As a music journalist, I couldn’t ask for a better two-night run, which recently included a band fronted by a dynamic young musician whose material was mostly unfamiliar, and a show featuring a very established artist where virtually every song was a chart topping hit. It was an added bonus that catching each of these acts knocked two more shows off my ever-shrinking concert bucket list.
Wednesday is a tough night to catch a show, but I couldn’t resist making the drive on May 14 to Mohegan Sun Arena to catch The Killers, a band that has been on my “must see” roster for nearly a decade. And while it might have been a ho-hum weeknight, the band and its magnetic frontman, Brandon Flowers, put on a hell of a show.
Clocking in at just over 90 minutes, the program delivered a dozen and a half numbers that may have been somewhat boring if not for the spark and energy supplied by The Killers’ bright-eyed leader. Don’t get me wrong, none of the band’s other original members — guitarist Dave Keuning, bassist Mark Stoermer and drummer Ronnie Vannucci, Jr — are slouches in their own right.
It’s just that their handful of ballads are similar sounding would be bordering on monotonous if they weren’t inflated by the affecting lyrics and delivery of Flowers. “The Way It Was” and “A Dustland Fairy Tale” are two prime examples where many more audience members were seen singing along than jamming on air guitar.
In addition, too many of The Killers’ upbeat rockers seemed to share similar pulsing drum and bass lines.
Stoermer got an early spotlight, taking a brief thundering bass solo in the set opener, “Spaceman,” while Keuning lit up with some explosive riffs on the band’s early hit “Somebody Told Me,” and lent a catchy guitar hook to “Human.”
The John Fogerty/Creedence hit “Bad Moon Rising” seemed to come out of nowhere, and dissolved just as quickly into “For Reasons Unknown,” which switched up Flowers on bass, with Stoermer picking up a guitar to double-up the crunch factor. Some may characterize Flowers as frenetic, but he managed to take that trait to even greater heights on the electrifying “From Here On Out.”
Leading into the second cover of the evening — the Psychedelic Furs “Heartbreak Beat” — Flowers revealed that Furs vocalist Richard Butler was visiting that evening and was hanging out backstage. It’s too bad he didn’t make it a duet.
The four-song encore began with a tune Flowers said had never been played on a US Killers tour before, and the crowd was appreciative as the opening chords of “Shot at The Night” rang out. “A Matter of Time” and “When You Were Young” followed, before the house lights came up for The Killers monster hit show closer, “Mr Brightside.”
Along with the original four members, credit also goes to Ted Sablay and Jake Blanton who provided more than capable backing guitar, keyboards and vocals throughout.
Barry Gibb's 'Mythology'
The next night found your reviewer in Boston’s cavernous and half-empty TD Garden for the opening night of Barry Gibbs’s “Mythology Tour.” It was a bittersweet appearance, considering it marking the first time the soft spoken and powerfully gifted Gibb has considered touring since the passing of his beloved brothers and former Bee Gees bandmates Robin and Maurice.
Nevertheless, Gibb still surrounded himself with talented family members including his son, Steve, on guitar and vocals, and Robin’s daughter Samantha, who added some lovely vocal work of her own. His backing band was also stellar, featuring the amazing voice of vocalist Beth Cohen, who performed a double dose of Streisand later in the show.
The show opened with the funky “Jive Talkin’” before swiftly veering into the first of several takes from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. “You Should Be Dancing” immediately got most of the TD Garden crowd off their seats and bouncing to the beat before winding back down to the more mellow strains of “Lonely Days.”
At that point, Gibb could only stand beaming his bright smile as the audience drenched him in shouts and applause. For more than three minutes, he attempted to speak and move into the next number, but the Boston fans would not have it.
By the time things settled down, Gibb appeared sufficiently awestruck. So he didn’t become too emotional as he paid tribute to his other late and youngest brother Andy by singing his hit “Our Love (Don’t Throw It All Away)” before remarking, “It’s like they’re all here.”
Introducing his niece, Uncle Barry took “Sammy” Gibb by the hand to duet on “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart,” before returning to the height of the Bee Gees disco prowess to perform “Stayin’ Alive” and “How Deep Is Your Love.” The next emotional moment came following “New York Mining Disaster 1941,” when the audience again erupted into extended applause and shouts of support.
This time it was too much, and Gibb stepped back from the microphone wiping tears from his eyes. A couple of songs later, he acknowledged that one of his idols, Bruce Springsteen, is playing “Stayin’ Alive” on his current concert tour and he wanted to return the tribute. Gibb picked a Springsteen song that was naturally suited to his vocal style — the midtempo ballad “I’m on Fire” — which was well received.
“Spicks and Specks” was a brief and Beatle-esque diversion ahead of some more Gibb solo material including “Islands in the Stream,” and another cover, this time Diana Ross’ Motown-flavored “Chain Reaction.”
Bringing Beth Cohen into the spotlight, Gibb first shared the vocals on “Guilty,” before leaving the talented vocalist on her own to crush “Woman In Love.” The third and final scoop from Saturday Night Fever was a medley of “Night Fever” and “More Than a Woman,” before Gibb reminded the audience that his material also graced another huge film hit by cranking out the title track to Grease.
Briefly heading into the wings to the strains of “Massachusetts,” Gibb returned sporting a Boston Strong ball cap and closing out the show with “Words” and the up-tempo rocker “Tragedy.”