Mr. Brightside: Brandon Flowers and The Killers Teach Me How to Handle Adversity

The lights dim, the band takes the stage to a steady, low-synth baseline against the high screams of 10,000 fans.  And then, they kick into their opening number.  Sound, lights, and rock-n-roll attitude are flying high as The Killers, one of the most successful and critically acclaimed bands of the 21st Century, launch into their two-and-a-half-hour performance.  

I didn’t see it coming … the life lesson that was about to unfold.

The-Killers-Liverpool-6-1010x758 Helerina blogs
photo by helerinablogs.com (Liverpool)

Their fearless leader, Brandon Flowers, is a frontman, showman, and vocal talent at the top of his game and the top of his league.  In the crowd, I’m jumping up and down realizing that I’m finally seeing a band that I fell in love with 11 years ago when a workmate (thanks Paige) slid their CD, Hot Fuss, to me and said with a sparkle in her eye, “Listen to this!”

YouTube can not capture the energy this band releases in concert.  The crowd is surging, eyes wide, hands in the air, and totally engaged, along with Flowers, in this rock show.

Then, the power goes out.  

The guitarists are hammering away and the drummer is pounding – but all we can hear is his faint beat in the distance.  The gold, red, and blue Vegasesque lightshow is immediately cut and the band and crowd are left in the stale, minimal emergency lighting.

Wha?

How Do You Face Adversity?

I’ve seen bands on stage in front of thousands when misfortune or malfunction hits, and I’ve seen them  lose their cool – throwing instruments, cursing, stomping offstage – which is a little understandable in the heat of the moment.

Flowers, though, smiled and laughed – genuinely.  He looked out at us as if to ask, ‘What just happened?’   He tried to talk to the crowd but his mic was dead.  So he and his mates remained on stage, talked to each other, and tried to decide what to do.  Stage crew came on to give them updates, and then the drummer, Ronnie Vannucci, came down from behind his kit, motioned for quiet from the crowd, cupped his hands to his mouth and tried to inform the people what was going to happen.  He and Flowers continued to talk and trade a laugh.  

Minutes later, when power is restored, Flowers says in a very conciliatory, “We understand this is a new venue (these things can happen). So we’re just going to keep trying our best.”  “Should we do that song again?” he asked the crowd.  And with a roar, they’re off again!

A little further into the song this time, power cuts again.  This time the crowd is booing (the venue, not the band) and the vibe has taken a very negative turn around us.  Flowers, though, is smiling again and motioning to us as if to say, ‘Now, now. It’s ok.  We’ll figure this out’   For 2-3 minutes, band members stroll back and forth talking to each other.  Crowd jeers ensue.  Then, power back on, Flowers’ first words are supportive: “It takes a lot to put on a rock and roll show.  It’s not as easy as you might think.”   

It can be so easy to fall back into the human responses of blame, negativity, and bad-mouthing.  Instead, this bonafide rock and roll star took the high road.

Flashback: One Hour

Trying to get into this venue, Place Bell in Laval, Quebec, we wait an hour to park (no signage and traffic directors who provide zero assistance).  We wait 30 minutes in -35C with hundreds of people to get into the venue because they’ve only set up six metal detectors for 10,000 people. Then ushers throw our tickets away, give us a General Admission wristband, but fail to instruct us where we go from there.   We had to discover that doorway all by ourselves, and I snap at an usher as we walk through, “It would have been very helpful to have someone tell us where we were supposed to go!”  I was pissed! (and I wasn’t the only one)

My experience didn’t quite seem so bad, though, as I watched The Killers try to re-piece together a show, and the energy, and the mojo, in front of this packed house full of expectations.

Flashforward

 

sequin suit independent uk
photo from independent.uk

 

Two hours after the first abrupt silence, the band comes out for their encore.  In a full-sequin suite (plus matching sequin western boots) and Elvis sunglasses, Flowers struts on stage to the frenzied crowd.  He has them in his hands and his performance has been amazing.  Two minutes into their encore starter, click; sound out, lights out.  And, this time, Flowers stops in his tracks and drops his head and shoulders in a, ‘Not again. Not now.” sort of way.

 

Chatting on stage resumes. Stagehands appear with updates. Smiles and discussion by the band.  And then Flowers steps back into his stage presence within a few lines into the next song, and they are off again.

Pièce de Résistance

Before their final song, Flowers’ final words to the crowd encapsulated the night as well as the band’s positive response in the face of adversity (not verbatim, but pretty close):  ‘Y’know, sometimes things can look pretty bleak.  Nothing seems to be working, and things aren’t going your way.  And it’s during those times when it looks like nothing will get better, remember … it just might.’  

Immediately the band kicks into perhaps their biggest hit, “Mr. Brightside”.

Lesson learned.

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