ATLANTIC CITY - When it comes to rock music of the last decade, The Killers stand out as one of the premier bands, not just in popularity but in the ability to evolve their unique style, raw talent and amazing live shows into a long-lasting career that few other rock bands of the same era have the potential to do.
A good deal of that longevity can be credited to its lead singer, Brandon Flowers, an engaging, talented, insatiable, glitzy frontman with a distinct, instantly recognizable voice who takes great pride in paying homage to his '70s and '80s influences. He combines the glitz of David Bowie and Freddie Mercury with the songwriting chops of more heartfelt rockers such as Bruce Springsteen to offer a musical package that is eclectic, rocking and, most importantly, entertaining.
All of that was on display Friday night inside Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa's sold-out Event Center, where more than 3,500 fans fist-pumped, danced and sang along to The Killers' greatest hits, some lesser-known gems and tracks from their latest effort, 2012's "Battle Born."
Backed by his talented three-piece fellow Killers - guitarist David Keuning, bassist Mark Stoermer and drummer Ronnie Vannucci - Flowers was in fine form, certainly feeling kind of at home in the East Coast gaming capitol since his band hails from Las Vegas, even quoting the Atlantic City Alliance's DO AC campaign.
Best known for their early revivalist dance-rock hits that helped build a foundation for later bands such as Franz Ferdinand, the fun of The Killers is how well they mix genres, whether by inserting some synth-pop via Flowers' keyboards or post-punk revival similar to Interpol and The Strokes.
However, no matter how strong the band's limited, but stellar four-album catalog is, they never repeated the success of their 2004 debut, "Hot Fuss," which produced the smash singles "Somebody Told Me," "Mr. Brightside," "Smile Like You Mean It" and "All These Things That I've Done," which were not only worldwide hits but proved to America that arena rock was alive and well.
While chasing the popularity of that first album is a difficult task, it has never slowed down the Grammy-nominated band from being who they want to be, whether delivering the more down-to-earth rock of 2006's "Sam Town," or the more reckless "Day & Age" from 2008. That, perhaps, is why the band is so great.
The quartet, joined by a multiple-instrumentalist, wasted no time getting the crowd pumped up, starting the night off with their biggest hit, "Mr. Brightside," as Flowers, wearing a short black leather jacket, bounced around the stage like the consummate lead singer.
After offering a spirited, danceable version of their hit "Spaceman," they offered a glimpse of "Battle Born," the unimpressive, mellow "The Way It Was." But they won the crowd right back with the synthesizer-heavy hit "Smile Like You Mean It."
And that's the way the whole night went. If you didn't know a song or didn't like one, there was a better tune right around the corner.
Even though The Killers seemingly played all of their hits, including the clubby "Human"; "Somebody Told Me," which was played in the middle of the set and was certainly one of the night's most energetic and best moments; the crowd-pleaser "Read My Mind"; the set closer "All These Things That I've Done" featured lightning confetti cannons and was the night's finest moment; the encore and Duran Duran-like "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine," and the finale "When You Were Young," a fitting, bombastic closer, they were far from the only highlights.
"The River is Wild" from "Sam's Town" showed the band's more straight-ahead rock ability; "For Reasons Unknown" had the crowd jumping and should have been a chart-topper; "Dustland FairyTale," a great album track, proved even more epic live; and "Change Your Mind" offered a melodic, great encore.
Friday's show proved "Battle Born" is certainly not only a great album but one that translates live in rocking fashion. "From Here On Out" had the crowd clapping and singing along to its old-school rock approach; and "Runaways" is an instant arena anthem.
Plus there were some cool surprises, particularly fun covers of Joy Division's "Shadowplay" complete with amped-up laser lights and some killer bass work by Stoermer; and a quirky nod to Tommy James and the Shondells, offering a far better version of "I Think We're Alone Now" than Tiffany's, obviously.
The interesting thing about The Killers is how Flowers really takes control while the rest of the band seems perfectly content with being the great supporting players they are. While Flowers offers nonstop action, like the best frontmen in rock should be, the rest of the band is far from flashy. There are no big guitar solos or any displays of aggressive showmanship at all, except for an underwhelming drum solo by Vannucci. Flowers is the main attraction. And he is fun to watch.
Although The Killers, for whatever reason, scaled back the reported pyrotechnics and craziness of previous shows on tour, they proved Friday night they don't need all of that. With one of the best singers in rock and a catalog of ... ummm .., killer songs, The Killers can never come to Atlantic City enough. And all they need is their music and fans to make it one special summer night.
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