The Killers, M83 & the Lumineers deck the halls at Deck the Hall Ball
The annual holiday concert was a marathon showcase of some of 2012's best musical offerings
By Travis Hay
Radio station festivals can provide a mixed bag of entertainment for music lovers. On one hand, you typically get to see lots of bands in a single sitting. On the other hand, most of the sets are abbreviated in length and the all-killer, no-filler setlists mean there's little room for stage banter or deep cuts, which can leave hard core fans wanting more. Seattle radio station KNDD’s 20th annual holiday concert, Deck the Hall Ball, was a combination of both as the nearly daylong event delivered a nine-band, eight-and-a-half-hour marathon of music.
The bill included sets from up-and-coming artists, Grammy-nominees and one bona fide headliner in the Killers, whose 75-minute, 12-song set was filled with modern classics such as “Mr. Brightside” (which started the set), “Smile Like You Mean It” and “Somebody Told Me.” Thankfully, the abbreviated performance didn’t include many songs from this year’s rather flat “Battle Born.” Instead of focusing on new material the group played their hits and the songs the crowd wanted to hear, which was one of the positives of the festival format.
Frontman Brandon Flowers acted like the Vegas showman he is, mugging to the camera, bouncing around the stage and posing for the crowd while playing bass and synthesizer throughout the set. The band capped the evening with "All These Things That I've Done," which had everyone singing the refrain of "I've got soul but I'm not a soldier," followed by "When You Were Young." The hit-laden grouping of songs served as a reminder of how many rock radio staples the Killers have in their repertoire for a band that's been around for less than a decade.
Electronic rock was well represented at Deck with M83 and Passion Pit. The latter band seemed to be going through the motions and didn’t put much energy into their set, but it was a set filled with catchy, enjoyable pop songs that had the crowd dancing. The band's performance started with “Take a Walk,” from this year's "Gossamer," which had everyone on the floor pogoing up and down and they closed their set with the one-two punch of “Sleepyhead” and “Little Secrets.” The band reportedly suffered a bit of food poisoning the previous night which could have accounted for the somewhat lackluster set. Also, having songs like those in your pocket affords a band the ability to mail it in every once in a while.
M83 on the other hand were definitely not mailing it in. Their performance was one of the highlights of the show, almost outshining the Killers. A seemingly simple, but very cool, light show made the band’s electronic rock come alive. “Midnight City,” the Grammy-nominated band’s smash hit, was the penultimate song in the set, and not only did it feature the aforementioned stellar light show, but a skinny guy with a saxophone rushed onstage just in time for the sax solo. I say just in time because a sax player was absent the entire set up until that point, which made it seem like the song’s cheesy-yet-cool sax solo was going to be prerecorded, but the skinny sax player came in and saved the day. It was a sort of humorous moment and it showed the French group doesn't take itself too seriously despite its recent success.
The folk music revival was also in full force with two folk-pop outfits on the bill and both performed well. The first to take the stage was Icelandic septet Of Monsters and Men. The group’s 30-minute set, like most every set of the evening, was brief, but what was surprising was the group's rock ‘n’ roll sound. Yes, they are a folk band and they fit the mold of the folk revivalism trend, but their songs took on a slightly different vibe live and carried a small bit of rock swagger and bombast.
Denver band the Lumineers, another Grammy nominee, was the other folk-pop band on the bill and their set was the most well-received of the night. The capacity crowd clapped, stomped and sang along to the group’s catchy brand of hoedown folk and the band fed off the crowd’s energy. From set opener “Submarines,” to the ubiquitous ”Ho Hey,” a song that has had a presence on the Billboard charts for most of the year, the band's performance was solid. The highlight of their set came in the form of an untitled new song. The song was a duet between multi-instrumentalist Neyla Pekarek and vocalist Wesley Schultz and it's something that would have fit right in with the songbooks of Johnny and June Carter Cash.
As opposed to Of Monsters and Men before them, the folk of the Lumineers is a bit more on the country side of things, which gave Deck's lineup a nice bit of variety. There was nothing technically wrong with the Lumineers' set, but in comparison to their Icelandic counterparts, their live show seemed a bit lacking in energy and passion. The band's down-home, barnyard folk is best experienced in an intimate, club setting as opposed to a capacity arena filled with more than 15,000 people, which may have contributed to their rather ho-hum set.
Earlier in the day, U.K. rockers the Joy Formidable did the best with what little time they had and delivered a ferocious and short 20-minute performance. The four-song set opened with “Cholla” off the group’s upcoming album "Wolf’s Law," which is due in January, and it ended with a rambunctious “Whirring.” The trio brought the song to an extended close with a lengthy jam filled with crunchy guitars and drums, providing one of the most rock ‘n’ roll moments of the evening.
Other bands on the bill included California party-rockers Grouplove, who tagged a playful rendition of Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" at the end of a song, the loud and energetic AWOLnation and Canadian pop-rockers Metric. By the time the show was over the halls were indeed decked by a showcase of some of 2012's best musical offerings.
The Killers' set list
Jenny Was a Friend of Mine
Smile Like You Mean It
Miss Atomic Bomb
Somebody Told Me
For Reasons Unknown
Read My Mind
All These Things That I've Done
When You Were Young
Photos by Wyatt Boswell courtesy of The Killers