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Suskie Susquatch

Title: A blog entry about two very different concerts. Also, Star Trek.
Posted: May 12, 2009 (07:26 PM)
The Killers @ Susquehanna Bank Center (5/8/09)

Joy Ride
Change Your Mind
Somebody Told Me
For Reasons Unknown
I Can't Stay
Bling (Confessions of a King)
Smile Like You Mean It
This Is Your Life
A Dustland Fairytale
Read My Mind
Mr. Brightside
All These Things I've Done
Jenny Was a Friend of Mine
When You Were Young

Anyone who pays close attention to this blog (so, no one) already knew that I was planning on seeing the Killers on Friday, and that I was a bit reluctant to go, but that my decision to do so hinged on the fact that they are generally renowned as a very, very good live band. As someone who's had mixed feelings towards even their more popular songs (Mr. Brightside and Human, in particular), I can honestly say that the Vegas foursome put on a terrific show that was really ignited by the power of their ecstatic fanbase.

Before going, I glanced at the setlist for their Madison Square Garden show (which took place during the first leg of their North American tour), and while most of the songs remained intact, including their cover of Joy Division's Shadowplay, a few rearrangements were made: Joy Ride was the opener, in what remained the WTF moment of the show. (It's not a bad song or anything, but not a very exciting opener, especially when their previous choice had been Spaceman, arguably their best song and a great way to kick off a concert.) Losing Touch, one of the few great Day & Age songs, was mysteriously missing, but otherwise the Killers ran through all of their biggest and most recognizable hits; I mean, look at that setlist. It's hard to trust a band that has hit it this big without a truly "great" album on their resume, but their concert lineup was chosen carefully and with few hiccups. A Dustland Fairytale stuck out as the only particularly weak choice.

There were three songs that I really wanted to hear. The first was Spaceman, honestly one of my favorite songs from last year and one that absolutely erupts on stage; it didn't disappoint. The other two came in the encore: Hot Fuss opener Jenny Was a Friend of Mine was the only song of the night introduced by name, setting off the audience beforehand and inspiring a cheer from me; and When You Were Young, the only genuinely great track from Sam's Town and the only song they could possibly have closed with. Musically speaking, the Killers don't really added anything to the studio versions of their songs when on stage, but there's something about being surrounded in every direction by screaming fans, jumping and shouting and waving their arms around, that makes the live experience a thousand times better.

The one big disappointment of the show, which actually had nothing to do with the Killers, was that the supposedly outdoor venue remained indoors for the show's entirety. This was my first visit to Susquehanna Bank Center, but its location couldn't be more perfect: On the riverfront right across the Delaware with a fantastic view of the Philadelphia skyline. I was hoping the Killers had planned to open the walls at a climactic point in the show, but no such luck.

The Killers are from Las Vegas, and that's really demonstrated in their showmanship; Flowers wasn't afraid to talk but wasn't as chatty as, say, Chris Martin was when I saw Coldplay back in November. And while their set looked cheesy at a glance (a row of fake palm trees was all we got), the Killers certainly weren't above using spectacle to enhance the performance, and as stupid as lyrics like "Are we human or are we dancer?" or "I got soul but I'm not a soldier" are, it's hard not to chant along when the words blind you from a forty-foot wall of lights and the thousands of enthusiastic fans all around you are following suit.

I've been to better shows, by bands I've liked far more. But the Killers give you exactly what you come to their concert for: Arena rock, as bright and loud and dazzling as you'd want it to be. Good for them.

(The opening band, I found out later, was called Chairlift. I still would have wanted to see M83, who opened for the first North American leg of the tour, but Chairlift filled the void nicely. Good, shoegazy stuff, and they actually have a song I recognized: Bruises, which played recently over Apple's iPod Nano commercials. It's a catchy song and I'm glad I got to see these folks in an actual arena setting.)

