When The Killers toured to sell out audiences recently, they did so at half-strength. Two members of the quartet had decided to stop touring.
Though they are original members and remain on the records, bassist Mark Stoermer and guitarist Dave Keuning, are no longer in the live line-up. When first explaining their absence singer, Brandon Flowers, said that ‘it’s hard to get four people on schedule’.
This caused me to wonder what, more vital, things they had in their diaries other than their day job. Did they schedule the recordings and somehow forget that an act usually tours to support an album release?
Presumably their absence had little effect since many reviews reckoned it ranked amongst their best performances. If I were Stoermer or Keuning this would worry me a little. Aside from their writing contributions it could be argued that they’re eminently replaceable.
Less than a month later Queen were on the same stages also boasting 50% of their original and best-known line-up, though for entirely different reasons. The billing of Queen with Adam Lambert, relatively unknown in this country, does little to deter people from spending £60-80 per ticket.
It prompts the obvious question of what constitutes a band and how many members can you remove whilst retaining the ‘essence’ of what that band is. It can be fairly few bands that survive losing their singer/front-man yet Queen has managed it, possibly due to the ubiquity, depth and popularity of their songs. Would Queen work without Roger Taylor? The absence of John Deacon, missing by choice, seems not to matter much but could it survive the disappearance of Brian May?
If the numbers are almost irrelevant, you’d think that some members are key to a band’s existence. I had thought that Bon Jovi should struggle without Richie Sambora yet, whilst purist and pedants may hold out, it doesn’t stop them playing large venues and headlining festivals. Most people just don’t care.
There’s a reason that bands who split often go to war over the brand name, it contains their legacy and their saleability. The bulk of the ticket-buying population clearly consume their music passively. They want the hits delivered in a familiar way and it seems they’ll pay for that experience, almost regardless of who’s actually on the stage.
When Killers-frontman Brandon Flowers last toured as a solo artist he played venues in the UK with an average capacity of 2,500. When The Killers tour next year they’ll be headlining stadia and festivals in front of 30-50,000 people every night. It’s the brand you’ll be seeing, I hope you get what you pay for.