Brandon Flowers, The Killers consummate frontman, brings his band's brand of stadium rock to Emirates Palace tonight.
Get set for a Killer
"I am a touring machine," said Brandon Flowers, the lead singer with the world's leading indie rock arena act The Killers. Music critics seem to agree. The band's live show was recently described by The Times as "a stylish and thunderous display that reinforced The Killers' credentials as serious contenders in the heavyweight division". Today, Abu Dhabi rock fans at Emirates Palace will see for themselves why the band headlined the Reading and Leeds Festivals last year and count David Bowie and Sir Paul McCartney among their fans.
The Killers - Brandon Flowers on vocals and synths, Dave Keuning on guitar, Mark Stoermer on bass and Ronnie Vannucci on drums - have been in almost continuous performance mode since the release of their three and a half-million-selling debut CD, Hot Fuss, in 2004. But while plenty of US bands can lay claim to be grizzled roadhogs, the Las Vegas foursome have a repertoire of songs that makes their glittery, impassioned shows unmissable.
When We Were Young, Somebody Told Me and Read My Mind leave the listener "unsure whether to lead the charge to the dance floor or to burst into tears", said The Guardian. The band's mix of arena-indie guitars and Eighties synth pop is "velvet-jacket synthesizer rock that has a crush on David Bowie and Duran Duran but adds bold, beautiful American dumbness", said the US music magazine Blender. At the heart of The Killers' story is the Morrissey-goes-to-Vegas appeal of the singer and chief songwriter Flowers, one of the most compelling frontmen in rock.
This handsome 28-year-old grew up in the suburban Nevada town of Henderson. As a child the desert was his backyard, because his parents were too poor to build a fence. Flowers became so attached to Las Vegas that he quit his first band, Blush Response, rather than leave his hometown and move to Los Angeles with the rest of the band. This sense of space informs The Killers' music: big choruses, bigger emotions.
Observers have noted that, as a frontman, Flowers' personality appears to be split between two warring factions. On the one side is the braggart - a hit writer confident in his talent and dismissive of his competitors. Like a Western Liam Gallagher (a singer he admires), he has attacked Fall Out Boy and Panic! At the Disco, accusing them of trying to ride his band's coat tails. He once described The Killers' 2006 sophomore album, Sam's Town, as one of the greatest records ever made. He told me that it would "sell more than any other rock band in the next couple of years". It didn't. On the other side is a hunched, introspective rock seer who regularly attends church and frets about where his country is headed. Backstage at the Red Rocks venue, a natural amphitheatre in the hills above Denver, he told me he thought American culture was going in the wrong direction.
"People aren't getting raised the way I was raised," he said. "Paris Hilton and reality TV - people are losing their morals." Unlike some stars, he manages to live by his standards. You will rarely find Flowers in the pages of celebrity magazines or mentioned on gossip websites. When The Killers first hit the big time in 2005, Flowers quietly married Tana Mundkowsky, a pixieish former Urban Outfitters store manager who had met Flowers in a thrift shop five years earlier. Like Flowers, she is Mormon and the couple have a young son.
Inspired by his hero, Bruce Springsteen, Flowers says that he identifies with the struggle of ordinary people and, whatever his misgivings about his country, remains fiercely patriotic. "It makes me upset when people say they want to leave America," he said. "I don't. I am not ever gonna leave. I am going to live there and die there and I am not ashamed of that. People should still be proud of America. It's still a wonderful, beautiful place and the people are wonderful."
But Flowers admits he has sometimes found it hard to get these sentiments across in his songs. "I think the second Arcade Fire album [Neon Bible] said everything I wanted to say with greater ease," he said modestly. "They said everything." But, with a bolshy confidence never far from the surface, he was not frightened to say where his strengths lie. "I can write a pop song," he said. "I can write a hit."
See the proof of this tonight.