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My foolish dreams

Battle Born: the story of a Killers fan in Sheffield and London

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The Killers Battle BornIt was the first time I’d felt compelled to see the same band twice. It was the first time I’d needed to see a band twice. It was the first time I was willing to pay a ridiculous amount to see the same band twice.

The gigs were eight days apart; one in Sheffield, one in London. It was obviously the same tour, and largely the same set-list for both dates. I waited for hours, first outside in the cold November air, then in the arenas, with every minute dragging out and feeling like a year.

In Sheffield I was five rows back, but that wasn’t close enough. In London I was in the third row. It still wasn’t close enough.

I remember the background music ending. It was close, very close. The crowd hummed around me.

Cheers went up, and I joined them. Ronnie, Mark, Dave. My crazy fangirl scream went up in pitch. It didn’t feel real, but it was, and then the slightly shy showman from Las Vegas leapt into view. 

I almost laughed. I’d loved this band for five years; they were my favourite band by miles. I had never expected to get the chance to see them “in the flesh”.

Then Mr. Brightside started and there was no time for thinking.

With the lights still up, we went crazy. I saw Brandon mouthing “wow” at Dave at our response, our singing, our dancing. We shouted every word back at Brandon, and in response he gave it everything.

The rest of the Sheffield concert passed far too quickly. New tracks like The Way It Was, Runaways and From Here On Out were phenomenal, incredible, made for being performed live. Brandon had us eating out of his hand.

The old favourites held their own too: I’d never loved Somebody Told Me but live, it was a different creature altogether. Jenny Was A Friend of Mine was absolutely amazing, Read My Mind brought a tear to my eye, and the closing song, Battle Born, was easily the best musical experience of my life.

It was perfect, I needed more. The day after the gig I was still on a high, but the day after that I came crashing down to reality. How long would it be before I saw them again?

A friend in London who’s even more of a Killers fangirl (or “victim”) than me started working on finding tickets. We got some at a price that I really shouldn’t have paid. With train tickets on top of that, I wondered, not for the first time, if this was taking my rediscovered Killers obsession a little too far.

I was wrong, it was worth it. And now I don’t want to believe it’s all over, so I’m going to compare the two gigs in a way that only a fangirl can.

The venue

Sheffield’s Motorpoint arena was the setting for the concert on the 8th November 2012. Its capacity is about 13,500 compared with the O2’s 23,000. It was my first arena gig, so I was taken aback not by the size of it, but by the height of it. I felt even smaller than I usually do. The O2 felt more like a football stadium – slightly too cavernous, not quite as friendly as Sheffield arena. It didn’t help that even though I was two or three rows closer to the front in London, the huge space between the stage and the crowd meant that I felt much further away. My friend saw Brandon saying “so far” to himself when they first came on stage, and he had a point. The connection with the crowd wasn’t as strong as in Sheffield. Dave and Mark spent a lot more time right at the front of the stage, just to be closer to the crowd.

I also didn’t enjoy the whole “guilty until proven innocent” thing they had going on at the O2. I know it’s London, but please don’t assume I’m carrying knives or a bomb or something into a gig I’ve queued four hours for. There was also no prospect of meeting the band afterwards, as apparently bands leave and enter through an underground tunnel.

Winner: Sheffield

The set-list

By and large, the set-list was the same. Somebody Told Me came much earlier in London than Sheffield, and Mr Brightside much later. The encore in London was only three songs (JWAFOM, When You Were Young and Battle Born) but in Sheffield we got A Matter of Time too. In London they played a snippet of Don’t Look Back In Anger, but they didn’t play Bones as they did in Sheffield. They did, however, play Shadowplay, one of my favourite Killers tracks of all time (yes, I’m aware it’s a Joy Division cover).

This is a tough one to call. I love Bones but I also love Shadowplay. The huge, somehow intimate sing-along to DLBIA was something I felt very lucky to witness.

