The Killers, Empress Ballroom, Blackpool

From Vegas to Blackpool, but the gamble pays off
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Fittingly for a band that hail from Nevada's own gambling magnet, The Killers made their live return to these shores at a town that calls itself the Las Vegas of the North.

With four million sales for their 2004 debut album Hot Fuss, the band are as ubiquitous as images for the tower, though the Killers' makeover has been more thorough than any attempt by Blackpool to spruce up its own image.

Their eyeliner and white suits have been binned in favour of waistcoats and facial hair, while the band's frontman, Brandon Flowers, has promised that the follow up Sam's Town is the best record in 20 years. Certainly it is a departure for the band, with nods to Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty rather than Duran Duran.

It would not be Blackpool, though, without illuminations and the band came with enough fairy lights to decorate the Pleasure Beach. It was Flowers' bootlace tie that caught the eye and gave him the look of a medicine showman.

From the off, though, this was more revival meeting. The new album's title track lifted the crowd on vast slabs of guitar before the new single, "When You Were Young", swept them along with epic synth waves.

More familiar material was revitalised. "Somebody Told Me" came with its usual invigorating disco pulse, but it's dense backing gave the number extra impetus. There was something especially pleasing about the way "Smile Like You Mean It" built up momentum to reach it's strident sing-along phase. The vocalists' more guttural delivery adding extra depth.

New material showed that the band had retained their knack for nagging hooks. Flowers was hard to resist when he asked: "Don't you want to come with me?" on "Bones". It was an all-too-obvious rehash of The Boss's "Born To Run", but The Killers had the pure-hearted enthusiasm to carry it off.

There was even more exuberance on the heroic "Bling", although its fist-pumping vigour was just beyond the singer's reach.

At least he made an effort to share his new-found love for their homeland. Once you analysed the "Promised Land" references, you wondered how long they had spent rifling through Bono's prayer book to a mythic America. Apart from the pained expressions of drummer Ronnie Vanucci, the rest of the band barely seemed interested, at least until a surging "Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine". Still they were no E Street Band.

Not that an ecstatic Lancashire crowd minded, befitting a region that welcomes Bruce Springsteen as one of their own on his rare visits. It must be the desire to entertain.

Nor had the band forgotten all they had learnt from their original UK heroes. "Uncle Johnny" was gloomy and sludgy a piece of Goth dance as you would expect from fans of The Cure. Still, Flowers had to push guitarist Dave Keunig to the front to play the opening bars of "Mr Brightside".

Cannon And Ball have a lot to live up to now.