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THE KILLERS - "Live At The Royal Albert Hall"   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Saturday, 26 December 2009

Can you read my mind?

It must be hard being Brandon Flowers (and the rest of The Killers, come to think of it). Because no matter how good you are, you aren't quite as good as the bands that inspired you in your suburban bedroom. You always compare yourself against them, and you always come up short. After all, when you have written the best song ever, do you stop? Knowing that whatever you do can never reach that pinnacle of achievement? Or do you simply carry on, trying and failing? Do you -in short – peak early and fade slowly into irrelevance afterwards?

Being the nearest thing to a greatest hits they yet have, “The Killers At The Royal Albert Hall” is the traditional concert DVD, aided and abetted by a slew of bonus songs and the usual flurry of interviews with roadies and fans. The band themselves, possibly through a personal inarticulacy, or perhaps a desire to create an enigma, are silent partners in this backstage footage. On the evidence here, The Killers are on the start of a long journey - the future for them could see them with the longevity of U2.. in whatever way, their place is assured.

That said, as a document, the 100 minute concert – bookended by two specially shot songs without an audience – captures an undoubtedly slick, efficient music machine, one that walks a fine line between sincerity and showbusiness : the band themselves repeat the set as if they could do it in their sleep after a year on the road, with slick transitions and practiced stagecraft – lean here, go there, walk into the crowd NOW, that type of thing. But it is not cycnical, or for that matter, dull.

But what The Killers do have, are limitations – Brandon Flowers voice is more nasal, more breathless, more harried than on record, and sounds as if he is always straining towards something he can't quite reach. Some of the songs - “Run This River Wild”, for example – are a bit pedestrian, insomuch as they lack dynamics ; that is, they start, they go on for a bit, and they stop with an unvarying rhythm. But that is the few ; most of the songs here are meaningful, and meaningless, allusions, superior pop with an edge, trying to express an abstract concept, a fraction of a moment in human consciousness, an emotion.

Aside from this, the only moment that I am unconvinced by is the numerous augmenting musicians : thinking of some lineups of Pink Floyd and Blur which have seen more than twice as many hired hands as band members themselves, which dispels the notion of the 'Gang' in favour of the business of Showbusiness.

Collected, The Killers ouevre shows that they have far more great songs than a casual bystander may recall – exemplified perhaps most obviously in “Read My Mind”, where lyrically it is clear that they are perhaps, not far removed from a indier Bon Jovi. This comparison is not as odd as you may think – the tales of the suburban man and the struggles to survive and move onto to somewhere or something new – and thus, the gulf between artifice, and the pose of knowing the rules of the artists game, and the desire for sincere communication between human beings. This desire, coupled with accessable songs, lends the Killers more than many people think – they were never glamourous indie rock n roll – but a newer, post-modern, knowing take on popular folk songs, trying to be cool, but can't really help themselves by being honest and human. Are we human, or are we dancer? Sometimes, we can be both.


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