On Monday morning, the dusty, sun-dried masses of Austin City Limits Music Festival will return to their individual drudgeries: offices, classrooms, warehouses, kitchens, whatever four-walled spaces they fill with their counted-down heartbeats. But wherever they’re going, it probably isn’t drenched in Sin City neon, and there’s definitely not a man with a porcelain grin and a well-tailored space suit there to greet them.
After six days over two weekends, ACL Fest came to a close Sunday night, having seen the past and present of hip-hop, fearless R&B that belonged in an art gallery, a topless Swedish pop star, hometown heroes, old war horses playing the hits, breakout act after breakout act and so very much more. You’d need a pretty big bow to tie that all together. Luckily, fresh off of both an Austin rooftop and the Continental Club, the Killers were up to the task. And they brought lasers.
In the interest of savoring every last moment of music, here’s the annotated final set of ACL Fest 2017. Killers frontman Brandon Flowers put it best: “Are we gonna do this thing in style or what?”
The Man: Mr. Flowers was getting his life in a sparkly white John Travolta suit. He demonstrated that “Saturday Night Fever” would have been much more entertaining if it was about a Mormon rock star cosplaying as Liberace on an MGM musical set dressed up like an adult video store. The song, the lead single off the band’s newly No. 1 album “Wonderful Wonderful,” was cheeky swagger from top to bottom.
Spaceman: Bold move to lead with two lesser hits in the canon. Despite an awkward, stalled-out attempt at a singalong, Flowers sold it. All televangelist swagger, preaching the gospel of David Bowie.
Somebody Told Me: This was the moment when we had a ballgame. The glitz and the glam of Las Vegas are inseparable from this band and its catalog. Though the Killers, as their career has progressed, have increasingly embraced a dust-worn, “get outta this town” brand of American rock, they remain cozily at home in hedonism. It’s not confidential.
The Way It Was: Even last-chance-at-romance power ballads about daddy’s car are razzle-dazzle showstoppers when you’ve got a jaw like that jutted out and Ronnie Vannucci Jr. serving up Super Bowl arena drum crashes.
Smile Like You Mean It: Flowers’ weird, faux-Euro “Hot Fuss” voice lives! Even robots can cry. The man’s got levels.
Bones: Honestly, when Flowers whipped out the line “Don’t you wanna feel my bones? It’s only natural” before the song even started, I clutched my pearls and looked for the nearest fainting couch. I was still smiling like I meant it, and I was not ready for Brandon the sex devil, tempting the boys and girls of Zilker Park down the road to perdition. The way the man grabbed his radius and ulna is considered an obscene gesture in some countries, I’m pretty sure. I needed water.
When You Were Young: Well, kind of. It turned out to be a fake-out, but the band brought it in nice and easy before, like a ghost, it was gone.
Bling (Confession of a King): Sometimes, Flowers bears back on his heels and holds his hand out like he’s fending off the devil. By sometimes, I mean most songs. High drama.
Shadowplay: Listen, I’m glad that people like this Joy Division cover. To me, the Killers version sounds a little too much like the theme song to “The Banana Splits.” At the time, I was upset that we had to trade “When You Were Young” for it.
Human: Did this song and its pulsing, electronic heartbeat presage the rise of popular EDM? Having seen a Calvin Harris turn-up at ACL Fest and then witnessing so many people be so stoked about poor grammar on the most euphoric cheeseball synth break of all time, I had thoughts.
Run For Cover: “This is your new favorite song,” Flowers said. Even he knew you were there to hear “Mr. Brightside.” It’s Killers song that sounded the most like falling off a cliff in a convertible.
For Reasons Unknown: At the odd point in the show, Flowers and his microphone were star-crossed lovers, never quite able to find each other in the night. It meant for some spotty silences. It was also moments like this where you realized that, as big festival headliners, some Killers songs start to feel like slot-fillers. But it’s a fan favorite.
Life to Come: Very Starship, with a soaring feature from one of the band’s backup singers. The Killers have low-key turned into one of the most romantic rock bands around.
Read My Mind: “Stars are blazing like rebel diamonds cut out of the sun” is a truly ballsy lyric to sing in front of that many people. Round of applause, please.
Runaways: If you can’t get Springsteen to headline your festival, bring these boys out to play their Boss-iest.
All These Things That I’ve Done: For a stretch of minutes, “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier” became an incantation to ward off the end of the weekend in Austin. Flowers crouched on the far wings of the stage (both of them), smiling like a madman and egging the cult on. The chant continued even after the song was over.
Shot at the Night: This wasn’t a song I was as familiar with, but between Brandon Flowers whispering at me and yearning synths hoisting up the words “once in a lifetime” like Ben Franklin’s kite, I felt closer to tears than when I heard Chance the Rapper sing “Same Drugs” last weekend. That’s, uh, well, really saying something, if you knew the activities of my tear ducts. The guy behind me yelled “¡Dame más!” and brother, did I ever agree.
This Is Your Life: The little circle of Flowers’ finger while he mouthed “let’s go” should be used as a model exercise in rock star charisma school.
When You Were Young: I was so, so worried. A balm.
Mr. Brightside: It’s relevant to mention that I caught the first five songs of the Killers’ weekend one show off the clock. The one-two punch of Tom Petty tribute “American Girl” and the band’s most titanic hit shot every vein in attendance with medical-grade adrenaline. So, with that experience going in, it was quite sweet to save the song that can’t die until the end. The last song to be played at ACL Fest 2017 was “Mr. Brightside”! What a time, my friends. What a time.