The Killers were always bound for arena-level stardom, one felt, thanks to their gold-dust blend of attractive pop choruses, a certain down to earth authenticity as unembellished alternarockers in the traditional vein and a true talent for sheer, unalloyed blandness where it’s really necessary.
This, the first date of their latest UK tour in support of the recent fourth album Battle Born, managed to be all of these things at once, a generally pleasing but only rarely inspiring odyssey into the shallow waters of epic heartland Americana.
For an all-standing set played in the presence of more than ten thousand followers, the show did its best to appear stripped-back. The band played on a stage without the fussy adornment of gantries and catwalks, and the lighting rig restricted itself to some blazing spotlights and a few laser beams here and there. Although a large, letterbox-format screen hung behind them, it held expensively-produced video clips for their songs far more often than an artfully grainy live feed of the band performing, meaning we were only afforded glimpses of singer Brandon Flowers’ jarhead short back ‘n’ sides, an everyman hairstyle for an everyman kind of a group.
Flowers’ voice is admittedly a powerful instrument, possibly the most powerful in the Killers’ repertoire, and an almost exact live analogue of its recorded incarnation as a kind of potent rootsy holler blended with the synthetic androgyne quality of so much ‘80s pop which has influenced his band.
The soaring "Smile Like You Mean It", new single "Miss Atomic Bomb" and "Human", a so-so pop song marred by the perennially clod-hopping nature of its central lyric, were early talking points of a lengthy set which travelled through different textures as it progressed, from the attempted Arcade Fire sweep of "For Reasons Unknown" to the latter-day Peter Gabriel synthesis of tenderness and overwhelmingly glossy production values that is "Deadlines and Commitments".
Although not an overly magnetic frontman, Flowers possesses a warm and open charisma which it would be trite to attribute solely to his stated religious views. Talking of the band’s home city of Las Vegas and the “ingredients” which contribute to who they are as people, his musing that “for me it's the way my old man walks, the way he talks, the lay of the land” was a delicate introduction to the understated highlight "A Dustland Fairytale", although for most here the half-remembered and communally-sung choruses of "Mr Brightside", "All The Things I’ve Done" and "When You Were Young" were all the depth they required.
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