Much has already been said about The Killers’ Anglophilia, so I won’t repeat it here – the very fact that Killers frontman Brandon Flowers chose to end his Desired Effect tour in London speaks volumes anyway. Indeed, since his band got their big break in this country over a decade ago, every single UK show performed by The Killers or Monsieur Flowers has felt like a homecoming of sorts (we are his best fans, after all). So, as a sort of companion piece to my review of Flowers’ Desired Effect LP, here’s the story of the main man’s London triumph, faithfully related by this half-Brummie/half-yamyam scribe.
The venue: Shepherd’s Bush O2 Empire. The date: Monday the 16th of November 2015. The companion: my Mum; known to me as the number-one Killers fan, she’s also part of The Killers’ Victims fanbase and online Sweet Talk community…but I’ll let you figure out for yourself her internet identity!
Being a former theatre, the O2 Empire brings a faded grandeur to the bustling borough of Shepherd’s Bush, and stands out in the area like the excited throng of Flowers fans we eagerly joined on that fateful night. We eventually entered the venue’s hallowed halls and raced upstairs to find seats on the second tier. Crowd buzzing with anticipation (and arses burning from uncomfortable seats), we befriended a geezer called Dave (of course that was his name – this is London we’re talking about) and proceeded to eagerly await the on-stage appearance of Brandon Flowers and his ridiculously talented band.
The opening act were called Clean Cut Kid, a Liverpool four-piece whose Scouse accents made me miss my second home. The music was great but the sound was poor: almost inaudible vocals and lack of bass presence, both of which were thankfully sorted by the time Brandon took to the stage.
Looking leonine with his immaculate mane of hair, Brandon Flowers arrived after his band members to the usual applause. Instead of straightaway tearing into the storming pop and rock numbers we know him for, he opened softly with a new song specially written for the last leg of his wide-ranging Desired Effect tour: ‘Come Out With Me’. As soon as the solo spotlight was taken away however, the band belted out ‘Dreams Come True’, its fist-pumping drum pattern, blaring brass, and powerful chorus all coming together to make this song truly anthemic. Next up was ‘Can’t Deny My Love’, followed by classic Flamingo cuts ‘Crossfire’, ‘Magdalena’, and ‘Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts’.
High points of the set included the audience being cast as the jury deciding the fate of the character in ‘Jenny Was a Friend of Mine’ (this stripped-down version a far cry from the Hot Fuss original), and a gorgeous rendering of my favourite Killers song ‘Read My Mind’. Benji Lysaght’s heart-rending slide guitar line always takes me deep within myself, with its sad beauty reminding me of how terrifyingly quickly five years have elapsed since the Flamingo tour.
Considering how ‘Diggin’ Up the Heart’ is a highlight of mine and my Mum’s amateur duetting set, it was bound to be incredible within the context of the final Desired Effect show. Unfortunately, the moment we stood up to dance, some moody Cockney twat sat behind us started aggressively prodding me in the back and yelling at us to sit down. I’m terribly sorry that we blocked the diddums’ beloved view, but I’m more sorry that he didn’t start on my Mum as well, because that would’ve given me reason enough to deck the motherfucker and tear him to pieces. Luckily, despite my atrocious selfishness spoiling his night, he nevertheless managed to enjoy the show, made clear by the fact that he left halfway through. Oh, how I love true fandom.
We couldn’t believe it when the set was over: everyone playing on top form and suddenly the band exited the stage! We were left with the ‘Mr Brightside’ remix ringing in our ears, until chants and whoops heralded the reappearance of Brandon and band. They emerged to a triple spotlight of blue, white, and red – a powerful show of support for France a mere three days after the disgusting terrorist attacks in Paris.
The encore consisted of ‘Between Me and You’ (heard in all its widescreen slow-burning glory), ‘Still Want You’ (with Brandon’s joy evident throughout its performance), and a surprising closer in the form of ‘Only the Young’. Taken from the Flamingo album, perhaps its inclusion here was to hint at a brighter future for our world, a world in which ‘only the young can break away’ from the wrenching pain of history and help secure a brighter existence for future generations. This concert felt like the end of an era; closing the gap between Brandon’s two solo releases; the end of my relatively innocent and elongated childhood; the cessation of Desired Effect songs being heard live…who knows? All we know is that, as Brandon sings in ‘Still Want You’: ‘time is passing by’.
After the show ended, my Mum’s very own dream came true when she saw Brandon up-close and got her ticket signed!! Five years after waiting in the pouring rain outside Birmingham O2 Academy, my Mum finally got to see Brandon and get her long-awaited autograph: to me, that was better than the brilliant show itself.