The Killers played, Johnny Marr & Andy Rourke did The Smiths, at spectacular MSG show (review, videos)
The Killers were originally supposed to tour North America shortly after the release of 2020's Imploding the Mirage -- their best album in years -- but COVID had other plans. Since then, they released another new album, 2021's quieter, folkier Pressure Machine, as well as the new standalone single "Boy," and in August of 2022, they finally began their North American tour. On September 30, they played their first of two consecutive nights at NYC's Madison Square Garden.
If there was any silver lining to the tour getting delayed two full years, it's that now the Imploding the Mirage songs have really sunk in. When they began the show with that album's opening track "My Own Soul's Warning," it already felt like they were playing one of their classics. That song, and others from Imploding the Mirage that were played throughout the night like "Dying Breed" and "Caution," just beg to be performed for an arena-sized crowd of people pumping their fists and singing along, and that's exactly what happened right off the bat. "My Own Soul's Warning" kicked the show off with a bang (figuratively and literally, as a confetti boom happened right when the drums came in), and not only was the crowd eating it up from the start, The Killers really seemed re-energized by this new material too. They seemed livelier and looser than the last couple times I'd seen them, but still as tight as ever. Brandon Flowers was of course the star of the night, running around the Garden's stage in his fuchsia blazer and being the superstar showman that he was born to be, while their locked-in rhythm section of drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. and touring bassist Jake Blanton kept things powerful and propulsive, and their backing singers and other touring musicians fleshed out the band's larger-than-life sound. Their secret weapon, though, might be guitarist Dave Keuning, who really shreds in a way that you might not expect from listening to the records.
Though opening with a new song was a powerful move, The Killers weren't afraid to quickly dust off some oldies, and they went into a slew of heavy hitters right away. "Enterlude/When We Were Young," "Jenny Was A Friend of Mine," and "Smile Like You Mean It" immediately followed "My Own Soul's Warning," reminding you how much of a hitmaking machine The Killers have been for nearly two decades. Their sound has evolved over the years, but the old songs still feel relevant, they fit in perfectly with the new ones, and The Killers still play them like they mean it. As the set went on, they worked in stuff from the quieter Pressure Machine, they played "Boy," they covered "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," and they kept churning out the world-conquering hits, with classics like "Human," "Spaceman," "Somebody Told Me," and "All These Things That I've Done" sounding as explosive as you could ask for.
As originally planned in 2020, this tour is being opened by one of The Killers' biggest influences, Johnny Marr, and as he's done at every show so far, he joined The Killers during their encore for a classic by his former band The Smiths, "This Charming Man." Brandon Flowers did his best Morrissey impression, the band sounded great doing it, and it really was a treat to watch Johnny play those iconic guitar parts as part of a spectacular arena show. Johnny stuck around to join The Killers on their final song, which was -- you guessed it -- "Mr. Brightside." This song is bigger than ever, and at this point, it's probably bigger than The Killers themselves. The Killers definitely know that, and they milked it, opening with a more atmospheric, alternate version of the song before going into the classic arrangement that we all know and love. For any band, a song of this stature threatens to overshadow the rest of the band's catalog, but The Killers had already spent all night proving that they've got a whole arsenal of enduring, crowd-pleasing songs, and that they remain at the top of their game. "Mr. Brightside" was just the cherry on top of a set that was consistently great throughout.
Meanwhile, "This Charming Man" wasn't the only Smiths treat of the night. As he's done in New York in the past, Johnny brought out former Smiths bassist (and current New York resident) Andy Rourke to join him for two songs by their beloved old band, "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" and "How Soon Is Now?". It was a very pleasant surprise -- especially during an opening set at an arena show, for what was presumably a more unsuspecting crowd than at a Johnny Marr headliner -- and they sounded fantastic. The rest of Marr's set was great too; he played highlights of recent solo material, another Smiths song ("Panic"), and the classic "Getting Away With It" from his synthpop project Electronic, a collaboration with members of both New Order and Pet Shop Boys, who are coincidentally on tour together now and had just played MSG two nights earlier. (If only they had been able to cross paths... but hey, one surprise reunion per night is enough to get excited about.)
Check out videos of Johnny and Andy, Johnny and The Killers, and just The Killers, as well as both setlists, and pictures of The Killers by Chris Phelps, below. The tour hits MSG again tonight (10/1).
UPDATE: They brought out Bruce Springsteen for three songs at night two.
The Killers @ MSG - 9/30/22 Setlist
My Own Soul's Warning
When You Were Young
Jenny Was a Friend of Mine
Smile Like You Mean It
Shot at the Night
Somebody Told Me
A Dustland Fairytale
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger cover)
Read My Mind
All These Things That I've Done
This Charming Man (The Smiths cover with Johnny Marr)
Mr. Brightside (with Johnny Marr)
Johnny Marr @ MSG - 9/30/22 Setlist
Panic (The Smiths song)
Night and Day
Spirit Power and Soul
Getting Away With It (Electronic song)
There Is a Light That Never Goes Out (The Smiths song with Andy Rourke)
How Soon Is Now? (The Smiths song with Andy Rourke)