A two-night stint by The Killers at the Staples Center commenced on Friday, February 2. Back-to-back shows may be read as a repeat performance, but not here. Following opener Amanda Brown, the crowd at night two had the pleasure of witnessing a set by The Strokes’ Albert Hammond Jr. That same day, Hammond announced he will be releasing a new album, Francis Trouble, on March 9th and his new single, “Muted Beatings.” Clad in a satin yellow bomber jacket, Hammond rocked the night away primarily in one corner of the stage, often under low lighting. He and his 4-piece band began with 2015s “Caught By My Shadow” and followed with “Muted Beatings.” It was a nice kickoff to his Francis Trouble era, the album cover hanging as a tapestry behind. Compared to the typically upbeat, surf rock-like tunes, the mood mellowed with “GfC.” After “Set to Attack,” a song from the new album, Hammond, who maintained light-hearted banter over the course of his set, said, “ Pretty good for on the spot,” in allusion to his joke earlier about playing new songs. Later he said, “We’ve got two more songs. It all comes and goes so fast… for us. You guys have a good two hours,” and then launched into “In Transit” and “Side Boob.”
The energy that would last the evening was indicated by the moment the curtain opened. Two women jumped up and hugged. Three teens jumped out of their seats. An ocean of arms went up. It was a slow build, the stage and screens lighting up, the hum of the music growing and the band walking on stage. And then finally frontman Brandon Flowers rose up from the center of the stage to begin the night with their latest album’s title track, “Wonderful Wonderful.” The song ended and Flowers addressed the crowd: “I know it’s early in the evening, but can I ask you a question? Can I kiss you? Will that be all right?” Screams faded into “Read My Mind,” which led to “Spaceman.” What was impressive about Flowers was how when commanding the crowd, he needed to give so little instruction. He said, “Count with me like this ‘one,’” and the crowd, in perfect unison and beat, finished with, “1, 2, 3, 4,” to intro “The Way It Was.”
Full utilization of the stage’s visual spectacular was arguably best exemplified during “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine.” Green spotlights frenzied the stage as helicopter sounds filled the arena. Green illuminated the tri-triangle stage background. It was one of the heavier songs of the night, which was appropriately culminated by the kind of chaotic flashing lights that make you wonder if you might just go into seizure if you stare too long. With this kind of hype, it was with ease that The Killers played into “Somebody Told Me.”
The stage was also decorated with gender symbols. The microphones of the background singers were shaped by the female sign and Flower’s keyboard/mic stand emblazoned a male sign. Such decor seemed most prominent when purple lights filled the stage. Was it a testament to Prince? Maybe. The color of royalty flared during “The Man,” a tongue-in-cheek song about male bravado. Neon cowboys flashed on the screen. Confetti rained down. Flowers did a small pelvic circle and thrust. For a moment, it was fun to indulge in such goofy machismo.
Later, Flowers said between a couple light chuckles, “We wrote a song for L.A. We thought, ‘Hey, maybe we should play it if there’s two Staples Center gigs.’” If they hadn’t already, the crowd felt genuinely serenaded: “Baby have you seen L.A.? Where the Lakers and the starlets play.” Los Angeles imagery projected on the screens. It was the very beginning of the evening’s end.
For “All These Things That I’ve Done,” Flowers began with his back to the crowd, truly in line with the steady rise of the song. At the bridge, the guitar beat extended on, and though Flowers did not sing, the crowd did: “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier,” over and over until Flowers jumped in to restart the bridge, dancing so that it looked like he was testifying about an invigorating spiritual experience. And as if that wasn’t enough, The Killers followed with “When You Were Young.” Somehow the crowd was elevated. The song even brought three women getting ready to leave back to their seats.
The encore consisted of “Bling (Confessions of a King), “Human” and “Mr. Brightside.” In tradition with the rest of the night, the crowd sang the first chorus of “Mr. Brightside” alone with little cues and Flowers repeated when they finished. For a moment the song seemed to be over so quickly, but then the arena lights turned on. The projectors and spotlights turned off. The Killers played “Mr. Brightside” in full and you could see everyone on their feet. People on the floor ran forward. Flowers knew how happy the audience was to hear that song and took to each side of the stage for the song’s final “I never”s. Even after he exited, people kept dancing as the band played on. When they finished, drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. announced, “Sometimes we gotta do it with the lights on.”
Albert Hammond Jr.
Caught By My Shadow
Set to Attack
Everyone Gets a Star
Unknown New Song
Read My Mind
The Way It Was
Run for Cover
Shot at the Night
Jenny Was a Friend of Mine
Somebody Told Me
Shadowplay (Joy Division cover)
Smile Like You Mean It
For Reasons Unknown
Life to Come
A Dustland Fairytale
All These Things That I’ve Done
When You Were Young
Bling (Confessions of a King)
File Photo: Mauricio Alvarado