The Killers at Glastonbury 2019 review – anthemic headliners triumph
A band that obviously have nothing in common musically with Stormzy, the Killers nevertheless share a problem: before they play, a shadow hangs over their headline performance. One rumour circulating around the audience is that they were the third choice for the Saturday night headlining slot, drafted in after big name heritage artists declined to sign up. Whether that’s true or not, something about Brandon Flowers’ demeanour onstage, at least initially, suggests a man who isn’t entirely sure how things are going to pan out. “At the end of this show, I don’t want anyone to say ‘They got away with it,’” he offers, early on in the band’s set. “I want people to look up to this stage and say: ‘Those are the sons of bitches that did it.’”
Certainly, you’re stuck by the sense of a band who both understand the importance of a headlining slot – the Killers’ 2004 performance at the festival played a considerable part in their rise to success – and are determined to prove their worth. Indeed, if Flowers worked any harder to win over the crowd, he’d be down among them smearing them with after-sun cream and asking if they want him to pop to a stall and get them some Rizlas. He asks them “Are we on the same page?” He turns everything into an act of audience participation, up to and including counting in a song. He pretends to be overcome with emotion during a lull in Glamorous Indie Rock and Roll, then slyly raises his eyebrows and beckons for more applause. As with Stormzy’s set, from the opening moment, every song arrives strafed with lazers or pyrotechnics or confetti cannons.
It works, aided by the fact that the Killers’ songs – which stretch from heartland American rock’n’roll to its diametric opposite, Bee Gees-influenced disco, on The Man – are all designed to be successful. Filled with grabby hooks, they’re perfect for the situation the band find themselves in. The audience begin singing along to the opening, Jenny Was a Friend Of Mine, and don’t stop. For a band whose career has theoretically tailed off slightly since the multi-platinum-selling era of their debut, Hot Fuss, and 2004’s Day and Age, they have an impressive store of anthemic songs: Spaceman, Somebody Told Me, All These Things That I Have Done. There’s something impressively relentless about their set: it never lags, there are no longeurs.
By the time they bring out the Pet Shop Boys to perform Always on My Mind, and Johnny Marr to race through a version of the Smiths’ This Charming Man, the deal is already sealed – their performance feels like a triumph. But the sight of Flowers, a noted Pet Shop Boys and Smiths obsessive, living out his dreams on stage provides it with something else: one of those elusive Glastonbury Moments festivalgoers talk so much about. Indeed, it’s hard not look up at the stage and say: those are the sons of bitches that did it.