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.