The Killers, Brixton Academy, London

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The Independent Culture

"Something that used to be beautiful, used to have class," Alec Baldwin said of Las Vegas in The Cooler.

"Something that used to be beautiful, used to have class," Alec Baldwin said of Las Vegas in The Cooler. Well, Britain has provided the "beautiful" city of sin and sand with the "classy" Elton John, Tom Jones and, er, Engelbert Humperdinck. Now, however, the gambling mecca has found a bona fide homegrown pop "sensation", and it's resolutely Anglophile, with influences ranging from New Order to Pulp.

The Killers, led by the rake-thin Brandon Flowers, appropriated their name from the New Order video for "Crystal", which featured a fake band called The Killers - the perfect band with a fabulous song and the ultimate pop look. Well, this Eighties-style synth pop quintet with their quirky, catchy melodies and David Keuning's choppy, insistent guitar riffs definitely have a look. Sporting a black bow tie, eyeliner and a pressed retro suit (Eighties again), the front man Flowers poses in front of a huge, multi-bulb sign flashing: "The Killers". The set is lifted from a Hives video, and the look is a slick (too slick) mish-mash of The Strokes and Franz Ferdinand.

But the packed audience of late teens and twentysomethings are visibly thrilled by this efficient indie pop outfit. The opening number, "Mr Brightside", the one about being, like, jealous, is a surprisingly encouraging start. A hard-working band, The Killers are well honed, and Flowers's vocals have an exactingly raspy edge. In fact, it's clear that they are a far better live proposition than their deliriously successful but slightly underwhelming debut album, Hot Fuss, suggests.

The Killers insist their heroes are Eighties luminaries such as The Cure (there is, certainly, the faintest whiff of Goth on their new single, "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine") and The Smiths. But they come across more like a peculiar mix of lower-division outfits such as Big Country, OMD and the dreaded Menswear. Their material isn't distinctive; one song blends into the next.

The two exceptions tonight are the big crowd favourites, "Somebody Told Me" (their attempt at being interesting about androgyny) and "All These Things That I've Done" (which contains the addictive, if meaningless, lyric: "I've got a soul/ But I'm not a soldier"). Both those rousing songs bring out the football-fan element in the crowd. Fingers and camera phones are jutted toward the stage in homage. In return, Flowers doesn't grant his adoring fans much engagement, other than to give a rather functional "thank you" to the record company for taking "a chance" on them. Hardly rock'n'roll, and it adds to the mounting evidence that The Killers are too packaged, too self-conscious, too contrived. They lack the sexy insouciance and edge of, say, The Strokes. Everything is tightly controlled; the show is missing spontaneity, spark and, well, soul. And surely, with a killer name such as The Killers, there's licence for a more Nick Cave-type attitude?

How long will they endure? Their songs are radio-friendly in a Duran Duran way, but their lyrics lack depth and wit. The hour-long show, while distracting, barely leaves a trace. Lots of bright lights, a dapper lead singer, plenty of superficial sheen, but The Killers lack the gambling spirit of their birth city.

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