Fresh off the heels of their rapturously received, not-so-secret appearance at this year’s Glastonbury festival, British Summer Time was The Killers’ first headline show in the UK since their world-beating ‘Battle Born’ tour four years prior.
Having taken time off to pursue solo projects – including frontman Brandon Flowers’ surprise hit solo record, the glorious 80s throwback ‘The Desired Effect’ – the band’s hit-packed Hyde Park set was proof of a band re-focused and re-energised, serving as a crowd-pleasing palette cleanser ahead of the release of their fifth studio album, ‘Wonderful Wonderful’, this September.
Following on from a spirited performance by British art-indie stalwarts Elbow – whose hazy, sun-kissed ballads such as ‘Mirrorball’ and ‘One Day Like This’ were tailor-made for blue-skied festival stages on summer evenings – The Killers opened up with a barnstorming rendition of new single ‘The Man’, with Flowers donning his circus ringmaster persona and clad in a pink leather blazer that harkened back to the band’s ‘Hot Fuss’ era.
The new track serves as the perfect re-introduction to the band, featuring a slinking, electro-funk bassline and more than a few nods to ‘Scary Monsters’ era Bowie, while its lyrics tread the same line between cocksure machismo and hollow insecurity fans have come to expect from the band.
From then on, the band powered through fan favourite after fan favourite taken mostly from their first three albums, with radio staples ‘Somebody Told Me’, ‘Smile Like You Mean It’ and ‘Human’ turning into joyous karaoke sessions that filled the entire park.
After consulting fans via social media before the show whether the fiery ‘Sam’s Town’ cut ‘This River is Wild’ or the swaggering ‘Glamorous Indie Rock & Roll’ should make it onto the set, the former ultimately won out, and combined with the rousing rendition of ‘Bling (Confessions of a King)’ that immediately followed served as a nod to the landmark album’s tenth anniversary.
2012’s polarising ‘Battle Born’ – an album the band have noted their disappointment with in hindsight – was largely brushed under the carpet, with only the heartland rock monolith ‘Runaways’ and the stately ‘The Way it Was’ being represented. However, another absence was far more noticeable – bassist Mark Stoermer declined to attend the show, leaving his on-again, off-again replacement Jake Blanton to fill in. Given so much of the focus at any given Killers show is on Flowers’ larger-than-life, Las Vegas-bred stage antics (and powerhouse drummer Ronnie Vannucci’s muscular rhythmic assault), Stoermer’s absencewas ultimately more of an emotional one than a glaring hole in the proceedings, but nevertheless did seem to dampen the celebratory tone of the evening.
The band’s jittery, nervous take on Joy Division’s ‘Shadowplay’ got a welcome airing, as did the Springsteen-esque ballad ‘A Dustland Fairytale’ and the heartfelt pop gem ‘Read my Mind’, before the towering indie-gospel rave up ‘All These Things that I’ve Done’ closed the main set, complete with Flowers leading the thousands-strong crowd into the ever life-affirming “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier” refrain like a rabid TV evangelist.
‘Day and Age’ slow-burner ‘This is Your Life’ kicked off the band’s triumphant encore, followed by the soulful synthpop of ‘Shot at the Night’, which seemed to take on added sentimental meaning given the somewhat special nature of the evening; “once in a lifetime”, Flowers bellowed in the chorus, “give me a moment, some kind of mysterious”.
The masterclass of a festival set concluded with a particularly chest-beating take on ‘When You Were Young’ and the inevitable ‘Mr Brightside’; containing two of the most anthemic, show-stopping choruses of the past couple of decades, the epic finale prompted mass singalongs from the ecstatic crowd that all but drowned out the band – and continued into the centre of London long after The Killers had left the stage.