Somebody told me a few years ago that the Killers were over, that their talent was gone, and their stride ended after Hot Fuss. Apparently, nobody told Brandon Flowers. After one of the most surprisingly strong rock shows we've seen this year, it was clear why we should all still keep the faith. The Mr. Brightside crew has only gotten better. The comparisons to a young U2 were well-deserved last night.
See also: - Review: The Killers at Red Rocks, 9/9/09 - Review: The Killers at Magness Arena, 1/20/09 - Brandon Flowers at the Ogden Theatre, 11/18/10 - Best of Denver 2004: Best Concert, Killers at Larimer - Profile: The Killers move forward into the past - Vegas, Baby! Meet Danny Vegas, the Sin City showman the Killers love
The Killers charged out of the gate with "Flesh and Bone," a thunderous new cut from Battle Born, their fourth studio album. It showcased Flowers' vocals -- my god, the man can sing a note with the best of 'em -- while also proving just exactly why they're still here ten years on: sheer talent, determination and the romance of Springsteen-esque lyricism.
"Runaways" likewise encapsulated all the best of what the Killers had to offer. Only seconds in on the song and hairs were standing on end. And how could they not? "Blonde hair blowing in the summer wind, a blue-eyed girl playing in the sand..." may be simple lyrics, but Flowers didn't sing them simply. It was if the man was singing for his life. He didn't have a chip on his shoulder, nor did he have anything to prove to his adoring crowd. Rather, he had a dogged determination to put on a damn good show. It was the Vegas in him, for sure, but no one was complaining.
Older hits -- "Somebody Told Me" and "Mr. Brightside" -- hadn't aged a day, and sat well with their newer, more organic sounding songs. The Killers' catalog, despite its range of influences and instruments -- from the synth-heavy buzz of Hot Fuss to the '80s vibe of Day & Age to the more guitar-driven rock of Battle Born -- blended so well together that the setlist ran much more like a greatest hits tour led by a veteran showman.
The best performance of the night was easily of "All These Things That I've Done." From that first pulse of the piano to the pop of the graffiti at the end, Flowers led the entire audience through a chorus of new age Americana if ever there was one. And in five or so minutes, the essence of the Killers was so perfectly summarized.
Here, fans young and old -- I swear the guy headbanging in front of me on the floor had to be at least 45 and knew every single word to every single song -- were just as dedicated to the Killers' version of the American dream: Make everywhere as awesome and over-the-top and filled with character as Las Vegas.
That's not to say that the show didn't have its lows. Flowers liked to engage in on-stage banter that, for the most part, came off a little too preachy for a rock star. He didn't look like a thing like Jesus, but he did talk (and dress) like a gentleman, so all could be forgiven. Oddly, the guy knew quite a bit about Denver, too. Charmingly, he addressed the Red Rocks debacle of a few years ago, then quickly noted that if Denver and Las Vegas were to ever get together, they'd have a baby named Reno.
The man even remembered the very first show The Killers played in Denver: "I remember when we played the Larimer Lounge. There were seven or eight people there." I don't know if he had checked the Larimer Lounge Twitter feed hours earlier that made mention of this same trivia, but nonetheless, it was impressive that Flowers remembered -- and it was all the easier to believe the Killers have come so far so fast.
Likewise, Flowers didn't have to do any fancy choreography -- hell, he didn't even have to throw out any appropriate power-rock fist pumps -- to keep us engaged for a two-hour set of new age rock songs that transformed into arena rock for the live show. That electric smile was all we needed.
As the first show on the Killers' US 2012 tour since going overseas for about two months, it was clear Flowers and company were glad to be back. Flowers smiled like he meant it -- genuinely. The guy was all pearly whites the entire show. You really could tell he wanted to be there on that stage playing 1STBANK Center, and as long as he continued to give 110 percent, his audience wanted him to be there, too.
Flowers didn't even have to particularly try. The overly grandiose lyrics would have been too much of a mouthful for anyone else -- particularly "Little birdie whispered in my ear/You've been cooking up a world of fear" in "From Here On Out" -- but for Flowers, it was clear he was right at home in repeated themes of hometown pride, victory, relationships and more hometown pride, with words too complicated for the average new age rocker.
And when the pyrotechnic bursts went off during encore closers "When You Were Young" and "Battle Born," it wasn't as much a surprise as it was a fulfilled expectation. For two hours, the Killers took the audience to fabulous Las Vegas, and for two hours, the audience -- and Flowers -- forgot about everything else.
Tegan and Sara played a short set that didn't veer too much from the safety of their recorded sound. They came out immediately at 8 p.m. on the dot -- seriously, that never happens! -- and played graciously through new songs and old hits, taking few risks, sounding all too similar to what you hear on record. They may have opened for The Killers, but the only thing the two had in common were their early fan bases.
Otherwise, the shows were as split as night and day. Particularly highs were "Back In Your Head" and "Hell," as the instrumentation carried over into a live setting so perfectly. Other tracks, particularly their new gem of a single "Closer" and "I'm Not Your Hero," a very strange choice for an opening song, fell absolutely flat.
The twins themselves were fun to watch. Tegan and Sara had that twin thing going on -- you could tell they were synchronized during every song, their mannerisms the same, the way in which they sang certain notes the same. They differed in the way they tried to engage with the audience after every song, sometimes ever so briefly.
Most often, Tegan just came off really, really gracious to be invited to the party, whereas Sara, speaking for more than a few seconds as she introduced "Feel It In Your Bones," was a tad more charming: "We grew up in the Denver of Canada. We're thirty now; we're really boring. This song goes out to all the '90s kids who went to raves when they were younger."
Personal Bias: I have a strange fascination with Brandon Flowers. I had it before, and this show only cemented it. I would go Mormon for him.
Random Detail: The confetti streamers that fell during the epic middle-eight breakdown of "All These Things That I've Done" -- the "I got soul but I'm not a soldier" part -- were a red letter K and a silver lightning bolt.
By the Way: The songs that played on the overhead system before the Killers came out were straight out of the '80s. Bananarama's "Cruel Summer" was a particularly surprising choice.
The Killers 1STBANK Center - 11/29/12 Broomfield, CO
Flesh And Bone The Way It Was Smile Like You Mean It Spaceman Heart Of A Girl / Bling (Confessions Of A King) Miss Atomic Bomb Human Somebody Told Me Here With Me For Reasons Unknown From Here On Out A Dustland Fairytale Read My Mind Runaways Mr. Brightside All These Things That I've Done
Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine When You Were Young Battle Born
Tegan and Sara 1STBANK Center - 11/29/12 Broomfield, CO
I'm Not Your Hero Back In Your Head The Con Ghost Hell Living Room Messed Up Feel It In My Bones (Tiesto feat. Tegan And Sara) Closer
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