In concert, the Killers deliver a post-pandemic shot of the spirit


Arena rock has symptoms of long covid. The impact of the pandemic was all over the Killers’ sweaty and stellar show Monday at Capital One Arena.

The concert was originally scheduled to take place on Oct. 3, 2020, and tickets for the show went on sale about 2½ years ago. Frontman Brandon Flowers, earnest as ever and seeming almost desperate to provide comfort, counseled the fans who packed the big room that merely getting together for the show was proof that their hardest times are in the rearview mirror.

“The pandemic is behind us,” he said. “The leaves have begun to blush. The Killers are back in town. Damn right you’re all right!”

The Las Vegas-born combo released two albums of new material by the time the world finally opened up enough for rockers to get on the road again. The band didn’t seem to have much faith that the songs, particularly the newer ones, would by themselves be enough to hold the crowd’s interest post-hiatus. This show relied on more gadgetry than did previous Killers gigs. For “Caution,” a peppy synth-heavy song from 2020’s “Imploding the Mirage,” walls of sparks fell from the ceiling and shot up from the floor. During “Fire in Bone,” a cut off the same album that tells a spiritual redemption tale, a la “Amazing Grace,” there were confetti guns. The oddest of the newish tunes was “Cody,” off 2021’s “Pressure Machine” LP, a song about an avowed atheist whose search for deeper meaning leads him to burn things down.

Yet the special effects even showed up on Killers’ classics: Red and green laser beams shot from the stage to the rafters during “Somebody Told Me,” a 2004 rock radio smash with a chorus so memorable and great the fans would have surely screamed along without any artificial enticement.

The Killers have always exuded Christian-rock overtones on record and in concert. But Flowers flaunted much more of his ecclesiastical side on this night than he had in pre-pandemic tour stops. Before rendering “The Way It Was,” Flowers suddenly declared that the key to getting to heaven was in “service to others.”

“We want to get to heaven,” he said. “Tonight we’re here to serve you.” The 2012 tune, one of the more obvious Bruce Springsteen homages in the Killers’ catalogue, gave the flock reason to believe in the power of rock-and-roll. As did the night’s reprise of “Dustland Fairytale,” a Killers song the band rerecorded last year with Springsteen.

And while imploring fans to sing along to “Runaways,” Flowers asked the crowd to “Let the angels in!” Seemingly everybody in the building followed his command. The harmonies were just as overpowering on “Spaceman,” a tune about being under the influence of some sort of spirits in the sky.

Flowers toned things way down for an amazing and spare cover version of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” backed only by a single, lightly plucked guitar. That’s a timeless love ballad made most famous from a 1972 single by Roberta Flack, an alumna of and former teacher at Howard University, just a mile north up 7th Street NW from the arena. Flowers, whether he knew the song’s local roots or not, did Flack proud.

Flowers also took a break in the middle of a characteristically exuberant version of “Read My Mind” to throw in a few swoony stanzas of “Lean On Me,” a soul standard also released in 1972 by Bill Withers.

Appreciation: Bill Withers, on repeat

The night’s final cover came when Johnny Marr, the show’s opening act and founding guitarist of the massively influential mid-’80s Manchester combo, the Smiths, returned to the stage to help the Killers redo his old band’s underappreciated 1987 gem, “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby.”

The Killers sent folks home with one last screamalong, “Mr. Brightside,” a tune so popular in the U.K. it’s often referred to as the unofficial British national anthem. As for whether the nearly two-hour performance would be enough to earn Flowers, et al, the eternal reward he claimed they seek, well, God only knows. But every man (and woman) upstairs or in the arena’s lower pews surely acted blessed to once again just be in the same building as this band. Hearing 20,000 folks simultaneously singing every chorus, song after song after song, is an inspirational experience regardless of creed. Just as Flowers had predicted, damn right they were all right.

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