Good rock songs stand the test of time, but many of the Killers’ best songs on Tuesday Night St. Paul were for those of us who stood the test of the COVID pandemic.
“Smile like you mean it,” frontman Brandon Flowers sang emphatically as his flashy but substantial rock band’s return from Las Vegas kicked off at the Xcel Energy Center.
At the end of the show, he bellowed fervently, “I’m coming out of my cage and I feel great.”
Those songs, “Smile Like You Mean It” and “Mr. Brightside,” were among the many songs played on the Killers’ 2004 debut album, “Hot Fuss,” which topped Tuesday’s set list. The best of those oldies, “All Those Things I’ve Done” – used as a pre-recall finale – never felt more like a triumphal march than it did that night.
A band leaning so heavily on their debut record could be seen as a sign that they haven’t yet managed to match the success of their impressive debut, which is true in the Killers’ case. However, these songs preaching resilience – written by isolated young people and a deep desire to belong – struck a fresh and fiery chord with the 10,500 fans in attendance this time around.
So have some of the new songs born out of the pandemic by Flowers and his team, which again includes guitarist Dave Keuning after a few years of hiatus.
They released an album at the start of the confinement, “Imploding the Mirage”. When their tour had to be postponed, they quickly did another one, “Pressure Machine”. So they were spoiled for choice.
New highlights included “My Own Soul’s Warning,” which opened the show with an explosion of confetti and echoes of U2’s “Beautiful Day.” The more rootsy “Cody” was one of many to air the Springsteen-esque American drama with the help of back-up vocalist Tori Allen’s fiddle.
Best of all, “Fire in Bone” urgently captured the toll of the pandemic with lines like “No one’s gonna save you / You gotta do it yourself.”
Flowers referenced COVID a few times between songs, including his rather humorous greeting before the third song, “When You Were Young.”
“It’s an event that spreads tonight,” said the 41-year-old frontman, who wore a sleek black jacket that could have been left over from Michael Bublé’s X concert two weeks ago. “We spread peace, love and rock ‘n’ roll.”
Adding to the significant undercurrent of the night, the killers also brought one of their heroes. Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr made the case for recent solo material (especially “Easy Money”) while doing justice to some of his old bands’ classics – yes, “bands” plural, since he has also added the electronic nugget. “Getting Away With It” alongside “Panic” and “How Soon Is Now?”
Marr joined the headliners as well, joining the Killers as an extra sideman for the duration of their encore, which included a truly bright cover of The Smiths’ “There Is a Light,” with Flowers enthusiastically cheering the guest on. But then the singer did this to everybody at the show on Tuesday.