Brandon Flowers Proves Star Power at Mr. Smalls

By Rosenberg, Gabe | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), July 28, 2015 | Go to article overview

Brandon Flowers Proves Star Power at Mr. Smalls


Rosenberg, Gabe, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


It was sweltering enough in Mr. Smalls on Tuesday night to make Brandon Flowers feel at home. He's from Las Vegas, of course, and in his golden suit jacket he appeared radiant as any showman from the Strip.

Confident, too. Flowers the solo act, as he is currently touring, has never seen quite the same critical or chart success as his mainstage group The Killers, but his live show ascended to a full display of his star power. As witness, a dynamic backing band and a sold-out, if sweating, crowd.

Saxophone and trumpet announced his arrival to the stage with the Springsteen-ripped fanfare that kicks off "Dreams Come True," the opener to his 2015 album "The Desired Effect." Flowers is a man of drama, and he emotes incredibly on stage, performing his words as he sings them. That's why "I Can Change," an outwardly romantic tune with a tinge of unease ("When you're out of luck / I'll be what you're looking for / Even if it's not who I am"), works so well; there's something else happening beneath the outward appearance, which would be lost without delivery. Flowers' voice can fill an arena, and he enunciates his often-silly, always-grandiose lyrics to perfection, but the two backup singers didn't hurt. His songwriting often uses call-and-response setups as a source of tension, changing moods on a dime.

Though Flowers played a mix of material, including his 2010 solo debut "Flamingo," the new songs were stronger in every way -- whereas that album flattens Flowers' palette into paint-Las-Vegas- by-numbers schmaltz. Listening back to The Killers' 2004 debut ?Hot Fuss' -- still their best album by a mile, and one of the best works of the decade -- there's a sinister edge, growing from the shadows of Sin City instead of, say, Caesar's Palace. Glam rock is two sides of a flipped coin, so easy to come up on the wrong side of theatrical.

Few of those shortcomings showed up live. His faithful cover of Spoon's "The Underdog" put to full use his two brass players, while the acoustic "The Way It's Always Been," which closes out "The Desired Effect," ramped up excitedly to gospel climax. …

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