I'd heard the distinctive single about a girlfriend that looked like a boyfriend and recognised the choruses to maybe a couple of other singles. My wife had the album and I recognised the sleeve. That was pretty much the extent of my knowledge of The Killers before today's gig. Thoughtfully, this was a matinee performance meaning the band were scheduled to appear on stage around 3pm. They did so around 3.20pm and played for just about one hour. Given that they've only had one album out I guess they simply couldn't play much longer than they did (and the set already included a track that didn't make it onto their debut).
[I would not have normally considered attending a Killers gig, but this was part of a mutually beneficial exchange programme with my wife, in which she buys the tickets for gigs I'm not particularly desperate to attend, and vice versa. Of course, if something is entirely outside my (or my wife's) generously open mind then it simply gets turned down.]
With their name spelt out behind them in hundreds of small white lightbulbs, KISS style, the young American four piece took to the stage looking much like an English university band - the sense of which came largely from their youthful appearance and attire comprising largely of jeans, T-shirts and suit jackets and (for half of them at least) some unruly hair. In contrast, the lead singer had tight-fitting black trousers and a bright red lounge jacket. This perfectly matched the silver glitter which adorned his synth stand. And it was the centre front stage positioning of his two synths that pointed to what it is about The Killers that sets them apart from many of their contemporaries (who would tend to hide such technology in favour of upfront guitars).
I'm probably just showing my age and bias, but I could hear all sorts of direct influences from 80s UK chart acts. Everything from Simple Minds, to Talk Talk and even New Years Day era U2 could clearly be heard throughout much of the set. But this echoing of influences (conscious or otherwise) merely added to the already potent formula that the band have, via very much their own talent, already assembled. This is characterised by unpredictable song structures (in spite of infectious hooky choruses), mood-setting synth-only intros and jabbing guitars. The distinctive edge that The Killers employ so well is the same that set early Simple Minds and Talk Talk in the 80s from their rock-oriented rivals at the time. That twist is how they manage to so effectively use synths so that they are simultaneously indispensable and essential to their sound, and yet rarely lead any of their compositions.
Even though the event seemed over in a flash (we didn't bother to arrive in time to see the support act) it was an impressive rush. The lead singer lacks the distinctive qualities of, say, his counterpart from Franz Ferdinand, and is still decidedly unremarkable, but his vocals are perfectly suited to the songs. The young demographic of the audience meant that the initial screams did make me feel uncomfortably old. As if I'd walked into a boyband concert in error. But the rapturous support was well deserved and one can already see The Killers twenty years from now effortlessly touring the global festival circuit. But, hey, lets give these kids a chance to breathe. They've only just released their first album. If they can manage to hold the group together through the trials and tribulations of the indie rock 'n' roll world then who knows where these guys could end up?