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Brandon Flowers Delivers High Drama at Solo Club Gig

Killers front man throws himself into material new and old - plus a "Bette Davis Eyes" cover

August 18, 2010 12:41 PM ET

Near the end of Brandon Flowers’ 45-minute set last night at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, the Killers front man had something of a Win Butler moment: standing atop a monitor at the lip of the stage, sweat glistening on his furrowed brow, leading the capacity crowd in a wordless refrain of whoa-whoa-whoas, Flowers took on the heroic posture of the Arcade Fire singer. The chorus belonged to "Playing with Fire," the closing track from Flowers’ upcoming solo debut, Flamingo, which hits stores September 14. But hardly anybody at the Troubadour knew the song before Flowers began playing it; this was audience participation of the old-fashioned kind.

You can hear Flowers' desire to make epic, Arcade Fire-style rock throughout Flamingo: Produced by Stuart Price, Daniel Lanois and Brendan O’Brien, the 10-track set is full of metaphors about open roads and dark clouds and church bells ringing in his head. He recently said in an interview that the album concerns themes he felt he was too young to tackle in the past. Yet as the Killers' three studio discs have demonstrated, Flowers also possesses a deeply, and wonderfully, cheesy streak, and last night he was most convincing during his Jon Bon Jovi moments: down on one knee, black vest wrapped tightly around his chest, singing about keeping secrets on your pillow. He did an awesome cover of "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes.

Before he played that one, Flowers said, "If you don’t like this song, there’s something wrong with you." The same might be said for "Crossfire," Flamingo’s high-energy lead single, in which he invites some lucky lady to lay her body down over a galloping disco-gospel groove. Backed by a six-piece band that included two female backup singers, Flowers maintained the tune's arena-pop dimensions in the tiny venue; the same went for "Losing Touch," the only Killers song he played, and "Hard Enough," which featured one of several Fleetwood Mac-worthy solos from Flowers’ guitarist. Win Butler probably would’ve cringed.

Set list:
"On the Floor"
"Crossfire"
"Magdalena"
"Bette Davis Eyes"
"Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts"
"Was It Something I Said?"
"Hard Enough"
"Losing Touch"
"Swallow It"
"Playing with Fire"

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Song Stories

“Vicious”

Lou Reed | 1972

Opening Lou Reed's 1972 solo album, the hard-riffing "Vicious" actually traces its origin back to Reed's days with the Velvet Underground. Picking up bits and pieces of songs from the people and places around him, and filing his notes for later use, Reed said it was Andy Warhol who provided fuel for the song. "He said, 'Why don't you write a song called 'Vicious,'" Reed told Rolling Stone in 1989. "And I said, 'What kind of vicious?' 'Oh, you know, vicious like I hit you with a flower.' And I wrote it down literally."

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