The Killers Bring Slick Vegas Bombast To Wolstein Center

Shimmering synthesizers, chiming guitars, massive drums, and Springsteen-esque melodies? Yes, please.

click to enlarge The Killers at The Wolstein Center: confetti, lasers, pyrotechnics and enough singalongs to leave the capacity crowd hoarse. - Eric Heisig
Eric Heisig
The Killers at The Wolstein Center: confetti, lasers, pyrotechnics and enough singalongs to leave the capacity crowd hoarse.

Early in its set Friday at the Wolstein Center, The Killers’ Brandon Flowers said something of which nobody wanted to be reminded: “this is a superspreader event.”

Thankfully, the frontman/keyboardist of the Las Vegas band was just joking and using it to galvanize the crowd in the most melodramatic way he could muster.

“We’re spreading peace, we’re spreading love and, something you know about here in Cleveland, we’re spreading rock and roll,” he said.

Uh, thank you. Try the veal.

What followed was a night of shimmering synthesizers, chiming guitars, massive drums, Flowers’ baritone and Springsteen-esque melodies. For anyone looking for ear candy gussied up in a shiny wrapper, the show was for them.

There was confetti, lasers, pyrotechnics and enough singalongs to hit songs to leave the capacity crowd hoarse. The Killers are one of the few rock bands to emerge over the past 20 years that can fill arenas, a badge they wear proudly.

After all, the band is from Vegas. Why not inject as many explosions as possible?

Still, the set was a strong overview of The Killer’s entire catalog. Leaning heavily on its debut “Hot Fuss” and perplexingly playing nothing from its newest album, last year’s “Pressure Machine,” run throughs of “Somebody Told Me,” “When You Were Young” and “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” show that their music has aged well.

The band knows its lane — ’80s new wave-influenced alternative rock with soaring choruses — and are loath to deviate from it. However, when they did add a few stylistic detours, like the Kraftwerk-ian introduction to "Human" or the funky encore opener “The Man,” the results were quite entertaining.

All this with two men down. Only two original members remained: Flowers and drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr., with seven ringers filling out the sound. And with Vannucci on the skins, this was firmly the frontman’s show.

Nattily dressed in black slacks, a dark blue blazer and a striped shirt he likely sweated through by the third song, Flowers glided across the stage with arms outstretched. Less like a traditional frontman, his presence was more like a motivational speaker or a Vegas magician, ready to dramatically pull back the curtain and reveal that he had transported the whole audience to the Egyptian desert, right in front of the pyramids.

But none of this would have worked if Flowers, now in his third decade fronting the band, did not have the magnetism to pull it off. He does. He is one of the few frontmen who can make a room of 10,000-plus people feel like a club.

And boy did he lean into the cheesiness. He took a knee during the last line of “Read My Mind,” put his hands up like he was testifying during “All The Things That I’ve Done” and, acting like a good theater kid, rarely turned his back to the audience.

The 100-minute show closed with a cover of The Smiths’ “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby” with opener/former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr and a laser-filled “Mr. Brightside.” After that, Flowers reminded the crowd that the band was from Las Vegas “and don’t you forget it.”

After the bombastic, hammy show that preceded, we won’t.

Marr’s own set was an entertaining mix of Smiths classics and solo material. While the real highlight was to see such an underrated guitarist display what made him influential to bands like The Killers, it turns out he did a pretty good Morrissey impression when he took the mic on “Panic” and “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.”

Setlist (courtesy of setlist.fm and a reporter’s recollection):
1. My Own Soul's Warning
2. Enterlude
3. When You Were Young
4. Jenny Was a Friend of Mine
5. Smile Like You Mean It
6. Shot at the Night
7. Running Towards a Place
8. Human
9. Spaceman
10. Somebody Told Me
11. boy
12. A Dustland Fairytale
13. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger cover)
14. Runaways
15. Read My Mind
16. Dying Breed
17. Caution (with “Rut” Intro)
18. All These Things That I've Done
Encore:
19. The Man
20. You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby (The Smiths cover, with Johnny Marr)
21. Mr. Brightside (with Johnny Marr)

Eric Heisig is a freelance writer in Cleveland. He can be reached at [email protected]

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