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Concert Review: The Killers Dazzle Intimate Brooklyn Venue With Full Festival Set

As the Killers gear up for what will likely be a two-year campaign promoting their new album, “Wonderful, Wonderful,” which comes out Friday, their special SiriusXM show at Brooklyn Steel Tuesday night caught the band at an unusual point in time. The album has been finished for months, the band has been playing festivals since June, the new songs are rehearsed and the album’s imagery — a giant seashell and male and female-symbol iconography — is in place on stage and on the tour laminates. But the band only played three songs from the new album, just one of which hadn’t been released yet, during this relatively intimate show that was broadcast live on SiriusXM, because to do more would have amounted to a pre-release leak.

Instead, fans got what many of them probably truly wanted anyway: A hit-filled, festival-pleasing, 75-minute set loaded with fan favorites from the band’s 13-year career, with two covers thrown in along with the three new songs. But where many artists at this point in an album cycle would still be working out the kinks in their set and make a few embarrassing mistakes, the Killers are in absolute top form, having played before 65,000-plus at Lollapalooza, London’s Hyde Park and festivals during the dozen-odd shows they’ve performed over the past few months. The band is well-oiled and cruises through the set like a seasoned race-car driver, kicking off the final song of the main set — a dazzling version of their 2004 hit “Mr. Brightside” — exactly an hour after they’d started, and coming back for a smooth three-song encore that gave the crowd one last hurrah while simultaneously winding them down.

The Killers are famously a Las Vegas band, but as shown in “Meet Me in the Bathroom,” Lizzy Goodman’s history of the New York rock scene of the early oughts, the band spent a lot of time in the city during their early days and it’s their home away from home — thus, Tuesday night’s show had a bit of a homecoming vibe. Despite the relatively small size of this 1,800-capacity venue, the Killers brought their full festival presence to the stage from the first note: Frontman Brandon Flowers, wearing black jeans, boots and a slick leather jacket, effortlessly soared through the high notes as the opening number, “The Man” (from the new album), segued deftly into a cover of David Bowie’s 1975 hit “Fame” at the moment that word appears in the lyrics of “The Man.” From there, the band powered through tracks from all of their albums, including a cover of Joy Division’s “Shadowplay” and the other song from “Wonderful, Wonderful” that they’ve already released, “Run for Cover.”

However, the band onstage isn’t the one featured on the group’s albums. Only Flowers and drummer Ronnie Vanucci are present — guitarist Dave Keuning and bassist Mark Stoermer remain members but have opted not to tour — and are joined by bassist Jake Blanton, guitarist Ted Sablay, a keyboardist/guitarist and three female backing singers (an additional keyboardist will be on board later in the tour). Not to hurt anyone’s feelings but their absence was not an enormous loss: Flowers has blossomed (geddit?) into a world-class frontman, personable enough to be likeable, rock-star enough to command the stage without coming off arrogant — a challenging balance that years of experience on festival stages have helped him to hone — and the other bandmembers fill their roles and the stage with aplomb. Center-stage was a big, light-bulb-bedecked male symbol camouflaging Flowers’ keyboards; similarly, the three backing singers had female symbols attached to their mic stands (maybe the meaning behind the iconography will become clear once the album is released).

Even with several weeks of festival dates under their belts, the band is very early in a years-long campaign behind the new album — in a brief conversation with Variety backstage after the show, Flowers said the setlist will be overhauled to incorporate more songs from the new album in the coming days — more songs may be unveiled as soon as the band’s next New York underplay at Terminal 5 on Friday, the day the album is out. “We’ve never had this much runway” between an album’s completion and its release, he said, which allowed them more time to refine and rehearse the set. “It’s been great.”

The Killers setlist, Brooklyn Steel, Sept. 19, 2017:

The Man/Fame (David Bowie cover)
Run for Cover
Somebody Told Me
Spaceman
Smile Like You Mean It
Human
Shadowplay 
(Joy Division cover)
For Reasons Unknown
Read My Mind
Runaways
All These Things That I’ve Done
When You Were Young
Mr. Brightside

Encore:
Andy, You’re a Star
Life to Come
Jenny Was a Friend of Mine

Concert Review: The Killers Dazzle Intimate Brooklyn Venue With Full Festival Set

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