The Killers must have felt quite far from their homebase of Las Vegas, Nevada, with temperatures hitting -25 around Place Bell in Laval. But music is great at warming the soul, and the band was certainly ready to do that last night, on their second gig of 2018, for the “Wonderful, Wonderful” tour.
The evening started with Australian singer/songwriter Alex Cameron, who co-wrote five songs on The Killers’ latest album. Backed by a keyboard player, drummer, saxophonist and guitarist/bassist, Cameron felt a little lost on an arena stage, a fact he even admitted at some point. Their live mix left a lot to be desired, with the keyboards overwhelming the first two songs. The drums sounded way too punchy for this kind of music: anytime the drummer went for a fill, it overpowered everything else. Still, there was some decent songwriting during their set, and as the mix got fine-tuned, we were able to better appreciate it.
The Killers hit the Vegas-inspired stage with gusto, opening with “Run for Cover” from “Wonderful Wonderful”. Singer Brandon Flowers, sharply dressed in black and impeccably coiffed, commanded the stage from the moment he stepped on. But that energy was short-lived as the power to the PA system went down, leaving the band high and dry on stage. The road crew scrambled, and the band was able to restart the song, only for the power to go out again. Singer Brandon Flowers’ frustration with the venue was becoming quite apparent, even alluding to the multiple issues people had getting into the venue, either from the parking lot or from the street. Out of frustration, the band moved on to the next song on the setlist when the power came back, and everyone held their breath hoping we could get though the gig.
Half the setlist was predictably dedicated to their latest album, and their debut “Hot Fuss”. The band’s mix was, once again, muddy, with the vocals buried half the time. Flowers struggled in the higher register, probably because he couldn’t hear himself properly because he had no problem on the calmer songs. As a result, it was difficult to truly appreciate the newer, less familiar material, but The Killers have plenty of classic tracks to get a crowd pumping.
2017 was the 10th anniversary of “Sam’s town”, and the band brought out the deep cut “The River is Wild”, to the crowd’s excitement. A first time cover of Arcade Fire’s “Crown of Love” was also featured before a last stretch of “Runaways”, “Read My Mind” and “All These Things That I’ve Done”.
The encore kicked off with “The Calling”, and once again power went out, with the band simply moving on upon its return. “Andy, You’re a Star”, “When We Were Young” and “Mr Brightside” concluded without a hitch. While not as good as the exceptional performance the band gave in Montreal in 2014, last night’s show, technical and logistical issues notwithstanding, was amazing. The Killers never fail to amaze, and are truly one of the great bands of this generation.
As for the brand new venue, it’s failing grade for Place Bell. Once inside, the experience inside the “bowl” is great: comfy seats, plenty of leg and elbow room, and good view everywhere. But the logistics of the arena are nightmarish: people waited an hour outside to get inside the arena, where largely inadequate metal detectors were chaotically screening every spectator. We were “lucky” as we parked inside the venue, but even there, access is nightmarish with only one of the entrances available. There was only one machine to pay our parking ticket, and it was out of order. Luckily that meant everyone got out for free.
The sound inside the arena is loud and over saturated, but I’m guessing FOH engineers will progressively tame the acoustics as the years go by. But having power cut out 3 times during a concert is unacceptable in a brand new venue. Power consumption for a major rock show is well known by now. Was someone using the microwave at the same time?
The sad thing is that I attended the venue’s first concert in September, and the same problems happened. Teething pain for a new venue? Sure, I was willing to concede that back then. But the issues haven’t improved in four months: they got worse. Promoter Evenko and the venue’s management need to take a hard look at the situation and make improvements quickly.