Gig review: The Killers, Leeds First Direct Arena

PIC: Rob Loud / @robloud
PIC: Rob Loud / @robloud
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Five massive albums into a career, most major acts start to buckle under the weight of legacy, crumbling under the pressure to replicate.

Not so with The Killers; Nevada’s undisputed kings of stadium spectacle remain a top-drawer critical and commercial powerhouse. Latest effort Wonderful

Wonderful is their most acclaimed outing yet, a chart-topper on both sides of the Atlantic; their stop-off at Leeds’s First Direct Arena comes in the middle of a massive European trek, all shows first-day sell-outs.

To refer to them as The Killers is a conundrum though; only singer Brandon Flowers and bear-like drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr are present from their studio incarnation. But their blindingly earnest frontman is packed with such megawatt charisma, their absence is relatively by-the-by. Flowers understands the concept of rock writ large perhaps better than any of his contemporaries; flanked by a consummate band and an old water tower towering looming right of stage, he delivers near two-dozen songs with a buffed-up brilliance and brio.

And what songs they are. Wonderful Wonderful plunges deep into The Killers’ musical psyche on epic, sonic scales. Its title cut and show opener is a gothic monstrosity, turning sweeping ambience into rumbling bombast – with follow-up The Man’s glammed-up camp-funk strut as ridiculous as it is glorious. Flowers and Vannucci’s hilt-deep committal to their new material gives it an endearingly muscular heart; they slink around the sleaze-sermon of The Calling to insidious effect, and are visibly thrilled during the driving Run for Cover, a track recalling their Springsteenian skill for tempering fatalistic desperation – here, domestic abuse – to euphoric, glossy soundscapes.

They stack up impressively next to the hits, virtually all of which are dispatched with the punchy aesthetic of a glitterball cannon-blast. New wave hip-swivelers like Smile Like You Mean It and Human remain luminescent pop concoctions whilst Runaways and When You Were Young are heartland-rock- on-sleeve anthems worthy of their cinematic grandstanding. Somebody Told Me’s surging, scuzzy dance-punk threatens to trigger a minor earthquake of moshing – as does their homage to the Leeds music scene with a boisterous cover of I Predict a Riot featuring former Kaiser Chiefs man Nick Hodgson. Flowers has often spoken of his desire for The Killers to be “the biggest band in the world”; as they unload the barnstorming dance-rock finale of Mr Brightside to several thousand whooping punters, it seems his dreams are blending into glorious technicolour reality at last.

Double boost for Leeds city centre cultural and heritage buildings