The Killers brought their Imploding the Mirage tour to the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles this weekend and the stadium, which holds 22,000 people, was sold out. Released in August of 2020, “Imploding the Mirage” is the Las Vegas band’s sixth full-length album, and fans were in for a real treat as the night opened with none other than the legendary Johnny Marr.
For those that don’t know, Marr was lead guitarist, co-founder, and co-songwriter of The Smiths, along with Morrissey. This was my first experience seeing either and his entrance had me a bit concerned that he might be borrowing a page from his old bandmate. Marr’s set was supposed to start promptly at 7 p.m. but his band did not grace the stage for 45 minutes. However, that was the only hiccup in an otherwise flawless set and he proved his presence was well worth the short wait.
Marr opened with “Armatopia,” a new wave/synth-infused single he released in 2019, which sounds like a 21st century version of a New Order song; somehow sounding both hip and modern, while simultaneously retro and mod. He then transitioned into his first of several Smiths songs, “Panic,” which just happens to be my favorite.
Later, Marr introduced his fifth song by stating, “This is a disco song from Manchester,” and proceeded to play “Getting Away With It.” The song was originally performed by his former band, Electronic, which was a collaboration he did with Bernard Sumner of New Order. Jokingly, Marr asked the crowd, “Anyone got any requests?” and laughed before playing the classic, “There is a Light That Never Goes Out.” Marr capped his terrific set with arguably the most iconic Smiths song, “How Soon is Now,” the ‘80s song that also represents ‘90s culture, as it was used as the theme song to “The Craft” and “Charmed.”
True to the name of the tour, The Killers came out to a giant video backdrop of the artwork for “Imploding the Mirage,” beginning their set with the album’s opening track, “My Own Soul’s Warning.” For the opening verse, lead singer Brandon Flowers changed the lyrics from “I just wanted to get back to where you are” to “I just wanted to get back to Los Angeles” to a roaring ovation from the crowd. This was definitely a concert showcasing “Imploding the Mirage,” as the band played five tracks, the most of any album that night.
Three songs in and they launched into “When You Were Young” off of “Sam’s Town,” then followed up with “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine.” The song was slightly marred (pardon the pun) with one of the only incidents of the night as Flowers stopped the song just a few seconds in as he pointed to the crowd and asked for security to kick out one of the audience members. There’s some debate about what happened – someone said he was punching those around him, others said he was heckling during the music. Flowers said, “This guy’s on acid.” He remained quite adamant and a few minutes later the gentleman was escorted out. Almost without missing a beat, Flowers looked back at drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. and said, “Now where did we leave off? First verse?” and jumped right back into the song along with the rest of the band.
One of my favorite moments of the night was the band’s performance of “Human,” the lead single off “Day and Age.” Flowers sang the opening lyrics and let the crowd take the “and I’m on my knees looking for the answer. Are we human, or are we dancer?” Hearing 22,000 people, myself included, echo the lyrics in perfect unison is something I’m going to remember and think about for a while.
Flowers is really a terrific front-man and part of the band’s live appeal. Part Mick Jagger strutting across the stage, part flamboyance of Freddie Mercury in a black sports coat adorned with red floral pattern resembling a flamenco dancer. Flowers would alternate between playing keyboards behind the giant infinity symbol that would light up with different colors, and walking across the elevated platform at the front of the stage playing into the crowd.
It was also great to see original member Dave Keuning back with the band, as he had taken a several years hiatus; in fact, “Imploding the Mirage” was the only album he did not perform on. His skills and presence were a welcome return to the band. Personally, I’ve always been a fan of drummer Vannucci, whose facial expressions accurately capture the passion and intensity he puts into his performances. It was a real pleasure getting to watch him in action live.
That being said, a very fun moment came as Vannucci departed the drums. In between songs, Flowers pointed out that there was a gentleman holding a sign that was pulling on his heartstrings. The camera panned in on the sign, which read: “Battling Cancer. Let me play drums on Reasons.” Joel, whose name I later learned, did in fact do just that and stepped behind the kit while Vannucci played guitar and Flowers strapped on a bass for the song “For Reasons Unknown.”
After that, The Killers were joined onstage by another special guest; this time, Johnny Marr joined the band for a rendition of The Smiths’ “This Charming Man,” which saw Flowers doing a killer Morrissey impression.
As is normal for their sets, the band closed their regular performance with the gospel-like, “All These Things That I’ve Done,” which I recently discovered was written about former MTV VJ and current KLOS radio host, Matt Pinfield.
They returned for an encore that started with “Caution,” and the camera turned to what I realized was another guitarist that had not played yet. It was none other than Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac fame.
The band then went into a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way.” Only then was the band ready to close out their show, as they usually do, with the double-platinum single that catapulted them into stars, “Mr. Brightside.” This time, however, they were joined by Buckingham and Marr on guitar for a special treat.
After the band departed, Vannucci stepped up to Flower’s mic and addressed the crowd one last time with a huge smile on his face, in a manner that beats anything I could say or write, simply: “Thanks for the best job in the world. Tell all your friends.”