The Killers

the killers adelaide 500 2022With Amy Shark, Something For Kate, Oscar The Wild, Bermuda Bay. VALO After Race Concert. 4 Dec 2022


In a strange kind of way this was a concert for the antiheroes, quite different to the Noiseworks/Jimmy Barnes fare of the previous evening. Sure, Amy Shark nods her coifed head in the direction of pop stardom (she’s a multiple ARIA award winner, after all) but the same charge cannot be levelled at Something For Kate’s Paul Dempsey.


With Something For Kate onstage you know you’re in for a cerebral experience, and it was a surprise to see Dempsey joking with the crowd whilst waiting for a fix and attempting not to be electrocuted by his microphone when a technical malfunction derailed the first three songs. With bass guitarist Stephanie Ashworth and drummer Clint Hyndman and Adrian Stoyles as second guitarist they power through a set stretching back nearly 30 years. Age must be a relative concept, since the crowd were no spring chickens, leavened by a smattering of younger punters.


Monsters and 2020s Situation Room made an appearance in what seems a short set, and they finished with Captain (Million Miles An Hour), which dates back to 1997. Oh shock, a twenty five year old song which sounds as fresh as the day it was penned, sung by a singer who although bearded, sounded much as he did those twenty five years ago. Ashworth, barefoot, whirled around the stage and Hyndman hunches behind his kit, driving the songs behind Dempsey’s sometimes tortured delivery, as he always does.


Earlier, the Music SA’s ‘Bands On Track’ local performers Oscar The Wild and Bermuda Bay had graced the stage. It’s a great initiative from Music SA, giving incredible experience to up-and-comers, invaluable if the live music industry is going to be rebuilt after the ravages of the past three years.


Amy Shark opens her set with Everybody Cries… “We haven’t played a festival like this for a long time. I’m feeling the love up here” she tells the crowd, working hard to make a connection, whether it’s the black and white checkered flag pattern top she’s wearing, or her professed love for Adelaide. The crowd warm to her immediately, so by the time she straps on a Gretsch guitar for The Idiot (about a former partner) the swelling crowd is with her.


The follow up song, Miss You, sees Shark channelling her inner Sheryl Crow, there is syncopation to the vocal delivery which is matched by the band with metronomic precision. The song finishes with a short drum arrangement from Joe Malafu which backs up her later claim that he’s the best in Australia, rolling a succession of triplets around the kit. Shark takes charge during the very apt Psycho; seeing a disturbance in front of the stage she instructs security “Kick him out! We don’t want any fights!” and just as quickly is back into the groove of the song.


As the parkland bats wheel and describe their flight patterns in the deepening dusk she gives us two of the best to finish: new song Only Wanna Be With You is a number which builds to a towering crescendo, and then she tops it with I Said Hi.


With The Killers it begins with a projection of Michelangelo’s David on the screen; a preamble to the strutting and cocky rock pastiche, The Man.


“Them other boys, I don't give a damn // They kiss on the ring, I carry the crown” sings Brandon Flowers as he begins working the crowd. The Killers have been around just short of 20 years; it’s extraordinary how capable and assured Flowers is, let alone the rest of the band. Actually, no, they show just what a wonderful showbiz rock band they are, with a set list of gems and a front-man who seems to love his role and the adulation. As a result The Killers are all class, but it is in the bottom end, where drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr provides the propulsion, that the band really shine.


Vannucci has a commanding presence, both on the video screen and through the music. He commands in the same way that Max Weinberg and Clarence Clemons patrolled the E-Street stage and allowed Bruce Springsteen to do what he does best. Tonight’s performance from The Killers reminds me of the classic 1985 Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band Australian Tour.


As drummers they are not alike: Weinberg was subtle and nuanced, with Vannucci every hit is a measured show of force, yet their authority over the stage is the same.


And there’s yet another connection: The Killers performed three songs with ‘The Boss’ at Madison Square Gardens in New York City just earlier this year.


Think I’m overstating the case? Sing me one – just one – dominant guitar line in a Killers song. Guitarist Dave Keuning with his Ibanez Destroyer is not a guitarist who supplies riffs in the classic sense, and The Killers do not record songs with a big hook in the classic sense. There’s no saxophone as there is in the E-Street Band, that is true, but listen to the sonic build of keyboards and bass guitar, and the three guitar cacophony of Shot At The Night. These songs are based on the simple melody of a synth, or the turn of a phrase. These are songlines, stories being played out with Brandon Flowers not only as showman, but as a character observing and narrating the story. He is some kind of genius in his ability to utilise the lyrics of ‘pop’ songs as powerful expressive vehicles.


Somebody Told Me, Spaceman, and Smile Like You Mean It are all fine examples, the next three songs from tonight’s set list. Simple rock n roll? Hardly. This concert was the full experience, from strobing lights to sky candy (streamers) and images and visual backdrops, gorgeous lighting effects and close up camera shots throughout. Six key band members onstage and another three backing vocalists, a rich textural adventure.


Shot At The Night comes and goes; surely this is one of those bands who have a full set list (‘Every one’s a winner, baby/that’s the truth’), and then Read My Mind makes an appearance, Flowers leans back, says to the 10-12,000 strong crowd “You’re gonna make me work for this, aren’t you?” before intoning the opening lines “I’m on the corner of Main St, just trying to keep it in line”.


All These Things That I’ve Done brings on the narrative where Flowers delivers, not as an old soldier, but prowling the stage like an old huckster, an old Bible thumping fire and brimstone preacher, exhorting – demanding the crowd follow his lead!! It’s never over the top but he knows how to work the crowd over, how to make them see things his way.


When You Were Young follows, then [Are We] Human and all too implausibly soon, Mr Brightside. This is a song which the entire crowd knows, and it appreciably lifts the fervour to a new level in the crowd singalong stakes. There is no fanfare and no encore. A thumpingly short coda from Vannucci is the final goodbye and then it’s all over. They came, they saw, they kicked its butt. It is fitting.


Alex Wheaton


When: Closed

Where: Adelaide 500

Bookings: Closed