NEW YORK — When a band has buzz, that buzz is usually loudest in New York.
These days, the Killers have buzz, so it's no surprise that the hottest thing to come out of Vegas since Texas Hold 'Em Poker played to a house packed with scenesters, hipsters and industry onlookers Monday night at Bowery Ballroom. Some came to sway to heavy-hearted, shoegazing lyrics like "The sun is gone before it shines." Others came to get lost in driving dance beats and breathy synth swirls. Still others were just there to make the scene and be where the buzz is. Ironic moustaches, track jackets and ties, ties, ties outfitted the eager and jaded alike, making for a crowd with high expectations (either out of passion or a haughty sense of "prove me wrong").
Frontman Brandon Flowers took the challenge in stride, employing a "less talk, more mope-rock" approach in a 45-minute set that left little room for banter or chitchat and kept the band's aching anthems at the forefront. Flowers strode to his synthesizer rack and served up the ethereal opening of "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine" before being joined by the song's jangling guitar line, popping bass and punching drum beat. Clad in a cream-colored blazer, navy dress shirt and tan cords, Flowers out-hipped the hipsters while melting them with danceable tales of longing and wounded pride. Given the sullen pose of cuts like "Mr. Brightside," "Smile Like You Mean It" and the set opener, it is perhaps no surprise that this band was built on a foundation of rejection and heartbreak. By now, Flowers' tale of being ousted from his first band has launched a thousand headlines (see "Las Vegas' Killers Hit The Jackpot After Brits Make A Fuss"), and he takes the stage like a man desperately trying to prove his ex wrong. By the time the first chorus rolled around, he seemed to have accomplished this mission, as fists were in the air and lyrics rose almost as loudly from the crowd as they did from the PA system.
Live, the band seems cobbled together from other groups' leftovers: Guitarist David Keuning's wild mane seems more suited to the MC5 (or at least At The Drive-In), bassist Mark Stoermer's laid-back presence recalls a lost Allman Brother, and drummer Ronnie Vannucci could easily blend in with any number of Warped Tour participants. Flowers himself seems content to channel the icy quirkiness of Gary Numan as he bounces between his microphone stand and his synth rack, but together the group is tight and on-point, bringing the slickly produced work of its debut album, Hot Fuss, alive with vibrancy and immediacy. The spacey bop of "On Top" was given fresh punch and relevance, while the driving pop of "Mr. Brightside" was given fresh emotional heft. There was something odd and beautiful about hundreds of people bouncing on the ballroom's floor and singing along "It's all in my head/ But she's touching his chest now/ He takes off her dress now/ Let me go," all of them seemingly sharing in the paranoid fantasy, or at least indulging Flowers' fixation.
Like so many of the bands that influenced them — New Order, the Psychedelic Furs and even Oasis to a degree — the Killers are about feeling terrible and looking fabulous, a raison d'être the crowd could easily get with. With the look locked, Flowers and company spent the bulk of the night working on the "feeling terrible" part. He infused the normally laid-back — and somewhat Strokes-ian — "Change Your Mind" with raw urgency, pleading "And if the answer is no/ Can I change your mind?" On "Midnight Show," he delivered each lyric from deep inside, as if the words were coming to him in a frenzy. As the Killers launched into the sweeping "Andy You're a Star" late in the set, the group was completely at ease and in control.
The throwaway lyrics of "Indie Rock & Roll" almost threw the mood, but there's nothing like a hit single to win a crowd back, and the Killers now find themselves armed with the melancholy rave-up "Somebody Told Me," which drew an appropriately rabid response. By the time the band closed with "All These Things That I've Done," the floor of the Bowery Ballroom was again filled with outstretched hands, as fans pleaded along, "You know you gotta help me out." For the most part, the jaded seemed jaded no more.
The Killers' set list from August 16, New York City:
- "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine"
- "On Top"
- "Mr. Brightside"
- "Smile Like You Mean It"
- "Change Your Mind"
- "Midnight Show"
- "Andy You're a Star"
- "Indie Rock & Roll"
- "Somebody Told Me"
- "Under the Gun"
- "All These Things That I've Done"
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.
Check out an exclusive live performance from the Killers at MTV.com Live.