No one could’ve known Brandon Flowers was built for this kind of success when he first debuted in 2004 as merely an extraordinarily catchy frontman of a band that fit just slightly with the then-retro-rock revival.
But 14 years later, he’s unfazed by steakheads scream-spelling E-A-G-L-E-S after the playoffs next door when he launches pink confetti cannons into the crowd to introduce a macho spoof called “The Man.” Those same jersey-clad beer spillers sang along to every word of “Somebody Told Me” immediately after, the Killers’ gender-bending debut hit that turns into a straight-up house track on the chorus.
So call him a uniter maybe, someone who can get away with meaty, Wells Fargo-filling rock anthems that flirt with queer signifiers; someone who covers Joy Division’s “Shadowplay” and Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet” in the same evening as he did. He’s the only alt-rocker I’ve ever seen to don a sparkling gold suit.
As you’d imagine from the above, Flowers’ showmanship is of a caliber largely before his time. We’re talking Springsteen meets Duran Duran with a splash of the phantom “oh oh ohs” from “Sweet Caroline.” As much as Flowers admires Bowie, it’s the Neil Diamond in him that makes a song like “Spaceman” resonate through the Wells Fargo with those “oh oh ohs,” or allows him to lay claim to one of the catchiest bridges of all-time with the “I’ve got soul but I’m not a solider” chant from “All These Things That I’ve Done,” which closed the set proper on Saturday. (Though the juxtaposition of red, white, and blue confetti kind of contradicted the song’s solider stance, and most avowedly anti-Trump artists aren’t utilizing those colors these days.)
The Killers are also possibly the last great hits-and-filler band, so you don’t need to be a fan of Day & Age or last year’s Wonderful Wonderful to enjoy their live extravaganza’s distillation of the essentials, though the latter’s jaunty-bluesy “Personal Jesus” homage “The Calling” made for a far more striking encore than you’d think from the recording, and occasionally one of the silliest album tracks, like “This River Is Wild” from 2006’s oft-maligned camp-classic Sam’s Town, dreams itself into a full-on E Street tsunami onstage.
The band’s big-screen visuals interpreting Flowers’ most nonsensical lyrics made them even funnier; “Are we human or are we dancer?” was paired with vital-sign monitors and CGI human hearts.
Like any world-class singles band, their biggest hits trick you into believing they know their strengths: the superb “Read My Mind,” now enhanced by three backup singers who stood behind podiums marked with a neon female symbol (Flowers himself spent much of the night swaggering from behind an outlandish-sized neon male one), and the knockout finale of the Springsteen pastiche “When You Were Young” and the dejected cuckold-voyeur anthem “Mr. Brightside.”
The latter two turned the arena into the world’s largest karaoke bar for sloshed, jubilant Eagles fans, which didn’t go unnoticed by the frontman, who paused briefly to lavish praise upon Randall Cunningham. It takes a gifted entertainer to flip those boys from human to dancer, even for just an hour and change. Maybe he really is the man.