentleman/ Like you imagined when)
When you were young
I said he doesn’t look a thing like Jesus/ He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus
But more than you’ll ever know
Photo credits to owners.
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