Guitarist/keyboardist Ted Sablay has known the guys in Las Vegas arena rockers the Killers for a few years, having joined them as a touring musician in support of 2006’s Sam’s Town.
Now, as the Killers embark on their North American tour on behalf of their supremely powerful Battle Born, Sablay can still be seen on stage with the Killers playing keys and his (left-handed) guitars.
The Killers’ tour recently ran through Tucson, Ariz., where they appeared at KMFA Day at Kino Stadium with Cake and Bad Religion.
With frontman Brandon Flowers holding the rabid crowd in the palm of his hand, Sablay added depth to the lush anthems the Killers have created over their accomplished career.
The band opened with one of their first hits, “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” from their 2004 debut Hot Fuss. Driven by Mark Stroermer’s punchy bassline, the party atmosphere was established early.
Since the festival schedule required an abbreviated setlist, the Killers ran through the bigger numbers, going into the chart-busting “Mr. Brightside” directly after “Jenny.”
Flowers then removed his jacket and advised the audience that they were “gonna pick it up a little bit.”
“Are you ready?” he asked. When the response wasn’t quite up to par, he repeated, “Are you ready or not?”
Satisfied with that audience reaction, he fired off the jaunty “Spaceman,” following that with fan favorites such as “Smile Like You Mean It,” “Human,” “Somebody Told Me,” “For Reasons Unknown” and “Read My Mind.”
The Killers channeled the Smiths with “Smile Like You Mean It,” and the entire venue was turned into a dance party with the sonic synth assault of “Human.”
Dozens of fans crowd-surfed their way towards the stage throughout the set, but coincidentally during this Day & Age hit number, one ardent watcher seemed hell-bent on proving he was superhuman. After making it into the safety of the photo pit area, he attempted to climb his way onstage. It took about 10 security guards to finally slow his roll.
The band also slowed theirs – just slightly.
“The motto where we are from is what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” Flowers said with a laugh. “This next song starts out there in our desert and is about our parents and what that represents.”
With that, a few twinkling notes from a piano cued the start of the slow-building “A Dustland Fairytale,” also off Day & Age.
Flowers, backed only by Dave Keuning on guitar, then paid tribute to the locals by segueing into a brief cover of the Beatles’ “Get Back.”
“Jojo was a man who thought he was a loner, but he knew it couldn’t last,” said Flowers. “Jojo left his home in Tucson, Arizona for some California grass.”
Battle Born was certainly represented, as well. The soaring “Miss Atomic Bomb” and “From Here on Out” were highlights, and their latest single “Runaways” was punched up by confetti cannons and its bombastic chorus.
As the show came to a close, Flowers had a message for the fans.
“We’ve only got one more so we’re going to play it as hard as we can,” he noted before a finale of “When You Were Young.”
While the Killers might have a different setlist that stays more true to the fresh Battle Born on their other headlining dates, it’s safe to say that nobody at the Tucson show had a problem with the expanded band’s reliance on their hits for that one night.