At the Commodore Ballroom on Monday, November 15
There’s something silly but very endearing about Brandon Flowers, who is either the most earnest performer on earth or a man involved in a deeply covert inside joke. He looked like a milk-drunk toddler at the Commodore on Monday night, jiggling from foot to foot and then puffing his chest out for the choruses of “Magdalena”, or dutifully running through a bunch of stiff and hokey dance moves for “Only the Young”.
Given the man’s background as a solid family guy, staunch Mormon, and occasional drag—like when he wagged his finger at Green Day for being “anti-American” a few years ago—it’s more than likely that what you see is really what you get. Which is a hard-working dude bent on stuffing U2, Springsteen, Morrissey, Depeche Mode, and an upright love of God and country into one well-behaved, properly groomed package. What makes it so lovable is Flowers’s own mix of uncertainty and enthusiasm, meaning that he often comes off like he’s permanently auditioning for something.
He’s indicated as much in recent interviews. When the Killers decided to go on vacation, their frontman piled onward with his solo album because he thought the creative juices or the fame might dry up. So there’s still a certain hunger to what Flowers does, and it was coming across in spades at the Commodore. When he arrived back on-stage for his encore, the singer and his six-piece band slayed an already enraptured crowd with a tense and ballsy new wave–plus reworking of the Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” that was at least the equal of the original, if not better. The point being that Flowers is putting in the effort, often very visibly so.
As for the material from his iffy album Flamingo, opener “On the Floor” and “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” were both given conspicuously muted arrangements and even a tinge of country, especially in the lolloping beat of the first number. In both cases it was a revelation to hear the song rather than the production, which is one of the reasons Flamingo and all its gloss and kitchen-sink bombast can be a tiring listen.
By the same token, Flowers is seasoned enough at this point to know how to run an effective show, transitioning from the opener into a thumping and propulsive version of “Crossfire”, or bringing the relatively short set to an emotional peak with “Playing With Fire”. The latter was an epic display of huge choruses, blinding pot lights, and all-consuming washes of synth, all of it giving way to a beautiful lap-steel solo and a final, wordless pass through the chorus.
He could have broken a heart of stone with that number, although there were lots of memorable moments. Matters were escalated into heightened realms of dopey during the band’s already notorious and extremely faithful version of Kim Carnes’s “Bette Davis Eyes”, especially when Flowers actually pantomimed the lyric about throwing bread crumbs into the crowd. But the singer had an enormous smile plastered across his face while he did it, like he was actually laughing at himself a little bit, and that’s an accessory we haven’t seen on Brandon Flowers before.