Live Review: The Killers at Steelhouse Omaha; Man or Astro-Man?, Solid Goldberg tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , — @ 7:53 am May 15, 2023
The Killers at Steelhouse Omaha, May 12, 2023.

by Tim McMahan,

In case it slipped your mind, The Killers are from “fabulous Las Vegas” and they’ll never let you forget it. 

Frontman / telethon host Brandon Flowers reminded the crowd multiple times throughout Friday night’s set at the grand opening of Steelhouse Omaha, strutting across the enormous stage in a purple tux jacket, leading the confetti-covered crowd through a tight, well-choreographed evening of fist-pump anthems.

But before I get to that, first Steelhouse Omaha itself. Located at 11th and Dodge St. only a stone’s throw from the Holland Performing Arts Center, the new facility is destined to become a landmark for live music. From the ground up, it is an ultra-modern concert hall that appears to have erupted right out of the concrete in downtown Omaha. 

Announced at the height of COVID in November 2019, many thought it could be a fool’s dream — no one knew what was going to happen with the pandemic. At the same time, it was a beacon of hope, assurance that somehow we’d get through all this sickness and death, that Omaha Performing Arts and its patrons must know something or they wouldn’t commit north of $110 million in a new facility designed to host a crowd like a herd of cattle, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a windowless, confined hall – the absolute last place you’d want to be in the middle of an airborne-spread pandemic.

Yet, here we were, three-and-a-half years later, Covid all but eradicated, waiting to dive head-first into a maskless crowd. Ain’t humanity amazing?

I arrived at around 7:15 and stood in the short queue to get in. The first checkpoint was an ID check for an alcohol wristband, located outside the facility. Through the door and some sort of high-tech metal detector (no need to empty your pockets), I made a beeline to the box office, where my ticket was waiting in will-call. Most older box offices  have multiple windows – this was one walk-up hole in the wall, which made me think they must really want to sell advance tickets because if they ever have a large walk-up crowd, this small ticket window would be a challenge (and you know what they say — Omaha is a walk-up city).

From there, it was right into the venue. Booking The Killers – a band that usually plays 20,000-seat arenas — was like learning to swim by being tossed into a deep, dark lake. I guess if you’re going to pressure-test the system, do it right out of the box. To their credit, Steelhouse passed the hospitality portion of the test with flying colors, thanks to a massive phalanx of smiling, crew-shirted staff at every turn (reminding me of the Maha Festival, whose success has floated on its own massive volunteer staff). No gruff, overworked bouncers here, these folks all looked like they were having a good time. 

The lobby held a large merch area and bar, then through the doors on your right and you entered the enormous main hall cram-packed with T-shirt-clad fans holding plastic cups. Stairs on either side were well-guarded to keep riff-raff without club tickets (like me) from going upstairs. 

Bars (concessions) were built into the walls on either side of the hall, and in back – seemed like they were everywhere. Even with a sold-out crowd, I had no problem buying my $13 pint of wheat beer. All purchases are cashless, so grab your credit card and ID and leave your wallet at home. 

With my beer in hand, this was when things got tricky. The main floor was already crush-filled. I stepped into the mass of humanity a couple times just to check out the sight-lines. Instead of being sloped, the main, standing-floor area seemed flat, but the stage was raised high enough that sightlines would only be a problem for the most height-challenged. 

Somehow, I ended standing on one of the elevated decks along stage right, where I noticed a guy manning what looked like a battery of T-shirt cannons.

“Confetti cannons?” I asked. He nodded, smiling. “When will those go off? At the beginning? At the end?”

“All night,” the guy said. “The Killers love their confetti.”

The Killers at Steelhouse Omaha, May 12, 2023.

We all discovered this shortly after 8 p.m. when the band took the stage and – bamf! — off went the cannons in a glittering cloud of paper as the Killers slammed into their opening number, “My Own Soul’s Warning.” And the crowd, as they say, went nuts.

It’s here that I should tell you I’m not a fan of The Killers. I think their music is fine if not a bit generic and by-the-numbers for my personal taste. With their hooks and their sing-along choruses, I understand why the mostly older crowd loved them. Frontman Flowers has a stage presence that seems to emote “We’re here all week with two shows a day on weekends,” ticking off the hits the fans so desperately want to hear. 

The room sounded overall pretty good, if a bit tinny and oversaturated on the high end. Volume was even throughout the entire facility. The arsenal of lighting was impressive, as was the giant backdrop video that augmented every song, as if The Killers had brought a Las Vegas stage show to Omaha (because they sort of did).

Problems began when I turned around to make my way to the back of the room. There were no walk-throughs and people were smashed all the way across the aisles, requiring that I shoulder my way against the current of flesh. Still, I never really felt trapped. The main auditorium is designed with large exit doors that open into a secondary lounge where the bathrooms are located, which then exits into a large patio area — both nice touches and areas to escape to when you feel overwhelmed by the sound and noise. 

Sunday I went to the Steelhouse Open House to get a look at the facility without all the people, and yes, it does feel rather sterile in the cold light of day. But you go for the rock show, not the feng shui.

Flowers and Co. slammed through one song after the next, never slowing down and only briefly acknowledging that they had the honor of playing the grand opening. “We’ve been asked to christen The Steelhouse,” Flowers yelled. “Usually we’re asked to blow the roof off the place!” 

Yeah! the crowd roared, and then they fired right into one of their more lyrically in-ept songs, “Human,” with the robot chorus, “Are we human or are we dancer?” (sic). Lots of air punches ensued. 

Later in the set, Flowers brought the vibe down.  “We usually play larger rooms than this,” he said. “This next song is perfect for this room. We made a Bright Eyes record during Covid called Pressure Machine. Wherever Conor is tonight, this is for him.” Little did he realize few in the audience knew who he was talking about as he sang the acoustic-guitar-drive “Runaway Horses,” a song that sounds nothing like a Bright Eyes song. 

After about 75 minutes, they closed out their set with another fan favorite, “All These Things That I’ve Done,” where the crowd sang along to the repeated line, “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier.” OK. Instead of a typical encore, the set ended with about five minutes of low-end hum and smoke from smoke machines. 

I stood in the back, taking it in, when a short, young, bearded guy came up to me and asked, “Did they do ‘Brightside’ yet?” I said I didn’t know. He shook his head and walked off before I could add, “because I have no idea what that song is.” 

The band then came back for the visually homo-erotic “The Man,” followed by, you guessed it, “Mr. Brightside.” And Bamf! more confetti! And there you have it. I walked out to the patio and escaped into the night. All in all, a big success for Steelhouse. I’m looking forward to going back to see a band that I actually want to see. Now if they would only book one.

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Speaking of standing-room shows, there’s one tonight at Reverb Lounge. Quirky ‘90s-era surf rock act Man or Astro-Man? headlines a four-band bill that includes the always-amazing Solid Goldberg. Also on the scorecard are laughingthrush & B.Sonnier. $28, 8 p.m. 

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2023 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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