Sometimes when you have something extra special jotted down on your calendar it ends up feeling like a lifetime away. Still just a distant speck on the horizon no matter how far down the road you seem to go. Never has that been more the case than over the past couple of years. So many events being pushed back and rescheduled over the course of the pandemic; you’d go from thinking “at least I’ve got something to look forward to when this is all over”, to wondering if the day would ever come. But eventually there was light at the end of the tunnel, and all those adventures that felt like a distant dream started barrelling into view one by one.
Over the past couple of months I’ve been slowly working down the pile of gig tickets dated ‘2020’ that’s been gathering dust on my shelf – until only one remained. Saving the best till last some might say. What better way to celebrate putting covid firmly in the rearview mirror than with The Killers gracing Doncaster of all places, bringing with them a dash of Vegas glitz and glamour, as the band kick off their long overdue Imploding The Mirage tour in earnest.
A strong contender both for the biggest gig I’ve ever been to, as well as being the biggest event in Doncaster’s recent history, the whole affair was a major endeavour. The top of the stage poking out of the stadium visible for miles around, a gargantuan video wall spanning nearly the entire structure, a vast array of dazzling lights, and enough confetti cannons to constitute an entire confetti artillery regiment. There were no half measures, no expenses spared when it came to this show – ideal for what ended up being Doncaster’s first big event after earning city status! Though more accustomed to hosting league matches than indie rock icons, all the stadium staff kept things running smoothly and rightly made the day feel like something special.
Opening act Blossoms had some big shoes to fill, and I think I, like most in attendance, hadn’t really kept up with the Stockport band since the release of their breakout hit ‘Charlemagne’. Their summery synth-driven melodies felt ideally suited for such a bright and breezy evening, and spirits were high for their set. The strong rhythm section is what proved to be the band’s secret weapon, with the bassist getting some sublime tones from his Rickenbacker and the additional percussionists really adding extra depth to the songs. The frontman didn’t quite have the charisma to carry the crowd, some of his antics falling flat and occasionally looking like he had somewhere else he’d rather be, but overall it was an enjoyable set.
With the enormous empyrean figures from the Imploding The Mirage artwork emblazoned across the colossal video wall, a gloriously gold-suited Brandon Flowers strolled onstage accompanied by a roll of thunder ready to launch into the open-road Americana of ‘My Own Soul’s Warning’. “We’ve arrived, can you believe it?” was one of only a scant handful of remarks from the frontman during the course of the night, as the band made up for two years of lost time by cutting straight into a jam-packed set. Front loaded with fan favourites like ‘When You Were Young’ and ‘Smile Like You Mean It’, the band delivered hit after hit, backed by a kaleidoscopic light show and punctuated by the occasional blast of confetti. The cheer that erupted with the opening riff of ‘Mr. Brightside’ will certainly have set a decibel record that the stadium will struggle to ever beat.
Though the setlist was primarily composed of the kind of heart-on-sleeve singalong anthems that made The Killers a household name, alongside the triumphant and expansive Americana that gave Imploding The Mirage a larger than life feel, there were a few moments where the band shook off the sequins. Their cover of Joy Division’s ‘Shadowplay’ added a dash of darkness and mystique to the set, while the gorgeous country ballad ‘Runaway Horses’ from Pressure Machine and an impromptu cover of ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ felt genuine and heartfelt, and saw the stadium bathed in the glow of a constellation of phone lights.
Highlight of the night was a fist-pumping rendition of ‘Caution’ that saw the entire length of the stage showered with a cascade of sparks at the song’s climax. It left the crowd buzzing for more as they eagerly awaited the encore. A couple more hits and deeper cuts rattled off before The Killers ended the night in style with the raucous singalong of ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’, with one final salvo of streamers launched over the crowd in the home colours of red and white.
My God it was a long time coming, but the night was worth it by every measure. One for the history books for Doncaster. An absolutely staggering degree of scale and spectacle that few acts could have pulled off. Between their last two records hosting some of their best work, and now kickstarting a tour of this extraordinary calibre, The Killers are undeniably at the top of their game.