Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Brandon Flowers: Man of Style

We’re huddled inside the dark recesses of Pure night club where Brandon Flowers is scurrying between a microphone at the front of the stage and a keyboard off to the side, decked out in a white dinner jacket and white pants – even though it’s January.

This was the first time I saw the Killers, in their hometown of Las Vegas. It was seemingly fitting, with the white jacket and long black tie Flowers looked like a Vegas waiter who’d decided to front a band – and in some ways, that’s exactly what happened. When the band first came together, Flowers was working in Vegas casinos, before answering an ad placed by guitarist David Keuning in 2002.

Now, clad in a three-piece outfit – complete with a grey vest and turquoise bow-tie – Flowers is channeling the old west. Endorsing the new album, “Sam’s Town,” the Killers were wearing boots and vests, and sporting mustaches at the Warfield in San Francisco last night.

While Flowers still looks slick and not the least bit underdressed, he’s not rocking the dark androgyny or subtle eyeliner he sported while on tour with “Hot Fuss.” Perhaps this is more telling than it first appears – as “Sam’s Town” is also not nearly as slick or subtly dark as “Hot Fuss.”

A dense mixture of lyrics and shaded landscape wrapped in pop surroundings, “Hot Fuss” is a very complete album – the words are complicated, but when set to music, they seem to make sense. (I may not understand “All these things that I have done” – but it’s beautiful.)

By comparison, “Sam’s Town” is a bit bland – and in concert this shows. Perhaps the crowd is not as pumped to hear the band’s new stuff simply because they aren’t familiar with it yet – but it seems that the band itself is not as excited to play their new songs.

“Sam’s Town” is supposed to be a throwback to the early days of Vegas – the title being the name of a casino popular there during the 1970s. But instead of giving us stories about the underbelly of the real Las Vegas – that might have produced a dark and lonely album mixed with pop rage – we get a mix of forgettable and seemingly muddled tracks. The lyrics aren’t as dense or complicated as those on “Hot Fuss” – and it’s hard to listen to the album as a whole.

While the Killers delivered a high-energy Warfield show, blending old and new tracks and getting the crowd behind them early on by playing “Somebody told me” (after playing the new album’s first three songs right in a row) – they’ll have to work hard to get true “Hot Fuss” fans on-board with “Sam’s Town.”

In short, I would like to issue a small appeal to Mr. Flowers: Ditch the cowboy boots and bring back the dinner jacket.

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