Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Decidedly Average Indie Rock’n’Roll For Me – The Killers live in Dublin

The Killers. A Britpop-obsessed quartet from Las Vegas. Such a description evokes gruesome images of a genetic mutation of Siegfried and Roy and the Gallagher brothers, but thankfully that is not the case with this foursome. Their 2004 debut album, Hot Fuss, featured on plenty “Best of 2004” music pundit lists, so it’s no surprise that there was much anticipation and hype surrounded this sold-out concert.

Support was provided by New York 5-piece Ambulance Limited, who were commanding yet inoffensive, like so many current US alt-rock acts. They trade in the type of music that’s ideal for listening to on a Sunday afternoon driving around upstate New York. Unfortunately the hyperactive student crowd didn’t take too well to this and despite the presence of an Irish drummer, many jeers were heard from the Killers-hungry audience.

After their perfunctory set, and the obligatory interval, the lights dimmed and in true Las Vegas style, Andy Williams’ much overplayed Can’t Take My Eyes Off You introduced the band. This successfully served in working the crowd up into a frenzy, and at that point Brandon Flowers and co. introduced themselves to their ravenous Dublin audience. I would have expected nothing less than for them to commence with Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine, a tune that possesses a truly vicious and riotous guitar riff introduction that sounds like downtown Baghdad at present. The stage appeared rather sparse, all four band members were located towards the right of the stage for some unknown reason and apart from some spectacular lighting, nothing else occupied the stage, bar band and instruments. Drummer Ronnie Vanucci was the Vegas-style perfomer of the four, spinning his sticks spectacularly for added Caesar’s Palace effect.

However it rapidly became apparent that lead singer Flowers was rather tired and was going through the motions somewhat. He appeared like an extrovert trapped in a shy man's body, and awkwardly stooped from side to side wearing a mostly bewildered expression when he wasn’t playing keyboards. The provision of two microphones for him suggested that he would be used to some kind of spectacular performance at front stage, but this was not to be the case tonight. Guitarist David Keuning also appeared similarly laconic, however that could have been his Jim Morrisson/Black Rebel Motorcycle Club-standard mop of hair that could have been obscuring his vision, and to give them their due, bassist Mark Stoermer, a man who Calvin Klein would clearly appreciate advertising his wares, could pull off the motionless gait of the super-cool bassist successfully.

Thankfully the excellent New-Order-cum-Duran-Duran music saw them through. All the album favourites, On Top, Mr Brightside (which currently features in an Irish commercial for a sportswear retail chain so drew an ecstatic response from attendees unfamiliar with the Killers’ work), Smile Like You Mean It, Midnight Show and Somebody Told Me were faithfully performed as per the studio originals. The edgy, sinister Andy You’re A Star signalled a quick detour from this, displaying Flowers’ controlled foghorn anglophile voice at its finest. Both classic guitar power chords, 1980s primitive electro synths and lyrics such as “We had a fight in the promenade out in the rain” are extremely evocative of classic British Indie ™ but all finished off with the sheen of Las Vegas.

If the Killers have a ‘novelty’ tune, it would be Glamorous Indie Rock and Roll, a marriage of The Smashing Pumpkins’ Today's melody and the pomp of Bohemian Rhapsody, and a tune which this reviewer would pay good money to see covered by Mud, Wizzard or T-Rex. However, live, it proved to be something of a disappointment. The rhythm of the song is too stilted to get away with live, and it was clear that all band members did not have the energy to do this song justice. Pity, really, seeing as how the song outlines the band’s manifesto. Somebody Told Me, the band's answer to previous gender-bending classics such as Girls and Boys by Blur, and an attempt at creating sexual ambiguity on Flowers' part, was also trotted out to rather mediocre effect, and at this stage the band's sound was starting to sound a little amateurish and patchy. Flowers is renowned for his edginess – a condition no doubt caused by the fact that he caught his previous girlfriend in flagrante with a friend, which inspired his hymn to poisonous jealousy, Mr Brightside – but tonight he just seemed like a man in need of eight hours sound sleep rather than an emotionally tortured lead singer who could crack at any time.

The band left the stage for the usual pre-encore break, and sure enough, sixty seconds later were back to finish off the job. However they were clearly running out of material so had to stick with B-sides to keep them going. This to me was a puzzling, yet indicative decision, as they clearly have no new material at present to try out on their fans. So don’t hold your breath for a 2005 follow-up, folks. And finally, as predicted, they ended the show with the magnificent hymn of spiritual redemption All These Things That I’ve Done. The Dublin crowd cleansed their souls to this glorious gospel ode adorned with Jesus and Mary Chain-esque guitar motifs and universally repeated the mantra “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier” again and again, until the tune climaxed in an orgy of pure, indie rock’n’roll ecstasy. However, despite all this carry-on, I could still notice that the band were over-eager to finish off the song and leave the stage – despite the fact that their set ended up being only 45 minutes long. Considering that this concert was eagerly awaited, and their Dublin fans were fervent in their passion for the band, I found this a rather lazy gesture. Being the first night of their UK and Ireland tour, it made me wonder whether this was a sign that all is not well in the Killers camp, or whether they are simply worn out from the endless promotion spin? Either way, some energy and originality is needed rapidly, and for someone to spot this in a relatively new band is a rather worrying sign. It would be a shame to see a band of such obvious musical talent peter out into a band that trades in music that merely passes muster and performs with the minimum of passion and effort. A certain Britpop act from Burnage springs to mind…..

The Killers