When you were young, the only song I remember from The Killers , second album Sam’s town, well summarizes these pictures.
Even if these “kids” are still in their 20s, during the last 3 years, from an American group which left their motherland in search of UK fame, they have become one of the hottest acts worldwide.
When the Killers headlined the UK NME tour in February 2005 it looked English music was infiltrating so deeply into the States that the best “Brit-poppy” album was recorded in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Their music was so much into New-new wave era, I had to double check to be convinced they were really American. I could understand the likes of NY citizens as the Strokes or Interpol, “just” an Atlantic crossing away, but grey Manchester winning over the sunny desert and inspiring a band on the west side was unexpected.
Clearly their debut, Hot Fuss, is deep-rooted into the British islands golden age of 80s’ pop. Put it on, close your eyes and you see Duran Duran jamming with U2 to show the Cure how to arrange a New Order cover. That second hand book of pop song recipes they found on a flea Vegas market was clearly published in the Midlands. Brandon Flowers admits himself that it was a 2000 Oasis concert in a Casino to inspire him to write music…blame the Gallaghers!
On stage Brandon Flowers, black suit white tie, shaved, blinking his “black eyeliner” eyes at his ecstatic audience is perfectly fitting that “glorious indie rock’n’roll” image he sings about. Their music was the perfect balance between indie-guitars meet pop-dance, including (quite easy with just one album out) all the best bits. As a bonus, Pink Floyds’ Time is transformed into a disco tune that made me start singing! The only Vegas bit I could spot was their name designed on the background by hundreds of light bulbs and the kitsch, fake jewellery glued on Brandon’s synth.
Quite clearly everyone from the fans to the music-biz spotted them. Four months later they were famous enough to be asked to replace the dramatic Kylie defection as Glastonbury headliners. They modestly declined, but in few weeks Bob Geldof fought to have them on stage at least for one song on the Hyde Park Live8 branch. Imagine to appear in front of hundred thousands people, with hundreds of millions watching at you on TV. Your future is all on a 4 minutes performance.
Well, that version of All These Things That I’ve Done, not only outclassed Snow Patrol appeared before them and Joss Stone after, but still is one of the peaks of that night.
The right time was arrived to think big, go back and “win the(ir) West”.
The world has been waiting impatient for the second album. Cleverly spread rumours that it was going to be “different” and much more R.E.M., Springsteenesque American, intrigued many people, including me.
When Brandon Flowers reappeared he had forgot the mascara at home. With moustaches, waistcoat and a black skinny tie, his Mormon look was definitely American but also quite bizarre from this side of the Ocean.
Sam’s town is definitely a more USA oriented release in the U2’s Joshua tree/Rattle and Hum philosophy before them. Not surprisingly Anton Corbijn signs the album artwork. I can understand the States are the biggest music market and following Duran Duran footstep too long can bring you in obscure territories, but the new songs lost the debut catchiness and never managed to seduce me. Beyond When You Were Young the only that would fit in their debut, the rest sounds so anonymous that a thousands listenings behind, I still cannot name another title. The same Las Vegas feeling that 50 million tourists enjoy every year experience walking The Strip, forced to believe that the Tour Eiffel is cross the street to Bellagio, a walk away from the Colosseum and not far from Giza Pyramid, gives me this impression of being cheated by a fake music that beyond the glossy and majestic appearance lost its soul.
Don’t worry, It must be me. the Killers’ world tour supporting Sam’s Town make them huge every corner of the world. With confidence this time they headlined Glastonbury as well as all the European Festival, the album charted Billboard and big arenas constantly sell out.
Fans were so much in need of new material that for 2007 Christmas, with only two albums on their CV, they published a B-sides and rarities CD, Sawdust, which includes a Lou Reed cameo, a Dire Straits and a Joy Division cover.
Manchester is still in their heart, but their music moved away from mine. I still keep memory of that NME tour, that was opened by the likes of Kaiser Chiefs, Bloc Party and the Futurhead. All blown up at home by an Nevada indie-pop act. Three years on The Killers, as The Strokes and Interpol, are probably showing that at the end of the day best Brit Music is done in Britain by Brit bands.
After all it makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?
There are some things that are at same time nice to boost up your pictures as well as annoying to deal with.
One of these is the large writing with the name of the band written by bulb lights that covers the entire stage background. They are quite common for grand, narcissistic, egocentric acts. I have bumped into them besides the Killers with the Hives, Morrissey and someone I cannot recall.
They are great for your whole stage shots, it is always better to have a background diverse from a plain black curtain, but they turn out to be a problem on the long run when you are after some portraits.
Cropping it from your frame is disturbing, especially if they become indecipherable. Having it in entirety, force you to use wide-angles which are not the portrait choice.
You don’t have many options. You can knee on the floor trying to stick your rockstar on the ceiling (with all the side effects of shooting from a “near to the ground” perspective) or stand side of the stage excluding the irksome writing (but be careful not to include the sound technician and his mixing desk which is even worse!).
If you are lucky, the bulbs blink or change color. You could wait for the moment they switch off which together with: framing your subject, waiting for the right pose, struggling among at least other five selfish photographers all in the timeslot of 3 songs makes concert photography a hard experience.
To make it even tougher, be careful at the exposure meter, those back lights can trick it and, if you don’t use flash, you end up with your subject too dark. Trust yourself, set your camera to manual.