Kick Out the Jams

The Killers at Tramps, Nov. 16

Thursday, November 20, 2003
 Las Vegas Mercury

 

Watching The Killers, the latest and greatest of Vegas' rock hopefuls, you can almost see the split in lead singer Brandon Flowers' heart mending before your eyes. Perhaps he has been betrayed by love in the past--a subject that has become the foundation for his best songs--but the throng of women vying for his attention at the front of the stage promises him new love (and perhaps new heartbreak).

So goes life on the cusp of rock 'n' roll superstardom.

During the past year, The Killers have evolved into stage whizzes, fusing Flowers' glitzy synth, Dave Keuning's playful guitar, Mark Stoermer's trashy bass and Ronnie Vanucci's kinetic drums into a new wave riot. And they couldn't have been in better form than they were on Sunday at Tramps. Tearing through a 10-song set that included the hip-shaking "On Top," the downcast "Smile Like You Mean It" and the infectious ode to doomed optimism "Mr. Brightside," The Killers delighted the packed house from start to finish. Particularly impressive was Flowers, who, upon realizing that the microphone at his keyboard wasn't working, grabbed the front-stage mic and played the keys with one hand. No bitching about the equipment, no rock star tantrums--Flowers jumped and wailed like all was right with the world, and as far as the crowd was concerned, it was.

In the press, The Killers have been likened to many bands--Interpol, T. Rex, the Psychedelic Furs and Duran Duran among them. At times, they've also been derided as knockoffs and been accused of riding the retro bandwagon to rock 'n' roll gold (they just signed a lucrative, multi-album deal with Island Def Jam Records). But after seeing The Killers live, this critique falls on deaf ears. If churning out tight grooves and catchy hooks is derivative, then bring on the copycats. No matter what any sulky critic might say, music doesn't have to be revolutionary to be good. If it makes you want to get up and shake your ass, it does the job just fine.

And now, on the strength of a wicked U.K. buzz and the brilliant "Mr. Brightside," The Killers look poised to become the darling of an American public bored by the Julian Casablancas garage-rock army. Hopefully, unlike Flowers' past relationships, this love affair will last.--Newt Briggs