On January 6th, I contemplated all the “firsts” happening for me that night: first concert of 2018, first visit to Laval’s shiny new venue, Place Bell, and first time seeing indie rock gods The Killers. It looked like the year was about to start with a bang. However, despite a solid performance by the headliner, so many things went wrong that the event will probably be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Let’s start at the beginning. As it was my first visit to the venue, I arrived a full half hour early to not miss the opening set. Despite having a media pass I was told I would have to stand in the general line, along with thousands of other ticket holders, outside on the frigidly cold night. I waited in line at least forty minutes (it might have been longer but I was too cold to check my phone) while the crowd inched along, literally as slow as molasses in January. One unfortunate woman fainted and had to be carried into the venue. Children with frozen feet cried to whoever would listen. Groups of people huddled together like penguins trying to stay warm. Yet security refused to open any extra doors.
I eventually got in and after a few minutes of thawing out I was ready to rock. I grabbed my seat but noticed that the venue was only half full and that I, along with the rest of the masses in line, had missed most of Alex Cameron’s opening set. This was really unfortunate because his show seemed promising. The Australian, who performs in character as a failed entertainer and “doesn’t have all his marbles,” was touring with his saxophone player and “business partner” Roy Molloy. But, thanks to the long line-ups outside, I only heard the last two songs and one sax solo.
It was disappointing to miss Cameron, but at least I was there for a full set by The Killers. The band’s debut LP Hot Fuss was easily one of the best albums so far this century. Their latest effort, Wonderful Wonderful, came out last September and the live shows in support of the album received positive reviews. Based in Las Vegas, The Killers used some of the city’s famously glitzy showmanship in the performance. After a schmaltzy intro featuring Johnny Mathis’ “Wonderful Wonderful,” lead singer Brandon Flowers appeared wearing a fitted suit perfect for the Vegas Strip and flashed his big smile and gleaming teeth.
During the first track “Run for Cover,” the sound cut out twice. The crowd, still chilled from the wait to get in, was now growing irate, and a woman behind me yelled out “Place Bell de merde!” The band tried to make the best of a bad situation and Flowers said the new building was “still working things out.” To his credit, Flowers remained calm like a true professional and delivered an inspired performance under the circumstances. Ronnie Vanucci was an absolute beast on drums and he entertained the crowd with a solo during a sound outage.
With the technical issues solved, the band continued with a mix of tracks from Hot Fuss and their newer albums. A highlight was “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine,” a dark, bass-heavy, post-punk masterpiece performed with energy and emotion. The hard-hitting boxing-themed “Tyson vs. Douglas” was accompanied by fight videos, while “All These Things That I’ve Done” had everyone singing along with the unforgettable line, “I got soul, but I’m not a soldier.” A cover of Arcade Fire’s “Crown of Love” was a suitable nod to the local crowd. These guys were all class.
After a short pause, the band re-appeared with Flowers sporting a white Elvis-impersonator suit and the show appeared to be ending on a high note until, during the first encore song, the power cut out for the third time. Flowers’ head and shoulders sank in frustration and as he looked to the crowd we all knew what he was thinking— “not again!” The band later wrote on Instagram that “the crowd was electric. The venue was not.” I don’t know who was responsible for the sound failures, and I haven’t even mentioned the gridlock in the parking lot, but there’s no doubt who The Killers’ fans blamed for leaving them out in the cold.
Written by Rob Coles
*edited by Lia Davis