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Fresh from winning a Brit Award for best international group, The Killers are in conquering-hero mode. Fusillades of silver ticker tape greeted their arrival from behind a huge curtain that had just screened grainy stills of mountains and desert highways. Any band intent on the accountants’ accolade as “the world’s biggest” needs a backdrop of Joshua Tree-style imagery, it seems.
Having sold 5m copies of their debut album, Hot Fuss, on the strength of indie-disco anthems “Mr Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me”, the Las Vegas quartet ramp up the showbiz and road-movie grandeur on their current one, Sam’s Town. Named after a down-at-heel casino, it is more of a concept piece, bookended by the knowing pomp of “Enterlude” and “Exitlude”, both flashily observed here.
A devoted crowd saluted the air-punching power of songs such as “When You Were Young” and “Bling (Confession of a King)”, custom-made for arenas on the scale of this unlovely silo. But size isn’t everything. Any subtlety (which does exist on Sam’s Town in odd snatches) was steamrolled by an over-loud rhythm section. Likewise, Brandon Flowers’s metallic croon was dented sometimes by the sheer weight of noise around him. When almost every track was an opportunity for mass karaoke, however, rock’s most popular Mormon didn’t look bothered.
Dressed in a bowed necktie and waistcoat, he resembled a cross between a croupier and General Custer. Dashing between piano, synthesizer and two microphones, Flowers made an energetically theatrical frontman. In spite of the the band’s much-vaunted accent on Americana, it was not only guitarist Dave Keuning’s Brian May-like mop of hair that put one in mind of Queen.
As the sharper synth lines of “Hot Fuss” dissolved into churning glam stomps, the relentless razzmatazz began to seem one-dimensional. A cover of Joy Division’s “Shadowplay” suggested the earnestness of the band’s ambitions. To broaden their appeal, though, they must add some shade to a glitzy palette. You need more than bombast and Anton Corbijn photo-shoots to rival Coldplay and U2 on the balance sheet.
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