Killer Killers?

May 2004

The Killers @The Cockpit (Leeds) reviewed by Mark McGregor

We Brits know exactly what we want from our US bands: sex, sleaze, glamour, good clothes and some tunes - though not necessarily in that order.

We want a charismatic lead singer, a beardy motionless, bass player, a big-haired, edgy guitarist… and a drummer. Ladies and gentlemen… meet The Killers.

There is, as I believe they say in the industry, a tangible 'buzz' in the Cockpit before this Las Vegas four piece take the stage. They have, after all, got everything going for them - a nationality that's in vogue, constant Radio 1 airplay and the best band name beginning with 'the' this month at least.

Leeds knows it and welcomes them accordingly. Eager faces pack the club straining to see a glimpse of this edgy, new American import. The applause goes up, the smiles come out… and then the music starts. And this, kids, is where the Killers almost come unstuck.

This band, you see, do not follow the current rock and roll template. They might have the classic look of four, fashionable, just-the-right-side-of-scruffy men from across the pond, but what they deliver is something different altogether. Think Shed 7 rather than Strokes, Duran Duran - not Distillers, and certainly New Romantic over New Wave.

That's not to say what The Killers offer is not good. It's very good. Epic sounding guitars and crashing keyboard noises mould with Brandon Flowers' soaring - and distinctly British-sounding - vocals. Dark, brooding songs with a definite indie influence float over the clearly-confused audience.

Singles 'Somebody Told Me' and inevitable set-closer 'Mr Brightside' provoke the biggest reactions (surely the only song about Sheffield that gets applause in West Yorkshire), while the clutch of b-sides and tracks from forthcoming album 'Hot Fuss' are greeted with chin-stroking appreciation.

"What do you think," whispers one punter to his mate. The mate stares back at him, unsure what to say. "I think they're good," he finally replies, with the emphasis clearly on the 'think'. Maybe Leeds just isn't ready for an American band that don't do 'American'. They will undoubtedly be better received in Manchester. Mainly, I suspect, because over there they'll assume The Killers are from Preston.