Music review: The Killers, Wembley Stadium, London - Brandon Flowers looks on Mr Brightside
Monday 24 June 2013
Lasers, fireworks and confetti cannons: all are regularly deployed by rock bands aiming to make a stadium-sized impact and for their biggest gig yet Las Vegas's prime entertainers use them all, but debuting a song about tonight's event? That has to be a novelty.
In a remarkably playful ditty for such an earnest group, Brandon Flowers references 1966's World Cup heroes to huge cheers before listing the acts that have previously graced this venue – everyone from the Stones to Green Day - before adding “Tonight you can put our name on that list.” Such tub-thumping is more typical, at least from their frontman, but does reflect a devotion to UK pop culture that has helped them develop such a large following here.
"Wembley Song" is a rare surprise in a set that while short on stadium-sized imagination certainly shows the Nevada foursome's ability to command the largest of stages – fist-pumping to their crowd-pleasing anthems reaches back to the bowl's far side. The Killers have headlined the most prestigious festivals since 2007, a year after the dusty Springsteen-influenced rock of second album Sam's Town proved their sudden rise was no fluke. Rising to this new challenge, Ronnie Vannucci emphasises every beat with Dave Grohl-style grimaces, Mark Stoermer on bass exudes stern focus and even inscrutable guitarist Dave Keuning throws some rock-god shapes.
Still, this leaves the group's tanned Action Man singer with much weight to carry. For two hours he remains the gleeful, perma-smiling host, with an impressive, full-throttle vocal. His calm authority, though, undermines his songs' underdog, outsider stance. Numbers from last year's fourth album Battle Born, notably the title track and "Here With Me", feel underwhelming, all Jim Steinman dramaturgy meets U2 bluster, lacking a compelling sense of narrative or detail.
Yet these odd missteps fail to jackknife The Killers' rolling juggernaut. While Flowers's recent writing may not repay close attention, his group know how to make the songs' dynamics work writ large. An indefatigable dance-music pulse runs from a pulsing "Miss Atomic Bomb" through the eccentric "Human" to an exuberant "Somebody Told Me". Elsewhere, the road-movie operatics come good on an explosive "A Dustland Fairytale".
Despite the thunder-clapping pyrotechnics, tonight is more smooth Airstream ride than sonic storm, at least until they close with a ragged, punky "Mr Brightside". At last the emotion seems to get to Flowers, who lets on that he appreciates this transatlantic love-in, an outsider that has found a home.
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