Few modern bands – certainly few indie bands – have grasped the essential necessities of riff, hook and repetition quite as thoroughly as The Killers. Musically, they seem to evade definition, not by diversity of approach or genre-shifting sleights, but because there is little to actually pin down about their music.
Though they can slip smoothly between influences, as when those Springsteen-ish elements crept into their Sam's Town album like retrospective claims on some more "rooted" musical heritage, The Killers' sound is essentially a distillation of every stadium act from the past few decades. One can imagine Brandon Flowers poring over live albums, carefully selecting the most effective elements from Bruce Springsteen, U2, Simple Minds, Bon Jovi and the rest, creating blueprints for songs primed to explode and leave melodic shrapnel lodged in the collective consciousness.
But the result is that it is virtually impossible to bring to mind any notable musical moment from tonight's triumphant tour-opening Royal Albert Hall show: I can't recall any guitar solo of note from Dave Keuning, who must be the most disciplined, egoless guitarist in rock history. And now there's an additional multi-instrumentalist taking care of keyboards and violin, Flowers' contributions are mostly limited to stalking the stage and singing. During "Somebody Told Me", I realise I can't actually tell what each player is adding to the arrangement: it's just a solid sonic wedge, the various parts indistinguishable.
Tonight's set is drawn from the most memorable bits of their three albums, along with a smattering of the forthcoming Day & Age album. Indeed, they open with the new album's lead-off track "Human", Flowers singing "Are we human, or are we dancers?" over a massive stomp-beat that renders the inquiry entirely rhetorical. The audience, thoroughly warmed up beforehand by some Radio 1 DJ with a fixation about seeing people's hands in the air, responds well to the unfamiliar song, before big, Oasean power-chords herald "For Reasons Unknown", the first of a string of hook-heavy cuts.
That's not the only characteristic the band shares with Oasis. Several of the songs on the new album irresistibly bring to mind earlier hits – in both the chunky rocker "Losing Touch" and the funky "Joyride", it is possible to hear the ghost of the melody of Madonna's "Like A Prayer" – suggesting that Flowers & Co have assimilated some of Noel Gallagher's magpie sensibility.
Being raised on stadium rock, and groomed through tireless festival schedules, The Killers have no difficulty in filling the cavernous dome of the Albert Hall. The epic, string-synth-draped arrangement of "Smile Like You Mean It" fits the venue particularly well, as does the counterpoint reference to Beethoven's 9th Symphony – clearly, Flowers is a magpie of some refinement – that creeps into the set-closing "Mr Brightside". But, at times, their material sounds a tad over-inflated: "Sweet Talk", from their outtakes compilation Sawdust, has a tinny, fizzy quality which doesn't work too well here and the new alien-abduction-or-was-it-just-a-dream song "Spaceman" has an edgy electropop character which likewise sounds out of place.
But when The Killers get into their stride with epic, singalong highlights like "Read My Mind" and the encores "All These Things That I've Done" and "Neon Tiger", they wield an undeniable power and momentum that has the house rocking from the stalls to the gods.Reuse content