It took Killers frontman Brandon Flowers exactly one song to shed his leather jacket during his band's sold-out SRO set Monday night at New York's Webster Hall, a gesture that was as necessary as it was symbolic.
Because not only was it hot inside the Hall, but, recharged from their time away from the stage — and with a new album, Battle Born, due September 18, in the pipeline — Flowers and his mates were there to work. So they dispatched with all manner of accessories, rolled up their sleeves and dove in, delivering a sweaty, hit-packed set that showed they hadn't lost a step during their year-and-a-half hiatus.
They worked a handful of new songs into the set — Born's first single, the wide-screen "Runaways," "Miss Atomic Bomb," which started shimmering then thundered to a fist-pumping chorus (with Flowers yelping, "You're gonna miss me when I'm gone"), the Tom Petty-indebted "Here On Out," featuring winsome slide guitar from Dave Keuning, and "Flesh and Bone," which sandwiched a Motown-esque breakdown in between crashing synths and guitars — but for the most part, this was the Killers working through their considerable back catalog ... much to the delight of fans lucky enough to score tickets (many, many more waited outside in the rain).
Smashes like "Somebody Told Me," "Human" and "Mr. Brightside" were each met with appropriately fervent responses (quick guesstimate on the number of dudes hugging each other and singing along: 10,000), but the real thrill from Monday's show came from slightly deeper cuts and the subtle flourishes the Killers gave to them: the galloping bassline and Santana-y breakdown of "Spaceman," the starry synths of "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine," the crowd-uniting chants during "Higher and Higher" ... this is a band that only does things one way: unapologetically huge. And to witness each arena-approved solo or stadium-sized chorus in a venue the size of Webster Hall was a rare treat indeed.
Tellingly, the Killers didn't downsize one bit. They sounded gigantic and brought a light show that probably should have come with an epilepsy warning. And they wore equally huge grins on their faces throughout the show (they seemed genuinely touched during the encore, even bringing up the house lights to bask in the moment). Of course, this wasn't exactly the kinder, gentler Killers either, and after one fan voiced his disapproval of their 2008 album Day & Age, Flowers spat, "I hope our next record is just as sh---y as that one."
But in a way, that exchange only served as further proof that the Killers really are back, with epic hooks and swagger to spare. And as anyone inside Webster Hall can surely attest to, they haven't slowed down one bit. If anything, they seemingly can't wait to punch the clock and put in work. For years, Flowers and company have been fascinated with blue-collar ethos. Now, they've actively embraced them. And it works. After all, who needs style when you've got substance?