The Killers have issued an apology subsequent to their decision to invite a Russian individual onto the stage during one of their performances.
Given the ongoing international criticism of Russia following its 2022 invasion of Ukraine, tensions are high. Ukraine has been steadfastly resisting the invaders with support from Western nations. However, it’s not only Ukraine that has a strained relationship with Russia; Georgia, a southern neighbor, also has a history fraught with conflicts.
The context of this incident is significant, as Georgia has experienced a lengthy history of Russian invasion and occupation, which continues to reverberate as Russia flexes its imperialistic power in Ukraine. Against this backdrop, audience members at The Killers’ concert in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, were far from pleased when the band invited a Russian individual to join them on stage.
The situation escalated after lead singer Brandon Flowers disclosed the guest’s nationality, saying, “We don’t know the etiquette of this land but this guy’s a Russian. You OK with a Russian coming up here?”
The situation took a downturn after the band finished performing ‘For Reasons Unknown’, and Flowers attempted a well-intentioned but poorly-executed effort at damage control. He questioned the notion of separating people along national borders, asking, “You can’t recognize if someone’s your brother? He’s not your brother? We all separate on the borders of our countries? … Am I not your brother, being from America?” He further added, “I don’t want it to turn ugly. And I see you as my brothers and my sisters.”
Reportedly, some audience members left the venue following the incident. Journalist Mariam Nikuradze highlighted this response and noted the band’s omission of a customary farewell to the audience at the conclusion of their set.
In response to the backlash, The Killers released a statement on their social media platforms, expressing their regret over the incident. The statement clarified, “Good people of Georgia, it was never our intention to offend anyone! We have a longstanding tradition of inviting people to play drums and it seemed from the stage that the initial response from the crowd indicated that they were okay with tonight’s audience participation member coming onstage with us.” The band acknowledged that their comment implying the audience and fans were all “brothers and sisters” could be misconstrued and offered their apologies, concluding, “We stand with you and hope to return soon.”
The history between Russia and Georgia is characterized by tension and conflict. Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 led to the occupation of about 20 percent of Georgian territory. Georgia emphasizes that its dispute is with the Russian state rather than the Russian people. Nevertheless, Russia’s recent actions in Ukraine have heightened tensions, prompting many Russians to leave Georgia for the perceived safety of Russia.
With a history dating back to the Red Army’s occupation of Georgia in 1921, and its regaining of full independence with the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the relationship between Russia and Georgia remains complex and deeply rooted in historical grievances.