TRNSMT: The Killers @ Glasgow Green, 8 Jul

The Killers top day five of 2018's TRNSMT festival at Glasgow Green with gusto

Live Review by Jonathan Rimmer | 11 Jul 2018

Ahead of launching TRNSMT last year, organisers were adamant the festival wasn't intended to be a like-for-like replacement of T in the Park. DF Concerts chief Geoff Ellis attempted to dispel fears by shrewdly noting that one involves camping in the countryside and the other is held in Glasgow City Centre. But it's no coincidence the same criticisms were levelled: last year's card was dominated by middle-of-the-road guitar bands led by white blokes while no women were booked to play the main stage. This year, there are at least a handful, albeit spread over five days as opposed to three.

No doubt Ellis and co. would be quick to point out there's also a wider assortment of acts on show on smaller stages, but these tiny spots don't hold the same weight as, say, a Slam Tent. This impression isn't helped by the fact Smirnoff House, the festival's much-loved techno stage, is closed for today's proceedings. As a result, most ravers trickle down to the Transmission bar at the back of the green for indie pop anthems. The reception is surprisingly more muted at the small King Tut's stage: Jane Weaver's alluring spacey shoegaze sound attracts just a few revellers while Edinburgh songwriter Nina Nesbitt performs a pleasant but low-key headline set in the evening sun.

However, we should give credit where it's due – most of the action is at the main stage, which hosts the best run of bands of all five days. Initially, upbeat indie trio Friendly Fires' anticipated return doesn't appear to fit the mid-afternoon slot – the sluggish crowd don't come alive until confetti is launched from cannons on the stage during their synth-laden hit Jump in the Pool. However, backed by a second percussionist and complementary brass section, the band appear comfortable and Ed Macfarlane shows off both his emphatic vocal style and trademark dance moves for a rousing closing trio of Paris, Hawaiian Air and Kiss of Life.

The golden circle – the enclosed pit closest to the stage – only really starts filling up when local champions Franz Ferdinand hit the stage. The band unveiled both new material and a new line-up the last time they appeared in their home city, for a cluttered O2 Academy set in February. But new boys Julian Corrie and Dino Bardot seem well settled in their roles by this point and the band (mostly) strike the right balance between old classics and funky new numbers that demand crowd participation such as Feel the Love Go and Always Ascending. It also helps that frontman Alex Kapranos is on sparkling form – especially for the extended finale, This Fire, which feels bleakly apt given recent events at the Glasgow School of Art (an old stomping ground for the band).

Synth-pop trio CHVRCHES are another much-loved Scottish act with a huge pull, even if its members are now well settled on Stateside. There's something heartening about the sheer number of young attendees screaming back frontwoman Lauren Mayberry's empowering lyrics with gusto. This is only compounded by her light-hearted chat between tunes, which include revelations that she's suffering from “snot issues.” In terms of material, their set is well sequenced and tracks benefit greatly from the added bulk provided by live drummer Jonny Scott. That said, while some new cuts such as Graffiti and Never Say Die go over as well as better-known singles, others like Forever and Miracle lack punch and undermine an otherwise explosive performance.

The real fireworks don't arrive until the very end, though, as Las Vegas rockers The Killers put on a show which is as enthralling as it is ostentatious. Some of the new faces in the new live set-up are less familiar, but frontman Brandon Flowers appears as flashy and well-groomed as ever. His enthusiasm hasn't waned over the past decade and he prances around the stage with the grace of Michael Flatley during openers The Man and Somebody Told Me before settling behind keys for much of the set.

It's difficult to put a finger on what makes The Killers so alluring in a live setting. Their extensive back catalogue has seen them wind between energetic post-punk, glitzy new wave and Springsteen-inspired Americana, but they still manage to throw covers of Travis' Side and The Waterboys' The Whole of the Moon into the mix. Elsewhere, they invite a fan to drum on stage during pulsating Sam's Town pick For Reasons Unknown and three backing sopranos lead a mass singalong during All These Things That I've Done that feels almost spiritual. Then there's the encore, closing with Mr Brightside, belted out by the crowd to the high heavens.

It's moments like this which perhaps highlight why festival goers are so willing to forgive TRNSMT's deficiencies – the obscene drink prices, the poor representation, the lack of variety on show between stages. Geoff Ellis' 'field v city' comparison might seem rudimentary, but Glasgow Green as a venue offers a vast number of people to see world class performers without trekking to a muddy farm in the middle of nowhere. For most of tonight's punters, the opportunity to witness an upbeat Killers set on a beautiful, hot summer's evening is more than enough motivation.