There was a symphony playing as the Killers took the stage at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom Friday night, and the set design was Miami hotel chic: white tiger backdrop, light-up palm trees and orchids laced into amplifiers. This, of course, is the Killers in shorthand, a winning mix of kitsch and grandiosity. Friday’s concert served dual purposes, to run briskly through the group’s catalog and to offer a preview of songs from their forthcoming Day & Age. At both ends, they succeeded.
The Killers have evolved into a spectacular live band, and songs like the zooming “For Reasons Unknown” had a toughness and intensity absent from their recorded counterparts. Brandon Flowers is a weird, wired frontman, jerking his way across the stage like an electrocuted chicken. The new songs seemed a bit more tenuous. “Spaceman” and “Neon Tiger” were bright and vibrant, built on big choruses and tough grooves. But other numbers, like “Losing Touch,” felt strangely shapeless, needing more to ground it than just neon synths and glam guitars. The group was at their best when the leaned hard into the big hits. Show opener “When You Were Young” hurtled breathlessly forward and “Somebody Told Me” was a big burst of white heat.
What makes the Killers so charming — and, ultimately, so successful — is that they think they’re a more important band than they are. Their reach is always exceeding their grasp, and their bids for the Big Emotional Moment are both unabashedly naked and irresistibly ham-handed. They’re like a new wave Billy Joel. “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier,” Flowers proudly bellowed at the end of the night. On paper, the sentiment is preposterous. But played at several hundred decibels, with thousands of voices singing it back, it seemed as rich and profound as Stendahl. Or, at the very least, “New York State of Mind.”
“When You Were Young”
“For Reasons Unknown”
“Smile Like You Mean It”
“Jennie Was a Friend of Mine”
“Somebody Told Me”
“Read My Mind”
“Change Your Mind”
“All These Things That I’ve Done”