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Sham’s Town

The Killers, Orpheum Theatre, October 26, 2006

10/30/2006 5:22:22 PM

MR. DARKSIDE? Mr. Brightside pushed him off stage.

A neon sign flashed “Welcome” beneath a banner that read “Sam’s Town” as a suit-and-tied Brandon Flowers led the rest of his Killers on stage at the Orpheum last Thursday night while Eastern European–tinged carnivalesque music boomed from the PA. And so began the Killers’ half-hearted attempt to redefine themselves as something more than just a trend-jumping neo-new-wave band — the “Mr. Brightside” band, as most radio listeners knew them back in the summer of 2004. Flowers’s synth lines quickly gave way to the U2-like mix of Marke Stoermer’s heavy, steady bass line, some explosive drumming courtesy of Ronnnie Vannucci, and David Keuning’s giant, ringing guitar chords. The three young girls standing in the row in front of me bopped up and down, early evidence that the more somber tone of Sam’s Town (Island) has yet to alienate the tweeny boppers who latched onto the multi-platinum Hot Fuss two years ago. “Nobody ever had a dream ’round here/But I don’t really mind that it’s starting to get to me,” Flowers intoned as “Sam’s Town” rose to a climactic finish and the cheers began — cheers high-pitched enough to suggest that there were more than a few young ones hidden among the applauding adults in the crowd. And they all sang along as Flowers sat at the cheap lounge piano and fingered the chords of Sam’s Town’s second tune, the short “Enterlude”: “We hope you enjoy your stay . . . ”

We might have if the Killers had stuck to the script of Sam’s Town and played it straight through to its “Exitlude.” They did for one more tune, “When You Were Young,” which tries to marry gritty Springsteen lyrics with Edgey guitar riffs. But then the spell shattered as the band broke into a couple of Hot Fussfavorites, “Somebody Told Me” and “Smile Like You Mean It,” before segueing back into Sam’s Town’s “Bones,” as if there were no difference between the two albums. We’d entered Sham’s Town. And it was at that point I noticed how bored Vannucci and Keuning looked, flanking the oddly stiff yet animated Flowers. You can’t have it both ways. The Killers don’t have to write off Hot Fuss. But if Sam’s Town is to be taken as a dark, thoughtful tour through the seedy backstreets of Vegas rather than just another couple of radio hits, well, Mr. Brightside is gonna have to wait until Mr. Darkside has had his say. He didn’t. And I almost didn’t either.


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