Brandon Flowers of the Killers on stage at the Paradise Theatre in the Bronx. (Photo: Getty: Donald Bowers / American Express Unstaged)
"Hello! We're The Killers, brought to you by way of fabulous Las Vegas. This one goes out to Planet Earth."
With those immortal words, singer Brandon Flowers introduced "Runaways," the first single off their fifth album, Battle Born, and the first song of their American Express Unstaged concert -- which just happened to be on the same day as the album's release -- directed by film minor deity Werner Herzog ( Grizzly Man, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call new Orleans). The Killers' sold-out show at the Bronx's Paradise Theater was the latest installment in the Unstaged series, which pairs musicians with directors (you may recall our review of Jack White's Gary Oldman-directed performance at Webster Hall this past spring) and live-streams the concert in partnership with YouTube and VEVO.
Since its inception in 2010, the series' 10 concerts have garnered over 100 million views, and its popularity was certainly evident stageside, where two screens projected images of fans around the world holding up signs with their name and country where they would be watching the webcast. These photographs were part of the live stream fan features, which allowed viewers to submit a photo that could be chosen to appear during the show. Other features included a 16-hour rebroadcast available on YouTube, Twitter, and even XBOX Live via a VEVO app. Unfortunately, a few of the songs were cut out of the live stream on account of the freak storm that pummeled New York City during the concert.
Filmmaker Werner Herzog (left) surveys the Paradise Theatre in the Bronx along with the Killers. (Photo: Getty: Donald Bowers / American Express Unstaged)
Before the tornado warnings, however, American Express held an exclusive press teleconference with Herzog, Flowers, The Killers drummer Ronnie Vanucci, Jr., and Amex's VP of entertainment marketing, Deborah Curtis. Participants were allowed to submit questions online, which ran the gamut from "What was it like to work with Daniel Lanois?" to "How has the band grown and changed since 2004's Hot Fuss?" ("No matter how close to your heart you hold that first record, the lyrics aren't as fully realized as they are now") to "Werner used to tell stories about misunderstood or insane people trying to do something special -- do you guys fit that description?" The last was answered with laughter before Herzog responded amicably, "When I met the band for the first time, I felt they were good, solid human beings with a strange background."
Filmmaker Werner Herzog. (Photo: Getty: Donald Bowers / American Express Unstaged)
Herzog appeared onstage before the show to demonstrate his "crowd-surfing camera," a black box with white tape instructing which sides were top and bottom. Remarkably, it managed to stay afloat for most of the performance, sometimes tumbling alarmingly; at least for the people who were watching and probably at that point quite motion-sick. Hopefully most of them were watching the official stream, because The Killers put on quite a show, especially in HD. It swung between kitschy and stunning, flashing "FLESH AND BLOOD" behind every chorus of the titular song and broken cartoon hearts during "Human," followed by ominous green lasers fanning over Joy Division cover "Shadowplay" and clouds of confetti bursting over the floor to close out the show.
So how did The Killers top that one? There was speculation that they'd finish what they started with a tantalizing snippet of Alphaville's "Forever Young," and they did, kind of, with a thunderously epic rendition of "When You Were Young" off 2006's Sam's Town. With red clouds soaring over the jagged mountains behind the band and Flowers' voice blasting through it all, Herzog and his band sealed millions more views for years to come.