During MTV’s final era of actually showing music on television, people of a certain age were exposed to countless mid-aughts top 40 hits. Various morning music video showcases like AMTV, Music Mix, and Morning Jam delivered videos by Alicia Keys, Outkast, and Usher to small screens everywhere. While hip-hop and R&B were dominating the top video charts, a band from Las Vegas introduced young, impressionable MTV viewers to the dark, glamorous world of rock and roll.
The Killers released their first album, Hot Fuss, in 2004. Though the album did not receive high critical acclaim at the time (receiving a mere 5.2 from Pitchfork), it nonetheless spawned a sizable collection of huge hits for the band. The Killers quickly became a very cherished rock group with an armory of singles under their belts. So cherished, in fact, that their latest Milwaukee show, Wednesday night at The Rave, sold out (allegedly) in 30 minutes. Fans began lining up for the show at noon, abandoning their folding chairs in the parking lot for a chance to be close to the stage. By the time doors opened, the enormous line wound all around The Rave’s parking lot, through the back alley, and into the surrounding residential area.
The band’s last Milwaukee performance was way back in 2009 in support of their third studio album, Day & Age. Local fans who were anticipating an epic performance surely were not disappointed. The Killers served up a long set jam-packed with their greatest hits, esteemed rarities, and treasured B-sides.
Opening with recent single “The Man,” the band had difficulty engaging the crowd at first. Audience members remained pretty mellow until “Somebody Told Me.” The Rave’s aura began to change instantly as bodies started to move. The quick transition into “Spaceman” kept fans hanging on, eager to hear what songs the band would whip out next.
Though the Killers’ most popular albums came out least 10 years ago, the band performed their set with the same youthful intensity they were famed for during their ’00s peak. Frontman Brandon Flowers has not aged a day since the iconic video for “Mr. Brightside” was released, and neither has his voice. He finally acknowledged the crowd after the fourth song, expressing his excitement to be back in Milwaukee.
“My version of Milwaukee is that parking lot outside The Rave,” he said, referencing the long-forgotten days when the band slept in a tour bus. “I didn’t know how cool this city was until this trip.” He also mentioned something about David Gruber shirts, and the crowd went wild.
During a quick break, Flowers put the crowd in control of the setlist. “We’re gonna do something that’s unprecedented at a Killers concert—give you the option for what the next song is. It’s all in your hands, I guess,” he said with a wry smile. Fans were given the choice between “Jenny Was A Friend of Mine” and “Under The Gun,” a B-side off Hot Fuss. The latter was the unanimous choice, and many people were singing along to every word, again displaying what a prized rock band The Killers are.
After an unexpected costume change, Flowers returned to the stage for “This River Is Wild,” remarking on the 10-year anniversary of Sam’s Town. He sat down at an upright piano and crooned, slowing down the performance while still keeping fans clung to his every word. Shortly after, the band did an upbeat cover of Joy Division’s “Shadowplay.” Touching timeless classics can be tricky, but if there’s any voice in modern rock with the finesse to match the late Ian Curtis’ signature baritone, it is certainly that of Brandon Flowers.
“Human” was an especially upbeat performance from Flowers, and it was obvious he was grateful for the enormous crowd’s growing excitement. He let the crowd sing the song’s bridge, and not a single note was missed. “A Dustland Fairytale” provided a slow buildup that invoked the biggest singalong of the night. Tears finally started to flow as Flowers sang about disappointment and vulnerability.
The band saved their biggest hits for the last few minutes of the show. The set’s ultimate peak was during “Read My Mind,” “Runaway,” and “All These Things That I’ve Done,” three huge hits that have received more than a fair amount of Milwaukee radio play. The excitement in the air could be cut with a knife before the encore. The band closed the show with the emotional “When You Were Young” and finished off with their iconic “Mr. Brightside.” Despite being a cliché choice to end with, the song had crowd members passionately singing at the top of their lungs.
This weekend, The Killers will be headlining Chicago’s Lollapalooza. After a few more major festival slots, they’ll be embarking on an arena tour in 2018. The estimated 3,500 fans who were lucky enough to cop a ticket to their sold-out Milwaukee show experienced a rare, intimate Killers show that will undoubtedly be incomparable to their upcoming performances. Though the eight-year wait since their 2009 performance was painfully long, it was certainly worth it.