Brandon Flowers Takes on Hammerstein Ballroom Solo

As the frontman of the Killers, 29 year old Las Vegas Native Brandon Flowers demands attention on stage, as a solo act, he earns it. Gone are the days of pink blazers, feather shoulder pads and grand entrances. He no longer explodes onto the stage with a guitar driven chart topper but opts for beginning the show with the  mellow, country inspired “On The Floor,” the final track on his first record “Flamingo.”  He looks nervous and he has a right to be. Promoting his solo album has brought the star back to small venues and less-than-raucous crowds. But just before you’re convinced he’s traded in the bright lights of the Vegas strip for a dusty motel room on the outskirts, the band starts in with Flowers’ first single “Crossfire;” a medium tempo, rocking crowd pleaser that brings out Flowers’ inner front man. The set continues to build with “Magdalena;” an uptempo, decidedly happy sounding tune about a search for redemption which, as Flowers’ says “presents itself in the form of a pilgrimage.” Next up is a cover of the 80s hit “Bette David Eyes.” Given the Flowers treatment the song takes on new life; still keeping its classic retro feel but with an added element of coolness that is somewhat lacking when you’ve just placed it on your Guilty Pleasures playlist on iTunes. Originally sung but Kim Carnes, the song seems much more suited for Flowers’ voice and small lyrics changes and adlibs like “me and the boys, we think she’s a spy” offer the twist of a male perspective.

Keeping the momentum of the set going Flowers and company dive into the fan favorite “Jilted Lovers and Broken Hearts.” While the song title sounds like a bad lifetime movie, “Jilted Lovers” has the most potential as a radio hit and most closely resembles the Killers’ hard hitting style both musically and in Flowers’ aggressive performance. Tiring himself and the audience out, the set slows down with a stripped down version of Flamingo’s opening track “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas.” Though Flowers openly admits his admiration for Bruce Springsteen, he has been hesitant to welcome any musical comparisons. His introduction, however, is Springsteen all the way; conjuring up old images of his childhood in Henderson, Nevada as a guitar slowly plucks along the background. The song too, about the gritty reality behind the bright lights gambling capital, seems more honest and poignant without the bravado of guitars, highlighting the emotional lyrics.

The set livens up for the light hearted “Was It Something I Said?” a fast paced pop tune about lost love before then slowing down once again for Flowers’ only true love song “Hard Enough;” written for his wife of five years. Now that Flowers has had a chance to catch his breath, he seems ready to thrill the crowd as the set winds down. He smiles saying “I know you need your fix,” before diving into a reworked version of the Killers “Losing Touch;” a song from their third record Day and Age. Aside from the lyrics, (which are shouted back to him by an enthusiastic crowd) the song is almost completely unrecognizable; driven by a dark guitar riff and stripped of its guttural sax. The new version is unexpected but seems fitting and respectful of his band mates as Flowers performing a full-fledged Killers song sans Killers would do little than to fuel further speculations of a breakup.

Flowers lightens the mood with the quirky “Swallow It” before ending the set with the moody “Playing with Fire;” a slow building rock tune, chock full of religious references. Aside from a somewhat self indulgent, sleepy intro, the song is one of the stronger off of  “Flamingo” and takes on new life during the live set, driven by Flowers’ intense performance and a prolonged ending which feels more appropriate than the somewhat abrupt one given to the recorded track. Flowers waves and leaves the stage but the audience isn’t buying it, it’s time for an encore.

With a miniature keyboard in hand, Flowers returns to the stage saying “you’ve been very, very good to me and you make me feel like I belong up here and I appreciate it.” Just then Flowers’ proves exactly why he deserves to be up there, sending the crowd into near hysteria with a small excerpt from the Killers “Read My Mind;” a hit off of their second record “Sam’s Town” and an undeniable fan favorite. The song makes for a smooth and poignant transition into the electronic and emotional “Only the Young.”

Flowers shocks the crowd with his final number, bringing out the biggest gun from his arsenal of hits – Mr. Brightside. Never forgetting his absentee band members, Flowers opted for the Jacque Lu Cont (AKA Thin White Duke) remix rather than the more recognizable chart topping original. Though this version more closely resembles backing music on tracks that might be recorded by “The Pet Shop Boys” at this point it hardly matters – Flowers has the crowd in the palm of his hand. With the help of the Killers biggest hit, Flowers even had scalpers outside the theater dancing. With a smile on his face, Flowers leaves the stage satisfied; knowing he just wowed a crowd at a Killers caliber venue.

Though the glitz and glamour may be reserved for the Killers, Flowers brings more honesty to the stage as a solo act. With stripped down tracks and childhood anecdotes, the crowd gets a glimpse of the man behind the band; a surprisingly humble desert dweller from Henderson. Flexing his performer muscles, Flowers’ foray into solo work should make for one hell of a fourth Killers album and an even more electrifying shows.

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