May 25, 2015

Killers' frontman Brandon Flowers tops British albums chart

Brixton Academy, London

The Killers frontman delivers a buzzy rock’n’synth solo show – rounded off by a duet with Chrissie Hynde – but he can’t shake his nice-guy humility.

“Tickets for the Killers, anyone?” offers a tout outside Brixton Academy. Brandon Flowers may have just released his second solo album, but to non-aficionados he is still interchangeable with his band, whose last London show was at the roomier Wembley stadium. And that is Flowers’ one real impediment tonight: when on stage with the Killers, he’s one-quarter of a highly proficient hits assembly line that equals far more than the sum of its Stepfordian parts. But when he is the whole show, his lack of starry wiles tells. With or without the gold lame Elvis jacket, he’s got no game.

In fairness, Flowers and his sparkling band – complete with rip-roaringly fabulous backing singers – create a compact, buzzy rock’n’synth show. It’s cannily sequenced, ensuring that, while his new album, The Desired Effect, comprises much of the set, a Killers hit is never too far away. Mr Brightside and Jenny Was a Friend of Mine are shaken up with fresh arrangements: Jenny’s new-wave angularity gets the loverman treatment, with cocktail-lounge lighting and Flowers crooning at the mic stand, while Brightside is swirlingly dense, and slow enough to reveal how well his cut-up tenor serves its infidelity narrative.

His solo songs, lyric-heavy and loud, are where a Bono-esque messiah complex would be welcome. One thing Flowers can’t seem to shake is his nice-guy humility, which frequently comes across as detachment. He has mastered the craft of leaping on to monitors and jabbing fingers at pertinent moments, but the gospelish fervour of Can’t Deny My Love and Lonely Town’s Springsteen-goes-disco tumult would be far better conveyed by a singer with more rockstar in their DNA. The point is made when he is joined by Chrissie Hynde at the end. Duetting on the Pretenders’ Don’t Get Me Wrong and Flowers’ Between Me and You, they’re a joy to hear, but massively unbalanced – the unquenchable charisma of one completely eclipsing the mildness of the other.

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