Desert Americana is a beautiful thing. It exists in a world we wish we would stumble across on some road trip, where everything has a sheen of dirt and neon, the strange is possible, and both the harsh realities and simple idealism of the past haunt us. The Killers draw from this sort of iconography constantly. It’s fitting, as their Las Vegas origins have clearly been a huge influence throughout their discography. But none is more pure in its attempt at classic Americana than Dustland Fairytale. Its storyteller lyrics evoke unapologetic nostalgia, a desolate landscape, The Outsiders, and some kind of parable in Nevada Gothic.
Despite its charms, it was never one of my favorite songs of theirs, until I saw The Killers live this past week. The experience was incredible, and I would argue that that show alone earned them a place as legends. Brandon Flowers had come down with the flu, or in his words “that son-of-a-bitch got me”. After giving a memorable introduction involving Evil Knievel and attempt over success, he utterly succeeded in delivering an electric, energetic, and genuine performance, spectacular in every sense of the word. “Slick-chrome American prince” indeed.
The extra verse at the end of Dustland was among the very few quiet moments in the show, sans jumping, dance moves, gold suit (as amazing as it is) or call and response. Instead, just a spotlight, Ted Sablay on guitar, and Flowers singing his heart out without a hint of mere human illness weighing him down. It was slower than the studio version, each image left to echo through the air. In that moment I believed that he was truly aching over every syllable in the tragedy of this supposed fairytale in this run-down town. I tried to hide from my friends that I was tearing up, but I think someone might have seen me wipe my cheek with the sleeve of my rose-embellished leather jacket. As the last notes played, the lines “Out here the bells don’t ring/ out here the good girls die,” bled pure melancholy in a way that I will never forget.
(Different show than the one I went to, but the closest I could find to the magical ending without creep-posting someone’s personal instagram video)
(Song recommendation by Brianna Suazo)