The Killers Bring Out Bruce Springsteen at Triumphant Madison Square Garden Show: Concert Review

The Killers Bring Out Bruce Springsteen at Triumphant Madison Square Garden Show: Concert Review


Very few modern bands have a “Mr. Brightside.” Even fewer are able to whip it out in the first five minutes of a show and continue to entertain an arena for another 90 minutes. And even fewer are those who can hold their own in a three-song duet with Bruce Springsteen, who beamed with excitement as he announced their name the crowd: “THE KILLERS!”

“Everybody knows God made Saturday nights for rock ‘n’ roll,” frontman Brandon Flowers declared toward the beginning of the band’s set, the second of two consecutive nights at Madison Square Garden. And the Killers delivered on that, taking New York City on a tour of its greatest songs from “Hot Fuss” to “Pressure Machine.”

The crowd screamed along to “Somebody Told Me” and “When You Were Young,” swayed back and forth to the disco-tinged “Shot at the Night” and “Human,” and pumped their fists at the Springsteen-esque “Runaways” and “The Way It Was,” which sound like outtakes from the “Born to Run” era.

While it was clear large swaths of the audience were not familiar with the Las Vegas band’s vastly underrated 2020 outing “Imploding the Mirage,” the Killers made a case for why they should be, opening the show with the explosive “My Own Soul’s Warning” and devoting much-deserved space to “Fire in Bone,” “Dying Breed” and “Caution.”

Midway through the set, the band went acoustic for “Runaway Horses,” with Flowers declaring that over the pandemic, the Killers had become a country band. Before playing the “Pressure Machine” tune, Flowers earnestly told the 20,000 city folk in the audience to “go get a beer if you don’t want to hear it.”

It’s hard not to be charmed by Flowers’ unfettered optimism and enthusiasm. He sings every song with a smile, stretching out the final singalong chorus of “Runaways” and then cheekily tucking Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” into “Read My Mind.” At one point in the show, he quoted the “indestructible” Hellen Keller.

On some level, you have to buy into the Killers because, nowadays at least, it’s hard to find music as unapologetically anthemic without even the slightest hint of irony. Even the band’s corniest, most nonsensical lyrics (“We’re burning down the highway skyline / On the back of a hurricane that started turning when you were young”; “If you could see through the banner of the sun / Into eternity’s eyes like a vision reaching down to you”), paired with desert-rippling guitar riffs, roll off Flowers’ tongue like rock ‘n’ roll manifestos.

As the set wrapped up, a curious audience member might have sensed a surprise was in order, as it wasn’t entirely clear how the band could top closers “All These Things That I’ve Done” and “When You Were Young” with an encore. Oh, of course, just bring out Springsteen for “Badlands,” “Dustland” and “Born to Run.”

“Me and my friends have all been sweating bullets up here all night, because the Boss is here,” Flowers announced as he walked back onstage, barely able to contain his own excitement.

Before easing into their Springsteen collaboration “Dustland,” a reinvention of the band’s 2008 track “A Dustland Fairytale,” Flowers said, “This part of the night is usually reserved for me to have people put their phones up. And I tell us to think about where your light comes from.”

Then, turning to Springsteen, Flowers gushed, “It is a very unusual circumstance for me tonight because I get a lot of my light from you.”

The Killers and The Boss closed out the show on a bright note with “Born to Run,” with Flowers insisting Springsteen deliver the euphoric final verse: “The highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive!” Then, sharing the microphone, the two of them — plus the entirety of Madison Square Garden — belted out the final chorus.

How to top that? Wisely, they didn’t try.

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