Close to ten years ago now, I arrived at the Birmingham Academy 2 to see British Sea Power playing their first headline tour in support of the critically acclaimed debut album ‘The Decline of British Sea Power’. A short while after entering the venue I was accosted by a woman with a clipboard, who demanded to know my thoughts on the support band that had just graced the tiny stage. Having confessed that I had just arrived and had not seen the band, she regrettably informed me that I had just missed none other than soon-to-be global sensations The Killers. Cue sad face and let us get back to Halloween night 2012, shall we?
You would have thought that I’d have learnt my lesson regarding support acts but unfortunately, The Killers support are nothing more than a distant rumbling to my ears for yet again I miss the no doubt, soon-to-be global sensations Tegan and Sara. If confronted by a Tegan and Sara clipboard wielding “street team” member this time around, any confession as to my superb inability to arrive in time for the support will have had less to do with the usual excuses like apathy or horrendous traffic, and more to do with the time taken to navigate the endless sinews of vacuous corridors that lead to the LG.
On finally entering the venue, a quick scan of the packed out room leaves you in no doubt as to the enormity of The Killers popularity, this being the first of a two night stint in Birmingham. The band’s arrival to these shores comes off the back of completing their fourth studio album, ‘Battle Born’. If any place would be deemed a suitable testing ground for the new material, it would surely be the UK. As home from home for the band, and one of its earliest champions, what better place to begin a tour that will take the Las Vegas foursome well into 2013.
It’s show time and the band take to the stage whilst above them a gigantic screen plays out the spooky Zombie Hands short; produced by the band as a Halloween treat for the ever growing number of “Victims” (the assumed name for die hard fans of the band). Frontman Brandon Flowers assumes his position centre-stage and addresses the joyous crowd for the first time with the teasing question, “Trick or treat?” Before the audience has time to compose a response the band launch into the wholly appropriate Bones followed soon after by the searing Jenny Was a Friend of Mine. It doesn’t take long before the crowd are up on their feet pumping their fists in the air, and singing along with almost as much passion as the ever-impressive Flowers. One thing that marks Flowers and his counterparts out from the many in the music industry is that sense that they really do want to improve and do the best work that they can. This notion of pride and a desire to take things to the next level is definitely something that was paramount when this tour was put together. This is further demonstrated by the wonderful flourishes from the light show and the subtle toying with the timings of the live footage being beamed onto the big screen.
Flowers in particular demonstrates his growing command of the stage, not only with his impressive vocal strength, but also his persona and interaction with the crowd. During the moments between songs, he patrols the outer limits of the stage with a confidence and vulnerability coupled together to form a potent mix. Hovering within touching distance of the front row, Flowers is at times brutally confessional in his dialogue, offering up prologues to the many songs of heartbreak and regret.
It’s certainly a difficult ask for any band to strike that balance between playing the old favourites that satisfy the paying public, and that inevitable desire to play the new songs and hone and develop them in a live forum. Tonight though, it would be difficult to argue against a better set-list for the Brummie faithful. The old favourites like Somebody Told Me, Read My Mind and For Reasons Unknown are delivered without the slightest hint disdain. The songs taken from the new album sit proudly beside such fan favourites: a testament to the strength of the new material. Songs like Runaways, From Here on Out and Flesh and Bone sound like anthems already and have the crowd singing along in fine voice.
Any of those audience members that have refrained from singing along so far, may have been saving themselves for the finale. Before leaving the stage the band perform Mr Brightside and When You Were Young and those extra voices join in to almost blow the roof off the place. In answer to the question posed by Flowers at the beginning of the show: I guess we got the treat rather than the trick.
Review by Chris Curtis
Photographs by James Hough