The Killers, an alternative rock bank from the United States, has come under fire for inviting a Russian fan on stage during a performance in Georgia.
On Tuesday at the Black Sea Arena in Georgia’s port city of Batumi, lead singer Brandon Flowers asked the audience: “We don’t know the etiquette of this land, but this guy’s a Russian. You OK with a Russian coming up here?”
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He asked the crowd to accept the fan, who played the drums for the band’s 2006 hit For Reasons Unknown, as their “brother”.
People in the audience booed and some walked out.
Many in Georgia view Russia with suspicion after Moscow’s troops launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year.
Georgia gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and has a troubled history with Russia.
Its internationally recognised territories – South Ossetia and Abkhazia – are under the Kremlin’s control.
Flowers addressed the audience saying: “We all separate on the borders of our countries? Am I not your brother, being from America?”
As the crowd jeered, he said he did not intend to turn the concert into an ugly event and told fans that he sees them as his “brothers and sisters”.
— Mtavari TV (@MtavariChannel) August 15, 2023
“It’s the story of a good concert gone wrong in Georgia,” Nino Verdzadze, who attended the performance, told Al Jazeera.
“When we started booing, the singer tried to educate us about brotherhood, saying we are all brothers and sisters. I am sorry, but as an artist, at least have the decency to know the political situation of a country you are performing in. Would you do that in Ukraine?”
“And the audacity of a Russian guy to get up on stage and play in a country where he knows he is not welcomed is mind-blowing,” Verzadze said.
Georgians protested inside and around the concert venue and displayed their fury on social media.
“No, we are not brothers and sisters. Russia is an occupier, not a sibling,” said one post on the social media platform X, formally known as Twitter).
Bands should better know not to call Georgians and Russians “brothers and sisters”, like @thekillers did today, which resulted to the large audience booing and abandoning the concert.
No, we are not brothers and sisters. Russia is an occupier, not a sibling. pic.twitter.com/Manvb8btAB
— Katie Shoshiashvili (@KShoshiashvili) August 15, 2023
Since the war in Ukraine began, Georgia has witnessed an influx of Russians escaping the country.
According to Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, 112,000 Russians were living in exile in the country in the Caucasus as of November.
The Killers issued an apology after the concert, saying the band had “no intention to offend anyone”.
“We recognise that a comment, meant to suggest that all of The Killers’ audience and fans are ‘brothers and sisters,’ could be misconstrued. We did not mean to upset anyone and we apologise,” the band said in posts on its social media platforms.
— The Killers (@thekillers) August 15, 2023
The Killers are on a European tour. Its songs Mr Brightside and Human have topped global music charts.
The band’s next performance is scheduled for Thursday in Bratislava, Slovakia.