Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
The bulls eye is already aimed at The Killers. That's about par for the course in this age of flavor of the month bands with little staying power. The Las Vegas quartet has endured some slings and arrows for the high aiming "Sam's Town," the follow-up to their extremely well-received and well-sold debut, "Hot Fuss" and its nod to glam rock.
Lead singer Brandon Flowers added a lot of fuel to the fire with comments to the press about how great the new music is.
But if there were question marks about the sagacity of going in a different direction on only a second CD (there's much more of a British influence on "Sam's Town") and a big mouth, they were quickly dismissed in concert. The concert was well put together and thought out from musical and presentation aesthetics. One got the sense that they were going to play "Sam's Town" straight through as the first three songs were from the disc, including the title track.
There was a lot going on musically with the dense swirling keyboards, sometimes synth from Flowers, very steady handed drumming from Ronnie Vannucci, his rhythm section partner, Mark Stoermer on bass and guitar from Dave Keuning. Certainly none could be accused of being spotlight hogs because of Flowers rules as front man, but The Killers is more than Flowers.
In his long sleeve dress shirt and vest, Flowers was a good front man in presenting the songs, which were often bathed in red and pink lights to good effect. In fact, like any good concert, the songs tended to come alive more on concert than on CD. Flowers et al infused the song with a good amount of energy and flow, which extended from song into the next.
And with an ode to Bono, Flowers made a number of grand gestures, including often putting sticking his arm out into the air or climbing on wooden crates, creating a more dramatic effect. With some performers, doing so could have been over the top, but Flowers fortunately didn't overstep.
But before "Sam's Town" dominated too much, The Killers trusted themselves and the audience apparently to play their huge hit, "Somebody Told Me" as only the fourth song of the night.
That did not prove to be a problem in going back to more selections from "Sam's Town." Strong readings of "Read My Mind" and "Uncle Jonny," one of a number of hopeful songs, this one about a coke addict, were interspersed with "Hot Fuss" songs. In all, The Killers played 10 of the 12 songs on "Sam's Town," but less than half of "Hot Fuss."
Too bad because at only about 75 minutes, The Killers certainly had nough material to warrant a longer show. But give them a lot of credit for demonstrating that they could e here for the long haul.
They closed with the smart "Exitlude," with Keuning and Stoermer taking vocals, singing, "It's good to have you with us/even if it's just for the day/we hope you enjoyed your stay/outside the sun is shining/it seems like heaven ain't far away/It's good to have you with us/even if it's just for the day."
The Killers were due a thank you.
On paper, The Red Romance should not have had a whole lot going for them in opening up for The Killers. That was problem number one – they opened. And unless concertgoers visited myspace, they didn't even know any Red Romance songs because they haven't released any material yet (that should come about March 2007).
But the Manhattan/Brooklyn quartet, three-quarters of whom were in Ambulance LTD acquitted themselves quite well during their half hour. Like The Killers, the focal point is on lead singer Matthew Dublin. He sings well enough, but more importantly led the charge with a lot of vigor. He made you believe he believed what he was singing about without being the least bit overwrought.
The Red Romance proved to be a good compliment to The Killers with a slew of easy to digest songs with some hooks and melodies, but enough bite as well. And by the end of their set, the growing crowd apparently agreed giving Red Romance a good, well-deserved hand amidst potentially difficult circumstances.