​The Killers: Brandon Flowers and his perfect teeth will never let rock’n’roll die

Brandon Flowers and The Killers in Manchester
Brandon Flowers and The Killers in Manchester - Chris Phelps

At an early point during the first of The Killers’ four-night stand at Co-op Live, in Manchester, frontman Brandon Flowers unfurled a moment of perfect self-awareness befitting his group’s status as one of the most popular rock bands in the world. Introducing himself by name, he informed the nation’s newest, and largest, indoor arena that he would be their host for the evening. “If there’s anything I can do to help,” he said, “just let me know. After all, we’re The Killers, and we’re in the service industry.”

Any band who dares to step out onto a stage from which the drum-kit is a time-zone away from the arena’s back rows does well to understand this. For all their grandeur, this is a group who know how to project themselves to those at the back as well as to the devotees at the front. Because if you’re the kind of act who can draw a collective audience of more than 80,000 people to the newest bells-and-whistles arena in this liveliest of cities, you better have something to which the people can dance.

In this – and this is meant as a compliment – the band onstage at the Co-op Live owe as much to arena-packers Bon Jovi as they do their heroes The Smiths. The magic on Tuesday night lay in the duality of it all. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of their blockbusting performance was The Killers’ ability to combine epic entertainment with rock’n’roll cred.

Brandon Flowers led the charge. Backed by an impeccable nine-piece ensemble, dressed in a spotlight-catching two-piece suit, the roustabout-in-chief led his band through a 100-minute set in which the fallow periods – a quiet-ish Dying Breed, for example – were overwhelmed by a sense of whopping euphoria. In front of an audience comfortable in its middle age, The Killers managed to surprise the Co-op Live with selections that were far from obvious.

Dedicated to friends who had died in unknown circumstances, a particular highlight was a graceful yet pummelling A Dustland Fairytale, a somewhat deep cut from 2008’s Day & Age LP. At this point, the tension between what the performers onstage might like to play and what the audience had come to hear reached its apex. In this particular battle royale, the band won.

Brandon Flowers and The Killers in Manchester
Brandon Flowers and The Killers in Manchester - Chris Phelps

Throughout, though, the manner in which The Killers toyed with the venue’s expectations was rarely less than masterful. With Mr Brightside hanging from their neck like a diamond-encrusted albatross – with 5.57 million sales and streams, the song has spent seven years in the British charts – the group unfurled the first half of this 21st-century standard in somewhat subdued fashion, as if they were too cool not only for school but for the Northern punters who had paid handsomely for both tickets and £8.90 pints at the bar, too. With a flick from Flowers’ hip, though, the song ramped up to its highest gear. Everybody went home happy – and, just as importantly, the band onstage retained the sense that they were something other than a jukebox in human form.

And what a band it is. Behind Flowers’ perfect hair and perfect teeth stood a rhythm section – drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr and bassist Jake Blanton – and a chief guitarist  (Dave Keuning) who afforded their singer the space to tramp the boards as if he owned the joint. As the band swerved into a spirited rendition of Erasure’s 1988 hit A Little Respect, the collective clamour was enough to make one gasp. One of the litmus tests of a good arena show comes not in seeing how the folks at the front are reacting – they have the best view, they always love it – but in how it’s going down with the crowd in the worst seats. Up in the gods at the Co-op Live, people were dancing as if they were four sheets to the wind at a family wedding.

Despite a surplus of early-day hits on the night – All These Things, say, and Somebody Told Me – a vast audience of vocal Mancunians have clearly decided they like The Killers as a band, as a whole, rather than as purveyors of three or four iconic songs. Amid a state-of-the-art production of giant screens and confetti cannons, the ​Americans onstage played their part to a tee. In the harsh light of day, rock’n’roll played by boys with guitars in rooms this big might well be facing an uncertain future. Onstage at Co-op Live, though, The Killers made it seem like it will never die.


Touring the UK until July 11; thekillersmusic.com