A collision of Vegas dazzle and English indie music, the wholesome American Way hopping into bed with British rock swagger, the Killers’ charmingly preposterous rock is hard to resist.
The band recently released its fourth studio album, “Battle Born,” and will be touring North America from Nov. 29, playing New York’s Madison Square Garden on Dec. 14. Its London concerts show a band at the top of its powers and aware of this fact.
To start a gig with your first and perhaps biggest hit, “Mr. Brightside,” is confident. To do so while keeping the house lights on is bold to the point of extravagance.
A simple trick, it makes for a tremendous opening, creating a bond between audience and band. Any concerns that The Killers peak too early dissipate in a slew of infectious songs.
The Killers formed under the influence of British alternative bands like Oasis and New Order. Those influences typically saddle it with small-town misery or a fuzz of guitar noise. The Killers, as perhaps befits a band from Las Vegas, unashamedly milk each big chorus for all it is worth.
And there are a lot of big choruses. The guitars on “Spaceman” bounce with optimism. “Somebody Told Me” (a flashier brother to Blur’s “Girls and Boys”) fizzles with pop-punk exuberance.
The band’s tendency to use unreconstructed synth lines to highlight a melody (just in case anyone at the back didn’t get it) has exploded on “Battle Born.” “The Way It Was” takes 1970s power rock worthy of Journey and gives it a 1980s sheen. “Here With Me” is pure Aerosmith power balladry.
If the music verges on the ridiculous, the lyrics frequently tip into the completely doolally. Unlike Coldplay, there’s no illusion of depth among the platitudes.
“Miss Atomic Bomb” is clumsy imagery and a cheap rhyme. “Human” (“Are we Human? Or are we dancer?”) is 100 percent piffle. That it remains a sing-along anthem of the first degree is largely due to the improbable charisma of lead singer Brandon Flowers.
Flowers might as well be the platonic form of the clean-cut All-American guy. His jaw-line could sell razors to Karl Marx. His side-parting is fresh from a morale-boosting G.I. film from World War II. A practicing Mormon, he is devoted to his family.
He is also a magnetic rock ‘n’ roll showman who sings every line of twaddle as if he utterly means it. Dressed in black, neat trousers and a fitted short-sleeved shirt, he beams with energy and innocent enthusiasm and clearly wants everyone in the audience to have as much fun as he is having.
His three band mates, augmented by two extra musicians, keep the songs punchy, adding touches of gloss, grunge and Americana twang as required.
With retrospect, the show does lack danger. There is comparatively little unbridled lust, angst or anger in The Killers’ oeuvre. The stripped back version of U2’s “With Or Without You” is a remarkably safe choice of cover. Some of the songs sound labored, trying a little too hard to be liked.
When Flowers is onstage, wielding his charisma beam and yet another mega chorus, it’s impossible not to enjoy the show. The Killers will leave you with a rock ‘n’ roll smile on your face.
The Killers play Broomfield, Colorado, on Nov. 29 at the start of a tour that also includes Vancouver, Seattle, Boston, Chicago and Las Vegas. In January 2013, the tour moves to Australia and back to Europe. There are also shows in 2013 confirmed for Brazil and Mexico.
For a review of “Battle Born,” click here.
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(Robert Heller is a music critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
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