“There’s this band that I think should open this arena and I happen to be the singer of that band,” recounted Killers’ frontman Brandon Flowers to the sold out audience of the T-Mobile Arena on April 6, 2016. According to Flowers, telling the tale of how the band landed the gig, ideas for the opening of the impressive new venue included the Dixie Chicks and a Floyd Mayweather something-or-other. It proved to be wise decision to debut with Las Vegas’s premier modern rock outfit, as there was not an empty seat in the house, with both #TheKillers and #TMobileArena trending on Twitter the day of the show.
Showing off the capabilities of the monumental new arena, The Killers blazed through all of their signature hits with an eye-popping display of neon lights and major lasers, thanks to the work of visual director Steven Douglas. The local presence was thick, as you’d randomly hear people shouting out whichever Killer they knew personally (“Vanuuuuccciiiiii!”) and singing along to each song in perfect harmony like a 70s Coke ad.
The show played like a love letter to Las Vegas, with its visual element conjuring images of slot machines and purple mountain majesties. As the performance progressed, The Killers respectfully paid tribute to Vegas legends that came before and after, with each Wayne Newton, Blue Man Group and Imagine Dragons’ Dan Reynolds joining them on stage.
Veteran Vegas photographer Erik Kabik was on hand to capture the band in its element, compiling striking images of this classy, celebratory opening to a new Strip staple. Quite a hot fuss. — Mike Pizzo, Managing Editor, Cuepoint
Photographs and commentary by Erik Kabik
When they first hit the stage, the house lights were on. I had never seen that before. Not only were they on, they were complete up and bright. It was really a wild way to open the show. They hit the stage with such intensity. They never cease to amaze me as a live band. Seeing a Killers concert is the way to experience them, live and up close.
Here are the guys during that opening moment. It was so bright up there. That shot of Ronnie got an incredible response on social media. That was the most liked / shared photo. The fans were really excited about that one. Big expressions, he really goes for it.
You don’t get a lot of variety of expressions out of Mark, but always a masterful performance. He looks serious and focused in most of my images of him and I love that. It looks like he glanced over at Brandon, who was right in front of me at that point. I saw him and said, “Wow, he’s looking up! I better shoot!” The lighting designers were the real heroes that night. There was a lot of beautiful work by Steven Douglas. He really is an incredible lighting director and that is what makes my job so much more fulfilling.
This is from a very wide frame, I was right under him shooting up. When I captured it in the moment, I was looking at the whole frame. The color, the shadow, the shape of his body in the frame. When I was editing, I saw Brandon’s eyes and wanted to come in tighter. It became such a better photo afterwards. As a photographer, sometimes you find a photo within a photo. This is an example of that, for sure. I don’t usually like shots with the microphone covering someone’s face, but his eyes just made it pop.
The lighting magazine called PLSN did a story about this show. They talked about what is involved here as far as lighting. It’s a really intricate, elaborate stage set up. I was grappling with the idea of using a fisheye lens. I didn’t know how long I was going to be in the pit for and I didn’t have time to switch lenses. I had spent the whole day at the venue working there and last minute, I left the venue to get to my studio to grab a fourth camera body to sling on my back with the fisheye. I was glad I had it when I saw that laser ‘cage’ pop up. It was just beautiful.
Another shot of Brandon. I am always trying to find ways to integrate their signature Killers keyboard / marquee into the shot. I don’t know if it is connected, but the keyboard is always right by the “K.” I think it is all one piece.
Again, a tip of the hat to Steven Douglas and the entire production team.
Another one of Mark. Usually red lighting doesn’t really translate, but I loved the way it worked in this shot. That background and that nice, clean purple, pinkish color. That’s the Mark I’m used to seeing, with that intense focused expression on his face. I love the way the colors came together in that shot. They are constantly changing, second-to-second when you are shooting. The next thing you know it’s gone and you hope you got it.
Another shot here of Ronnie. That was during introductions. I love the stance and the cool light on him. I always try to get a good amount of photos of each member of the band, and drummers aren’t always so easy to capture. In The Killers they all seem to each have very loyal fan followings and sharing photos with the fans is always nice bonus to the work of capturing them in action.
Again, back to scale. The T-Mobile Arena is really providing a new level of production. That’s the great thing about this venue. The Killers didn’t just open the venue, they showed off what a band can do in there. They always have great production, but on this scale in that room, it gave us all an idea of what’s to come for the city. I loved the colors.
This shot of Dave was a personal favorite of mine. To me, it was just so unusual what was happening here, with these layers of lasers. I like how he put his foot up on the speaker there. If I was going to take a shot of this show and frame it on my wall, it would be this one.
This was taken from the soundboard, so you start to get a sense of the size of the crowd. I dug this because it also shows the scale of the stage. Everything from that Battle Born Nevada logo to the screens. It shows off the T-Mobile Arena, on her ‘Maiden Voyage’, that’s what I really like about this frame.
That was very cool when the Blue Man Group came out on stage. One of the great things about this show was that it was a nod to Las Vegas. A tipping of their hats to their roots and everything that makes Las Vegas great. The Blue Man Group, although not from Las Vegas, are a staple here with their show. They’ve become really associated with the city in a lot of ways. You could tell Ronnie was having the most fun with that part of the show.
The heart slots and lasers really added a new level of production to this show. I’ve seen the Killers a bunch of times and this is the heaviest level of production. Lots of awesome lighting with the slot machines, bringing Vegas back into it again.
Wayne Newton opened up the show and then they brought him back out for a performance of “Johnny B. Goode” and then again for the encore. Two Vegas icons, from two different eras.
I shot a lot of this show from the front of the house, as opposed to the pit, because I was looking to show the scale of the production. These are other examples of that. Sometimes you don’t get to see the artist’s expression or passion, but this is what the fans see from the majority of the venue.
Here is the confetti shot and then Ronnie throwing his drum stick, it’s not in the frame. After the confetti had fallen, I just loved that moment with him. He’s very expressive, he’s the most physically expressive guy on stage. He’s got a great personality that shines through the photos. This was towards the end of the show, in a victorious moment.
This was a huge moment. This is the first time that Imagine Dragons’ Dan Reynolds had ever performed with The Killers. They are both from Vegas and the relationship between the bands is pretty close. They performed “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine.” Seeing them on stage together was a real treat. The fact that we have two bands of that scale to come out of Vegas is so awesome.
This is fun. There’s Carrot Top up there, shooting a confetti gun. You see a Blue Man off to the side and then you’ve got the showgirls. And then you have Cirque performers to the left. Lots of elements here that told the story of the ending. That was a tough call of where to be for that. A minute later the balloons fell and all I could see were balloons.
This was the finale of the show, during the balloon drop. If I had known that pyro was going to happen, I would have zoomed in and got a tight crop of it. There was so much going on, so much energy, color and light. It was just awesome.
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