Brandon Flowers, O2 Academy Brixton, review: Killers frontman tries too hard to stand out

The stage seemed a lonely, flat place without his band mates

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The Independent Culture

Brandon Flowers. It’s a name we all know, and love to hate. Raise your hand if you’ve bounced up and down in a trashy club, sloshing beer everywhere and screaming Mr Brightside at the top of your lungs. Yep, just about everyone. (If you haven’t, do it immediately. It’s fabulous).

Flowers has been in the biz for over a decade now and he’s still only 33. He may also be the coolest Mormon ever, appearing in a promotional video on the church’s website. Despite this, he’s acquired a reputation for being arrogant, cocky, and a bit try-hard. In 2009, he claimed The Killers wanted to “knock Led Zeppelin and Nirvana off their pedestals”, and he once told a journalist he considered talent to be “god given”. Both bold statements from a man whose first solo album Flamingo received somewhat lukewarm reviews. 

He continues to strike out alone, however, this time with second album The Desired Effect, released last week. Reviews have been rave and the critical response favourable so far, although snarky comments are still part and parcel of Flowers’ persona. (He recently told The Independent he thought The Killers were the best band to emerge in the last 15 years.) Still, the man appears to have mellowed slightly now he’s hit his 30s.

This was Flowers’ first gig of his UK tour and The set list was average at best and I got the sense immediately he was trying overly-hard to stand out without his fellow Killers. Stand out he did, sort of, with a shiny gold jacket and plenty of prancing. The album’s single, “Can’t Deny My Love”, was a crowd pleaser, as was a reworked version of The Killer’s “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine”. He tried to make religion cool with “Magdalena”, a rocky song about a pilgrimage, and he continues to write choruses with more “oooohhs” than words.

But the stage seemed a lonely, flat place without his band mates. Unsurprisingly, the biggest cheer of the night was for trashy club favourite Mr Brightside, which roused everyone, including the weary children sat in front of me. Even then, the song lacked the pizazz of the group and succeeded only in highlighting the fact that, so far, none of Flowers’ solo tracks has been as successful. Tellingly, it was the only song everyone knew all the words to.

Despite this, there were a few treats in store for the mix-aged audience. Chrissie Hynde, in signature tie, marched on stage for the encore, singing “Don’t Get Me Wrong” with an overexcited Flowers, who tried to convince the audience The Killers had been influenced by The Pretenders. At one point, the front man also ushered his wife and two of his sons on stage, much to the delight of the audience. (Wholesome, family-focussed rock stars are hard to come by these days, so it was refreshing to see.)

All in all, though, the gig lacked, well, the rest of The Killers. In a recent interview, Brandon said: “I'm the singer in The Killers. That's what I am.” Tonight, it really showed.