Concert Reviews

The Killers and M83 at Magness Arena

The Killers and M83
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Magness Arena
Better Than:
Not seeing them at all, even though the Magness sucks.

Have you seen Denver University's Magness Arena? It's a cement tomb. The pharaohs would love this place. Hell, spent nuclear fuel would find a good home here. I'd rather listen to City Park tweakers argue over which rusty needle to use than suffer another show at this muffledome.

M83 took the stage first and turned in a set that was amazingly, completely, astoundingly forgettable. The band is just a little too electro-experimental, too shoegazing, just too damn French for my tastes. The guy hawking those neon-light, rabbit ear strobes was probably a bigger crowd pleaser.

About 9:30, the floor had filled up to the sound boards. One security officer said they were limiting the floor to 1200, but from where I stood, it looked like there were at least 2000 or more squeezing in toward the stage to where the Killers' now ever-present prop -- the lowercase, off-tilt 'k' -- was parked center stage front as it is in the act's "Human" video.

A short time later, the fog machines kicked in, enveloping the orchard of plastic palm trees as the house lights dimmed. When they came back on, guitarist Dave Keuning stood tall with his golden mane and an iconic Ibanez Destroyer (those in the cheap seats could've easily mistaken him for James Hetfield). Frontman Brandon Flowers appeared next wearing that bird-of-prey shoulder-padded tux like he really should be beyond thunderdome. And since he's not tall, he ended up being dwarfed by the k prop, while the rest of the band were looking around like the Magness gloom would inevitably suck their spirit.

Just then, though, the band ripped into "Spaceman," the hottest single from Day & Age, its latest album, complete with a crowd-pleasing "oh-oh-oha-oh" chorus. And just like that, not an ass was sitting in the house, not a hand was idle and you would've been hard pressed to find a set of hips that weren't shaking to the synth-heavy power pop. And in a single moment I got it. I got why the Utah State foursome sitting next to me had shelled out $130 for roundtrip tickets (Mormons still think Wayne Newton is Satan; no way the Killers would find a friendly venue in Salt Lake) and why losers in the back, top rows at the Magness had shelled out $50 for nosebleeds.

These guys are good, I thought. Vegas-baby good. Showmen to the core.

There were banks of arc lamps shinning back into the crowd on back beats, thirty plus spots that would strobe on cue, a fusillade of bubble machines, spark showers you could see from space, and, best of all, the stage was framed with a giant LED screen (ala New Order's "Crystal" video -- the same video where the Killers actually got their band name, BTW, homage upon homage!). You could have powered Littleton with the same voltage Saturday night's show must have drawn. Sometimes the screen showed swirly screen saver graphics, sometimes a sea of blue, sometimes a bath of fireworks, sometimes a time-elapse ocher sunset like an animated Digital Blasphemy vignette. Sometimes they just played videos of the band while the band played the video's song. Very M. C. Escher. The entire effect was an orgiastic splash of color and dash -- as if the Killers were channeling the high-wattage showmanship of their hometown.

Although the band's latest work lacks the same shelf life as the radio faves from its debut release, Hot Fuss, the new stuff inspired plenty of sing-a-longs. And when Keuning finally laid into the opening bars of "Mr. Brightside," the crowd let a scream I haven't heard since the Rockies swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in game four of the 2007 NLCS.

The only thing missing were teen burnouts, half naked and groping for X: Otherwise, this was Denver's biggest, baddest rave. Not even the dorky, Sylvania Bulb-filled 'k' the band insists on using or the dungeon-esque trappings of Magness could diminish the magic.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
You've got to love a band that openly admits that one of their songs ("All these things that I've done") is an intentional rip off of the Velvet Underground.
Random Detail: The worst thing about seeing a show at Magness show -- Jerusalem on Evans becomes insta-packed the moment a show lets out. No latenight falafel for miles.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
R. Kelly Liggin