Birmingham, Academy 2, May 29th
London, Mean Fiddler, June 3rd

2 Brilliant singles in and with debut album, "Hot Fuss", about to drop The Killers are surfing a wave of high expectations. This will undoubtedly be the last time they're confined to the smaller of the two stages in Birmingham's hanger-like Academy, or the basement of the Astoria. On both nights they take the stage after a suitably vaudevillian intro from some hometown crooner, the Las Vegas four-piece tear straight into "Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine". As on record, the track sets the tone perfectly. The fraught vocals, funky bass, keyboard stabs and riffing, wire-tight guitar underpin the dark story of unintentional homoicide and introduce us to the dark heart that beats beneath the Killers deceptively poppy exterior.

Frontman Brandon Flowers plays the crowd, looking like the cooler, better looking brother of Howling Pelle from the Hives. Guitarist David Keuning look's suprisingly good in his oxfam-chic silver suit jacket and unruly afro, drummer Ronnie Vanucci comes over all "joe pesci" and expressionless bassist Mark Stoermer just looks like Jesus.

From the outset the crowd are shouting for "Mr Brightside", and when it arrives, suprisingly early in the set, the slamming begins in earnest. It's a great track, but the highlight for me comes a few songs later with an atomic version of "Somebody Told Me". Brandon and the rest of the band visibly relax as the opening riffs swirl around them. They know this is it, the one track that grants them access to the arenas where the big boys play.

And those arenas would be the perfect place to hear the anthem that is "Indie Rock 'n' Roll". Sounding like a more tongue in cheek (if possible) rendition of Kiss' "God Gave Rock and Roll To You" yet delivered remarkably straight faced, it's another perfect Killers moment.

And that's the thing with The Killers. Both of you know that they're not a "serious" band, their darker moments delivered as they are in such a grand theatrical way, yet there's enough substance to both the music and the lyrics to stop they being an out and out gimmick band.

No doubt many people will have been confused enough by their own reactions to Surfer Rosa, that they will automatically label them a gimmick band. Which would be a shame, because on both nights that I see them they blow me away.

Focal point is undoubtedly lead singer Mariann, a bottle-blonde dervish embodying the spirit of Blondie and Hazel O'Connor in the scaled down physique of pre-plastics Brigitte Nielson. For an apparently opera-trained singer she has an excellent rock voice, whooping and hollering throughout the set, whilst throwing herself around the stage and, at the end of the Birmingham show, into the audience.

So, I've seen The Killers twice and I've played the album to death. I'll probably consign them to the same "been there done that" pile that Franz Ferdinand currently sit atop. Surfer Rosa, on the other hand - can't wait to see them again.

Richy [ June 5th, 2004 ]

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