Leonard Cohen @ Merriweather Post Pavilion (5/11/09)

Dance Me to the End of Love
The Future
Ain't No Cure for Love
Bird on a Wire
Everybody Knows
In My Secret Life
Who by Fire
Chelsea Hotel #2
Waiting for the Miracle
Tower of Song
The Gypsy Wife
The Partisan
Boogie Street
I'm Your Man
A Thousand Kisses Deep
Take This Waltz
So Long, Marianne
First We Take Manhattan
Famous Blue Raincoat
If It Be Your Will
I Tried to Leave You
Whither Thou Goest

Anyone who's familiar with Leonard Cohen should be able to guess that his show was of an entirely different breed. The full concert ran nearly three hours, with an intermission and three encores (yeesh). As the gorgeous Merriweather Post Pavilion (yes, the one Animal Collective named their most recent album after) filled up with an audience largely over twice my age, it became clear that no one attending a Cohen show would do so expecting a riot. These people came to watch an aging poet clench his fists, fall to his knees and huffs his beautiful lyrics on a more passionate and intimate level than the most seasoned of arena rock veterans could hope to rise to. And that's what they got.

Cohen, now in his 70s, is known as a songwriter first and a performer second, and while he's certainly not much of a singer, his voice seems to oddly have improved with age. Furthermore, much like Bob Dylan, he's so good at weaving his words into delicate poetry that a good singing voice isn't required to make his work renowned. There's little debate that his show was a class act, since a man on Cohen's level can afford professionalism and some of the best musicians and backup singers his set requires. He was gracious to his audience as well, and they returned the favor: These were sophisticated folks, who reacted to individual lyrics as if being told a story by a very close friend. Cohen, an oddly seductive figure, almost seemed to arouse the crowd in such forthcoming love songs as I'm Your Man.

The one major exception of the night was the legendary Hallelujah, for which the audience was eerily silent, as if any disturbance would put at risk Cohen's ability to deliver each heartfelt verse with increasing gusto. (Though his one variable line, "I didn't come to the Merriweather just to fool you," was recognized as an intentional crowd-pleaser and was greeted as such.) The song won a standing ovation, a reaction that was otherwise only earned when Cohen took or left the stage.

But even putting aside Cohen's one universally recognizable hit, there's an indiscernible charm to seeing the legendary poet share his work on stage in front of a thousand appreciative fans. His chilling spoken-word performance of A Thousand Kisses Deep, without the aid of instrumentation, was arguably the finest moment of the night, and even his stage banter during such hits as Tower of Song (in response the backup line's haunting repetition of "doo dum dum dum de doo dum dum") felt carefully constructed and thought-provoking. His showmanship even improved since his show in London last year, as he held off on the constant name-checking, opting instead to introduce his band members at the end of each act.

I couldn't recommend this show to anyone unfamiliar with Cohen, but if you know what you're getting into, be sure to catch this phenomenal show. It's been nearly fifteen years since his last U.S. tour, and there's no guarantee he'll be around for another fifteen.


Finally, I managed to catch Star Trek in IMAX on Friday, only my second time seeing a feature film in such a theater (the first being The Dark Knight). I don't have much to say about the film since I'm honestly sick of hearing (and talking) about it, but in short: Yeah, it's good. I know virtually nothing about the series at all, and the Trekkies in the audience seemed to be enjoying the film even more than I did, but the plot was very easy to follow and focused on building a likable cast of characters. Mission accomplished, thanks in part to the exceptional casting.

My one complaint was that the film could have used a better villain. As Nero, Eric Bana didn't get much screen time and wasn't very intimidating during the few major scenes he had. His plan is what ultimately ties the original series to the reboot, however, so hopefully this is just something that'll get better with future installments. Please?

jiggsUser: jiggs
Posted: May 12, 2009 (10:59 PM)
woo hoo! you went to see leonard cohen! i love his 1st record and Songs of Love and Hate. how much were tickets?

SuskieUser: Suskie
Posted: May 13, 2009 (03:30 AM)
Around $70 actually, but I had good seats and the prices probably vary from venue to venue. The lawn at Merriweather was open for the show and that couldn't have been too much.

Edit: I heard the guy played at Red Rocks. THAT would have been something.

jiggsUser: jiggs
Posted: May 13, 2009 (12:45 PM)
70 bucks is quite reasonable for someone of his stature. that's how much it was to see Bob Dylan when he came to vegas last year on labor day! and these tickets were for standing front row.

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