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Live review: The Killers: Postmodern pop at the Hollywood Bowl

September 17, 2009 |  5:12 pm

Lead singer Brandon Flowers takes center stage as the band performs songs from their latest album, "Day & Age."

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The Killers are connoisseurs of panicked, postmodern pop. It is a mission and an obsession for the Las Vegas quartet, with songs delivered at near-hysteria, balancing excessive cheer with melancholy, dance beats with the anxious heartbreak of singer Brandon Flowers: "She said she loved me, but she had somewhere to go . . ."

The line is from "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine" and echoes the sound and sentiment of the Cure at its most romantic and incredulous, or overlooking the ruins of another love affair. The Killers are committed to that particular '80s lineage, transforming bad news through big, driving melodies and elated dance beats.

The band's affection for that tradition was fully expressed near the end of its 90-minute set Wednesday at the Hollywood Bowl, when support act the Psychedelic Furs returned to perform the hit "Pretty in Pink" with the Killers. Flowers and Furs' singer Richard Butler were two men in black, sneering and bouncing behind their microphones to the roar of their combined bands, past and present as one.

For the pure pop of "For Reasons Unknown," Flowers picked up a bass as Dave Keuning and Mark Stoermer plucked an urgent guitar pattern. Between lyrics, the singer asked fans if they had ever fallen for someone: "Sometimes it comes so easy -- I guess as easy as an L.A. woman's hair falls across a shoulder." It was a hint of Flowers' other ongoing obsession: Bruce Springsteen-style lyrics.

The Killers' latest album, "Day & Age," is the disco record Springsteen could have made in 1982 (with an assist from Giorgio Moroder and Gary Numan), if he'd ever been inclined. Much of it rides a classic four-on-the-floor disco thump, and the track "A Dust- land Fairytale" describes "just another white trash county kiss in '61 . . . He'd look just like you'd want him to / Some kind of slick chrome American prince."

Flowers famously proclaimed that the band's previous full-length collection, 2006's "Sam's Town," be counted among the very best albums of the last 20 years. There were few takers, but the Killers' first two releases delivered radio hits, went platinum and were dependably rich with melody and excitement.

At the Bowl, Flowers called the new album's "Joy Ride" the band's "sleaziest, danciest song," with big beats and squealing saxophone. The Killers also unfurled "Day & Age's" throbbing first single, "Human," with its rousing non sequitur ("Are we human, or are we dancer?").

The frontman sat behind an organ for the mournful opening of "Bling (Confessions of a King)," then began pacing the stage as the song shifted into a driving dance beat. He strolled onto the Bowl catwalk for some "genuine human connection," as he wailed: "Higher and higher / We're gonna take it, down to the wire."

Overall, there was little interaction between the four band members onstage, though the singer dropped to one knee for a deferential moment as the group churned through a brief instrumental section of "Spaceman."

The show inevitably centered on Flowers. During the epic "All These Things That I've Done," he stamped his feet and raised his microphone stand like Excalibur, a cloud of confetti exploding around him as he chanted, "I've got soul, but I'm not a soldier!"

It was one of the night's most stirring tunes, a strange, memorable hit for this pop era.

--Steve Appleford

Photo credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

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