The Killers review – Brandon Flowers thrills intimate venue with Vegas showman swagger

O2 Academy, Sheffield
The sound system at this rare small gig struggles to handle the Killers’ bombast, but it hardly matters with a crowd of millennial super fans primed to roar back the hits

Were a trend expert to examine the fortnight’s big gig listings, they might be forgiven for assuming that we’re in the midst of a 2002 revival. My Chemical Romance are back and playing vast outdoor gigs, David Gray is doing White Ladder in full, and the Killers are warming up for a stadium run with this relatively intimate Sheffield show. Music has changed so much since we first met, but when you’ve got a pocketful of hits and a roomful of nostalgic millennials clamouring to hear them, what’s a few years between friends?

The Killers’ touring lineup has been tweaked significantly over the years, but singer Brandon Flowers is still the consummate Vegas showman. Leg almost permanently cocked on a speaker, he punches the air and points his fingers with the pomp of an Elvis impersonator, conducting the masses. “Sing me a lullaby!”, he roars playfully on When You Were Young as it hurtles headlong into its formidable guitar solo.

It’s a bold opener, but as the show continues, his megawatt grin is not the only thing that the venue’s low ceiling is struggling to contain. Rarely hosting a band of this bombast, the PA groans, coating the slower album cuts in a heavy sludge. Luckily, we’re rarely more than three songs away from a slice of heaven from debut Hot Fuss. The life that Mr Brightside has taken on in the UK is the stuff of lore, and when it drops mid-set, the bellowed chants that greet it quickly overwhelms any criticism of the speaker system. In such a clammy room, it’s almost punishing to immediately follow it with Somebody Told Me, but it’s an indulgent thrill that this audience of superfans earns.

We’re rarely more than three songs away from a slice of heaven

Before a touching rendition of A Dustland Fairytale, Flowers praises the UK as their “spiritual home … I hope you can hear that we’re genuine when we talk about how much we love it here”. It is a sentiment repeated by drummer Ronnie Vannucci at the show’s end, climbing down from his kit to humbly thank us for supporting something that to them has always been “far more than a job”. Tonight’s cage might not have been as grand as the Killers are used to, but with 20 years of practice and the crowd on their side, they’re still coming out of it with style.

• The Killers are at Eco-Power Stadium, Doncaster, on 24 May, then tour the UK until 11 June.