Brandon Flowers shielded his eyes with the back of his hand, like he was attempting to scan the horizon and some unforeseen luminescence was hindering his pursuits. “There’s something in the distance,” the Killers frontman sang on a jubilant “Joyride,” staring off into space. “A glorious existence. A simple celebration. A place you never been to before.”
Speaking of which, he was standing in a place no one had ever been to before.
Kicking off their latest tour in their hometown of Las Vegas on Friday night, the Killers opened the new Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel, a posh 4,000-capacity venue with a phalanx of private suites that replaces a smaller, boxier venue of the same name.
Though the setting was all glossy and spit-shined, Flowers didn’t seem to want it to stay that way. “They built this place very well, and it’s all new, but let’s blow the roof off of this son of a bitch,” he howled.
Beginning with a set-opening “Spaceman,” a dance-y track off their latest album, Day and Age, the Killers ratcheted up the torque and intensity of its hit-heavy catalog, until songs like a lean and mean “For Reasons Unknown” or the band’s brooding, hard-as-nails cover of Joy Division’s “Shadowplay” became concussive enough to headbang to. Seriously.
Much of the credit went to the band’s rock ’em, sock ’em rhythm section, whose heft becomes much more notable live. Drummer Ronnie Vannucci battered his kit with such force, it was as if it was being pelted with cannonballs, while bassist Mark Stoermer’s playing occupied a prominent place in the mix, making the songs better for it.
Flowers responded to their energy by spinning himself in tight circles across the zebra-print stage, backed by faux palm trees and cacti and a blinking wall of retina-popping LED lights.
He carried himself almost like a method actor, inhabiting the various characters who populate his lyrics, from vagabonds to lovelorn teens. He pounded his chest during a slow-simmering “Read My Mind,” clutched his mic stand by its base, wielding it like a rapier to joust the air on fan favorite “All These Things I’ve Done,” and swung his arms wildly, like a man trying to maintain his balance at the edge of a cliff, during a bone-crunching “Bling (Confessions of a King),” while guitarist Dave Keuning strangled the neck of his instrument.
Flowers spent far less time than usual hunkered down behind his glittery piano, which looked like it was carved out of a disco ball, only taking a seat for a spare version of “Sam’s Town,” which began with Flowers singing acapella before the song gradually built to a violin-laced climax.
And through it all, the crowd matched Flowers’ showy effusiveness. The main floor in front of the stage looked like a trampoline during “Mr. Brightside” as the audience pogoed along, while a sea of outstretched arms swayed along to the beat during “This Is Your Life.”
Goaded on by such an adoring response, Flowers saved his most triumphant pose for last.
As flames shot up from the back of stage and sparks rained down from the rafters during a show-ending “When You Were Young,” he stood atop the monitors, shoulders back, fist in the air, as the room began to fill with the thick scent of butane.
Still, such pyrotechnics seemed secondary to the fire that raged during these dudes’ show.
“This Is Your Life”
“Somebody Told Me”
“For Reasons Unknown”
“I Can’t Stay”
“Bling (Confessions of a King)”
“Smile Like You Mean It”
“Read My Mind”
“All These Things I’ve Done”
“Jenny Was A Friend of Mine”
“When You Were Young”