Saturday 16 November 2019

The Killers still know a thing or two about crowd-pleasing

Ed Power

The killers

phoenix park, dublin

The Killers are a different sort of stadium band. Beyond their wish to entertain a vast fanbase, their music has no grand purpose. They aren't preachy, don't do touchy-feely anthemia and avoid the pitfall

of thinking they have some universal truth to convey to the world.

The closest they have come to a political statement was when singer Brandon Flowers, taking a stand on behalf of hardcore facial hair devotees, briefly sported the most ridiculous moustache this side of '70s' soft-porn.

It's 10 years since their first European tour and the Las Vegas quartet are in the mood to celebrate. With the faintest hint of a chill in the muggy night air, they stroll casually on – no grandiose entrances for this former bar band – and plunge into 'Somebody Told Me', an agreeable chunk of retro indie rock custom-designed for squealing arenas.

Accompanied by a repertoire of manic grimaces from Flowers, each slightly more disconcerting than the previous, they dash through some of their best-loved hits. Affirmative rocker 'Smile Like You Mean It' is delivered without a smidgen of irony; 'All These Things That I've Done' prompts a mass singalong and sporadic outbreaks of group-hugs.

The Killers' influences are so broad you could probably spot them from Jupiter: a smidgen of Joy Division, a dollop of Bowie, a sachet of Springsteen Americana are stirred together and topped off with Flowers's distinctive frontman shtick. A practising Mormon, he combines leather-jacket swagger, a booming voice and one of those scary Mitt Romney smiles.

There are few missteps, though their reimagining Joy Division's 'Shadowplay' as an arms-in-the-air anthem goes off half-cocked. Even with 'woo-woo' backing vocals, the song is dark and torrid, clearly not what a sun-baked Saturday night audience was expecting.

Of course, you don't stay at the top for a decade without knowing a few things about crowd-pleasing, and The Killers are good at ingratiating themselves without it seeming like crass pandering. Flowers sputters out the words "Baile Atha Cliath", managing not to commit any crimes against the Irish language; later they throw in a fragment of U2's 'Pride' ('In The Name Of Love').

But it's during the encore that the band's strengths shine. 'When You Were Young' shows it is perfectly acceptable to borrow from Springsteen, so long as you know what you are doing; during 'Mr Brightside' it feels like the entire 40,000 attendance is bawling the chorus of what is surely the catchiest dirge ever written about paranoid self-loathing. A rumoured hiatus means it may be some time before The Killers are headlining venues of this scale. A lot of people are going to miss them.

Irish Independent

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