The Church of Boyfriends who look like Girlfriends
It’s December 2005.
I’m 12, sitting in my 3x3 bedroom pouring over my Christmas gift. It’s a compilation CD:
So Fresh: The Hits of Summer 2006 (plus the best of 2005)
I’ve worked my way through both CD’s already, and now I’m back tracking through them, picking out new favourites and jamming out to the ones I already know. Track 17 comes along and with it, an unfamiliar and slightly jarring synth keyboard progression, followed by a guitar heavy, downward strokes riff. I look at the back of the CD case and find the track number and it’s title.
Smile like you mean it by The Killers.
I listen to it half heartedly, thinking to myself: I’ve never heard a sound like this. I don’t know if I like it.
It’s May 2018.
I’m 24 sitting on the edge of my seat amongst thousands of others. The lights go down, the smoke begins to billow, and from the back of my brain to the forefront of my heart come rushing 15 years of memories of teen angst mixed with melancholy and a double shot of freedom.
The Killers bombard the stage with the flair and pomp I came to expect from a band born and bred in Las Vegas. And as much as I adore their music, I wasn’t there for the music tonight.
I was there for them.
To see them and witness what would eventually become the best live show I’ve seen, and for those who know me, know I’ve been to my share of live shows.
I was there for the incredible stage production that had an unmistakable resemblance to The Strip. For the crowd of thousands of strangers who shared at least one common ground with me.
I was there for his smile. Brandon’s smile between breaths was the highlight. The frontman who patrolled the stage like a healthy blend of Morrissey and Elvis would smile out of pure unabashed happiness. Happiness for the music, for us or for himself I have no idea. But seeing him sincerely have a joyous time, made my insides burst into confetti. And I can't forget the voice. “This right here? This? This is coming out of me, not some fucking tape. Listen…” and he proceeds to croon us all into oblivion as he holds his note unwaveringly straight and true. We all cheer as he knew we would. Because that’s all you can do when a frontman leaves everything on the stage.
Then there was Ronnie. Oh Ronnie. How blessed our ears are to have you sitting behind those Zildjian cymbals. My favourite thing to look for in a drummer is their face when they play, because there’s no way you can hit that floor tom with the gusto required to make it mean something, and still keep a straight face. No way. So thank you Mr Vannucci for beating my heart into the submission of your beats and for exuding the exquisite passion I’ve always wanted to see in a live drummer.
Mark and Dave hit their marks with precision. Never failing and relishing in the screams and cries their singular notes or chords would evoke in us all. Well done good sirs.
I’ve gone hoarse from all the screaming, and I’m sweating from the happiness of seeing this incredible band live, and also from the sad reality that pretty soon it’ll be over.
Sure enough the band exit stage right. No one moves because there’s two songs left we all know they just have to play. And then they return, Brandon clad in his signature bedazzled golden suit, microphone at the ready as they launch into the stinging introduction to “When you were young.” As Brandon concludes his vocal solo at the bridge of the song and Ronnie brings it back in with his kick drum, the cascading fireworks burst forth from their rooftop capsules and rain down on the stage and crowd. It’s here that I lose all sense of reality. Surely this is a dream. Surely nothing can look and sound this perfect and yet here I am; yelling at the top of my lungs with tears prickling the corners of my eyes as The Killers bring us all back down to earth at the conclusion of the Sam’s Town single.
We all know there’s one track left, and like clockwork Mr Keuning strums his deft fingers across his Ibanez Destroyer rendering the throng of thousands, myself included, a chaotic mess to the monster that is Mr Brightside.
We’ve all but broken our vocal chords at this point. I’m left in a daze of ‘happy-sad’ as I try to cling to what I just saw. I’m elated to the point of exhaustion at what just happened while also immensely sad that it had to end.
I walk out of the venue with my faith in rock and roll fully restored, having had my ears cleansed in a baptism of fire and smoke.
Brought to you by way of fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada, thank you to The Killers for making your way into my life at age 12. The teenager in me is still holding strong to that curiosity that sparked when track 17 rolled around.