From the Springsteen-like bluster of 2006's Sam's Town to the fist-pumping restlessness of leader Brandon Flowers, the Killers exude arena-rock excess like no other post-punk revivalists. So it was thrilling to see them squeeze their outsized show into San Francisco's 2,250-capacity Warfield Theater for the first official stop on their world tour last Friday. The modest stage — as well as the venue itself — was packed: Strings of white Christmas lights hung on amplifiers festooned with flowers. Potted palms and cacti sat on and around the equipment, and a luminous five-foot "k" concealed the singer's keyboard. Less ambitious bands would be dwarfed by such garishness, but this Las Vegas foursome (joined by touring member Ray Suen on keyboards, guitar and violin) packed anxious anthems like "When You Were Young" with similarly spectacular splendor.
Much of the Killers' bravado rests on Flowers' shoulders, which for the opening song "Human" were covered in feathers. The singer soon removed his birdlike jacket, emphasizing a slight frame that contrasted sharply with his sweeping gestures. Aside from guitarist Dave Keuning, who stepped onto a platform for his solos and waved his curly locks like a mid-'70s Peter Frampton, the others remained stationary, and no one interacted: This was Flowers' show, and although gentle keyboard versions of "Smile Like You Mean It" and "Sam's Town" provided a welcome break from bustling arrangements that elsewhere adhered to the band's dense studio sonics, the focus rightly remained on the frontman. His eagerness to please was contagious: Flowers smiled often, and the crowd sang his words back at him without prompting. Such generosity fit the spirit of the season.
"For Reasons Unknown"
"Somebody Told Me"
"Smile Like You Mean It"
"Read My Mind"
"All These Things That I've Done"
"Jenny Was a Friend of Mine"
"When You Were Young"