Whether one loves music or not, occasionally an artist comes to the forefront of public consciousness with a driving force so combative, they can not be denied. A few years back, a small band from Las Vegas unleashed an album, whether one wants to deny or not, that riveted the world of rock n' roll. As a writer, my main fault is that I "like" too much. I find it hard to throw bricks at glass houses when these performers are out there walking the walk while I'm talking the talk. A great album, in the truest sense, is determined usually months down the road and not upon one's initial listen. The question I always ask myself is whether or not I'm still listening to the album a year later. I find an immense amount of eclectic music every year that I "like", but most of it fades from my consciousness or gets lost in my iPod. However, when the Killers released "Hot Fuss" in 2004, I found myself returning to this album time and time again during 2005 and even into this year. "Hot Fuss" was an album that grew on you with every video, single and live performance. Just this year I began to appreciate certain songs like "All These Things I've Done" more deeply merely by its astonishing use in the Pierce Brosnan film, "The Matador."
"Hot Fuss", an album originally released on June 15th, 2004, is an exuberant pop-rock ditty that people latched onto like a memory from their childhood. The band's melodic hooks, soaring choruses and raging beats gave people of all ages something to scream about. The bands main obstacle with an album this good is they are in their early 20's and "Hot Fuss" was their debut. Where do they have to go from here? Nowhere but down, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Why do they have to be the best or worse band on the landscape? Make no mistake, the Killers have enormous potential to be an immense and suave arena act, however, that will come with time. In the meantime, while they may or may not be the rock saviors everyone is hoping them to be, what they are is a damn fine band that is maturing and intensifying with every album and each concert performance. In my mind, there's nothing more than you can ask of a band who has only reached their mid-twenties.
As mentioned earlier, the immense success the band has experienced is a blessing and a curse, as there are those who want to put them on a pedestal as the torch bearers keeping rock n' roll alive and those who want paint a picture of a lucky one trick pony. The band's latest release, "Sam's Town" has brought out the both sides in heated debates. My personal opinion is that it's entirely too early to give the album a proper review especially considering that "Hot Fuss" was an album that grew with every listen. I do feel "Sam's Town" is a step in the right direction for them and a solid follow up which deserves neither unabashed praise nor infamy as a sophomore slump. In support of the album, the band is taking these songs to the road. I find this to be the best way to expose people to new material. Forget late night talk shows, videos or fancy downloads, live is where music truly comes alive.
The sold-out Congress Theater lights dimmed and found the band members striding across the stage where they evaporated into stunning strobe light madness, before segueing into the album's title track. "When You Were Young", the album's first single, was endearing with a defiant performance. Despite the band's valiant efforts, the crowd proved to be challenging to the Vegas rockers. However, this hesitation would be short lived as the band ran through a pair of songs from their debut; "Somebody Told Me" and "Smile Like You Mean It". Upon hearing these familiar numbers, the crowd swelled into a delirious state as the golden harmonies encompassed the theater. During these two songs it became apparent that the band has the potential to perform in much larger halls in the very near future. However, despite my previous statement, while the Killers may be playing arenas this coming spring, it doesn't mean that their live performance is without fault. The stage on the Congress was so overfilled with equipment it made it nearly impossible for lead singer Brandon Flowers to roam the stage freely. Another obstacle for Flowers was the keyboard in front of him, which appeared to distract him. While the keyboard is essential to certain songs, I felt that it hindered his ability to reach out and bring the crowd to a state of nirvana. When they graduate to arenas, it may be beneficial for the band to hire a backing musician to handle all keyboards.
The middle portion of the show found the band showcasing a rather large amount of songs from "Sam's Town"; "Bones", "Read My Mind", and "Uncle Jonny" was performed faithfully, but they failed to capture the audience's imagination. Now, to be fair to the band, the date of this show marked the 14th day that "Sam's Town" had been in stores. "Hot Fuss" took time before its songs reeked familiarity and the band is in the beginning stages of what will most likely be a year long tour. The live experience for a rock band is proving to be even more important than records in today's marketplace. This is where they can potentially earn the bulk of their money; therefore, it's important these songs take on another life. The new material in Chicago at time stumbled upon itself, until the band performed "Bling" which surpassed its studio counterpart in every way imaginable with its riveting "higher and higher" chorus which found Flowers showing that he can be a persuasive front man who pushes the audience into a direction no one thought possible. The performance of these songs nightly will most likely lead to them taking on another life in six months time.
The evening's final act showcased why the Killers could be an earth-shattering band for their generation. The main set closer, "Mr. Brightside" took off as the opening guitar riff cued the repressed crowd into a fury. As the band returned to the stage for a four-song encore, they appeared to be more at ease a more confident in their craft. The spare ballad "My List" was deliciously sweet and a lean and direct "For Reasons Unknown" featured dueling guitars with Flowers taking over bass responsibilities. This is a prime example as to why the concert environments is a live or die one for rock bands; because of this performance, I have already discovered a gem I had overlooked on numerous listens to "Sam's Town". Make no mistake; "For Reasons Unknown" is a single waiting to dominate radio waves in the near future.
The evenings penultimate song was the tour de force moment; "All These Things I've Done". When a band has a chance to grow without the world looking on, songs like this one take on another life. Tonight the band was confident and suave in their performance as the song took on dimensions one would never envision when listening to its studio counterpart. It was epic in every way imaginable as both band and fan congealed into one. For those fair weathered fans who came to see a handful of songs, they got their money's worth on this number. The band and crowd soared to the heights I initially thought would be impossible, but once again, the Killers are a band on the move and proved to me, that despite what some odd makers are saying, should never be counted down and out for the count. I believe I will look back on this show years from now as the beginning of their story rather than the end. These guys have the good to be a great band and that does not happen over night
but they're on the path and at the end of the day, this is truly what matters.