Winner: London

The crowd

Our section of the crowd at Sheffield(five rows back, slightly to the left of centre stage) were pretty awesome. Everyone knew all the words, even to the new stuff. Brandon looked over at us many times and looked genuinely surprised and pleased about how we reacted to the Battle Born tracks. We had a good friendly chat to some other Victims before the gig, which was nice (even if they didn’t believe me that they’d open with Mr. Brightside – ha, I told you so.) There were a couple of drunk latecomers who pushed their way to the front, and a mini-brawl started behind me during Human, which the stewards didn’t seem to sort out, but that didn’t spoil it. I wasn’t crushed and only started to feel a little cramped during the latter end of the set and the encore.

Brandon+Flowers and me2

My hand is in this photo! Just above the girl at the front with glasses.

In London, two rows back, again, slightly to the left, things couldn’t have been more different. Aside from the fans at the barrier, our section of the crowd was flat. During the first half of the gig, I felt very aware that I was almost the only one in the area jumping around to Spaceman and punching the air to The Way It Was. Some of the crowd further left were loving it, totally into every song. I looked over at them jealously. It wasn’t surprising that Brandon gave them so much attention. By the time we got to Read My Mind, Runaways and Battle Born I thought “fine, whatever, I’ll just pretend you lot aren’t here”. And I jumped and screamed at it was brilliant.

My rant about the crowd near us doesn’t end there, unfortunately.  I was gradually edged out of my second row spot by some really tall girl who clearly knew nothing about the Killers and was just there with a couple of friends, only one of whom was a Killers fan. They’d joined her in the queue outside about half an hour before doors opened. I had been queuing since 2. And then she barely even nodded her head to Mr. Brightside, and when Read My Mind started I heard her tell her friend “I think I know this one!” During Shadowplay she exchanged looks with her friend as if to say “why is this crazy girl behind me screaming so much? I don’t even know this song, do you?”, and her friend shook her head. She wasn’t singing, or dancing, or anything. She spent the entirety of Here With Me facing backwards taking pictures of all the pretty camera lights. Her camera was stuck in my face, so I waved my arms extra aggressively and sang along loudly and out of tune. I was so close to snapping at her several times and telling her to get the hell out of my way as clearly she was completely indifferent to the whole thing. I get it if you don’t like the music, but then why hog one of the best places in the crowd? I was furious. I nearly got my spot back just before the encore, but then another friend joined them in the second row and my chance was gone.

There were some good patches of the crowd in London, but for it to be so lifeless right at the front and in the centre made me so ashamed. Still, I had plenty of room, probably because I was going crazy for every song and kept accidentally-on-purpose knocking cameras out the way whilst I was jumping up and down. There were loads of people near me who were trying to film the whole thing. I am pleased that none of these videos have surfaced on YouTube yet. I’d like to think that is down to me. You are in the second row of a Killers concert. Enjoy it, soak it up, feel the music! Don’t spend the night looking at everything through a screen just so you can get a couple more YouTube subscribers!

Sheffield might have had a couple of drunks, but I’d take that over indifference and people that checked Facebook (yes, really. It makes me furious just thinking about it) during a Killers gig.

Winner: Sheffield

The performance

The Killers had to cancel Manchester gigs on the Monday and Tuesday prior to the London gig (Friday), due to Brandon’s voice going. I was terrified they’d have to cancel our date, but thankfully they didn’t. In London, Brandon’s voice was still a little fragile, with a couple of obvious vocal hiccups in Heart of A Girl and Here With Me. Looking back, some of the earlier songs may have been a little flat but I was having such a great time I didn’t care. There was also a sound problem during Miss Atomic Bomb that had tall indifferent girl covering her ears.

Ronnie, Dave and Mark were fantastic as always. Dave’s solos were spot on at both shows.

I was relieved that Brandon still felt able to give it everything in London, even though his voice was obviously only at 95%. At both Sheffield and London he had surprisingly great stage presence, leaping around, getting us involved, adding little speeches during and between the odd song. I felt guilty at the end of the Sheffield gig when I realised I hadn’t paid a bit of attention to Dave or Ronnie or Mark. I remedied that in London, and used my clear view of Dave to cheer like a madwoman at all his solos, and sometimes even when Brandon was singing.

Every song was better than the recorded version, but Sheffield gets it because Brandon’s voice was much more solid.

