PHOTO BY CHARLES REAGAN HACKLEMAN
The Killers perform at Voodoo Music + Arts Festival.
The Killers' Brandon Flowers lamented that one "can't find alligator cheesecake on the strip" in the band's hometown of Las Vegas. But the band delivered a sweeter note in a nod to Fats Domino, who died Oct. 24. Flowers said his father kept his Buick's radio station tuned to an oldies station and loved Domino's songs. The Killers then played Domino's "Ain't That a Shame," backed by the horns of the Dirty Dozen (which stayed on stage to perform another tune), in the closing set of the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience Oct. 29.
The Killers are on tour without a couple of the band's core members, but the touring contingent isn't small and includes Flowers, drummer Ronnie Vanucchi Jr. and a line of backup singers. They put on an impressively energetic, tight set full of the band's better known material. Some of the band's songs material off Wonderful Wonderful
(released in September) didn't go over well at some summer festivals. The band played the new albums "Run for Cover" and "The Man" in the middle of its Voodoo set, and particularly with "The Man," it seems like the band's showy style doesn't disguise trite lyrics — they're not the band's best work.
But The Killers opened strong with "Mr. Brightside," "Spaceman" and "Somebody Told Me," and played most of the material collected for its greatest hits album from 2004's Hot Fuss, 2006's Sam's Town and 2008's Day & Age, including "Smile Like You Mean It," "All These Things That I've Done," "Read My Mind." Particularly on songs "Runaways" and closer "When You Were Young," The Killers sounded like a band rocking an arena-size spectacle.
No one seemed to have more fun on stage than Miguel, and his audience at the South Course stage spent a long time shouting for an encore long after he left. In a day full of earnest messages about appreciating New Orleans' musical legacy and references to immigration issues and incivility, Miguel (who mentioned he loved second line parades), told the crowd he didn't want to bring anyone down with a serious message, but after he finally got silence, and after a pause, he asked, "Does anybody have any drugs?" He then launched into "Do You..." (with the line "I wanna do you like drugs tonight"), a feel-good romp for much of the audience.
Miguel fuses rock, funk and R&B and at times his sultry singing seems to stand on its own as the guitars step back. He showed off his vocal talents on the "City of Angels," but most of his set's songs — for all the searing guitar work — celebrated love and desire with smart lyrics and confident swagger. The audience was happy to oblige Miguel and sing the chorus on "Waves," and the band played "Sure Thing," "Simplethings," and "The Thrill" before closing with the defiant "Sky Walker," with its snarky references to Star Wars and Tom Cruise.
Early in the day on the Altar Stage, Ron Gallo delivered a mix of frenzied guitar shredding from his February album Heavy Meta and offbeat deadpan humor (perhaps channeling Napoleon Dynamite for Halloween?). He kicked off the set in high gear with "Put the Kids to Bed" and "Kill the Medicine Man" — including a segment running a skateboard up and down the strings of his guitar — and then played a tune dedicated to the women in the audience, "Entitled Man, Keep Your Hands Down Your Pants."
Between songs, Gallo tossed out a standard, "How are you doing out there?" and then detoured into one of his short bits. He said that he didn't want the question to come off as insincere. "Let's go around," he said. "You (pointing to someone in the front row), How are you doing?" At times, it seemed that the band didn't have a full set of music, and at times he seems like he's hungry to mess around, like when he briefly rode his skateboard while playing guitar during the band's last song, a cover of "Helter Skelter." But Gallo delivered on hard rocking songs such as "Young Lady, You're Scaring Me," also off Heavy Meta
The day also included an entertaining set from Seattle's folk-tinged indie rockers The Head and the Heart, and some band members dressed for Halloween, including members dressed as Freddie Mercury and Slash. (The Killers' drummer performed in a gorilla suit for while, which was hard to see unless you caught one of the glimpses on the video screens.)
French ensemble La Femme (finishing a U.S. tour) kicked off the day on the South Course stage, with three synthesizers giving it a spacey, vaguely psychedelic feel, with a little surf guitar thrown into the mix. The band promised to get everyone, or at least the small early crowd, in a "Voodoo groovy" mood.