Winner: Sheffield

The little things

Both shows had fireworks and lasers. At London, Brandon managed to time a couple of leaps and fist-pumps to perfectly match the fireworks or the light show on the screen behind, leaving us with some wonderful silhouettes and some pretty iconic poses that took my breath away.

At Sheffield I maintained eye contact with Brandon on three occasions, including a good few seconds during the first verse of Battle Born. I smiled slightly crazily at him, but it felt awesome. It really made it for me – having the briefest personal connection with the band was pretty special.

In London I think I got a good few seconds too, either in Here With Me or From Here On Out or Human. I was pretty sure I didn’t imagine him smiling at me. I smiled back and gave him the thumbs up, but he’d turned away so didn’t see. When I paid attention to Dave I got a couple of moments of eye contact, one fleeting, where he looked away immediately, but in the second one I managed to coax a little smile from those eyes of his. I was also in Brandon touching distance when he came down to the crowd at the end of the set. I stuck my arm out and waited, knowing that he was moving along the crowd towards me. Then his face suddenly appeared in a gap between two people and I freaked out a little. He wasn’t looking at me, but it was awesome. He ducked back a little way and I thought I missed him. I didn’t get a high-five or handshake or even a smile but I managed to touch his arm as he went past. In the picture below, my hand is the one that’s actually in his face. It seems surreal looking back on it now.bflowme

Winner: London

Overall, Sheffield was a more special experience for me, especially as it was the first time I’d seen the Killers live. London had its moments, but nothing can match the Killers at full strength. I was with like-minded people, and the Battle Born material seemed to be received more warmly at Sheffield than London, with almost everyone near me singing all the words back at him. The eye contact with B-Flow during Battle Born felt incredible – I was completely going for it during that song, it was perfect live. I was headbanging, screaming, singing, dancing, closing my eyes, reaching out like I could feel the music as it played. For me to open my eyes and share my excitement with him for just a second – and for it to a bring a smile to his eyes – was one of the best moments of my life. That may seem sad and pathetic, but it’s true.

I’m pretty sure it was the “star-spangled heart” or possibly the “took a train to the coast” bit here, but I can’t quite remember. My brain was exploding at the time.

Quickfire round!

Favourite song to hear live:

Sheffield: Battle Born and Runaways

London: Shadowplay, When You Were Young and Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine

Biggest disappointment:

Sheffield: I missed the opening note of WYWY. It’s my favourite Killers song and I wasn’t paying attention. I spent the rest of the song berating myself for it and couldn’t fully enjoy it.

London: Aside from the crowd, possibly A Matter of Time. I don’t think it was the right song to open with, and it just highlighted how terrible the crowd were, and how little they knew of the new album.

Favourite moments:

Sheffield: The Battle Born eye contact, plus the moment they came on stage for the first time. Closing my eyes and soaking it all up during the verses of Here With Me was fantastic.

London: The fancy silhouettes that Brandon timed perfectly against the fireworks. Dave and Mark completely killing it during Shadowplay. The bass in Jenny Was A Friend of Mine. The chorus of Don’t Look Back In Anger.

Songs I wanted to hear but didn’t:

Realistically, Tranquilize (they played it the following night at the O2) and maybe Don’t Shoot Me Santa. I would have loved to have heard Losing Touch, and This River Is Wild. From Battle Born, I would have liked to hear Be Still, the Rising Tide and Flesh and Bone.

Unrealistically? Starman by Bowie. I love that song and I think the Killers would nail it if they covered it. I would also love to hear Sweet Talk live someday, and Where the White Boys Dance. Sam’s Town (acoustic version preferably) would have been fantastic too.

What could they have left out?

Somebody Told Me. I just don’t like it as much as the other stuff they performed. I wouldn’t have mourned the loss of Heart Of A Girl either, or Smile Like You Mean It.

How could they improve for next time?

There were no faults in the songs they performed. I would like them to extend the set to maybe 25 songs (from 20-21) next time they tour. I would also like the crowd not to be rubbish.

These two gigs were the two best evenings of my life.

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Written by Freya

Tuesday 1st January 2013 at 8:54 pm

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