It’s unlikely anyone, least of all the band itself, would have imagined 15 years ago that the Killers would evolve into what they have become. The Las Vegas-bred rockers’ first studio album, 2004’s Hot Fuss, was full of arch, synth-laden decadence and frontman Brandon Flowers, eyes rimmed with kohl and affecting a quasi-British air, projected a grandeur the group had not yet fully earned.
Thursday night, before a rabidly enthusiastic, sold-out audience inside The Bomb Factory, it was evident the Killers have, at last, grown into that glory, a durable, entertaining rock band that has endured beyond the initial heat and light of its multi-platinum debut.
It was a thrilling night, watching an arena-sized act, fresh from touring behind its latest LP, 2017’s Wonderful Wonderful, harness its firepower to nearly overwhelm a room a fraction of the size it typically plays. (For comparison, the Killers’ previous North Texas gig was 16 months ago at the Pavilion at the Toyota Music Factory in Irving, and Friday, the band will perform at the inaugural KAABOO Texas at Jerry Jones’ billion-dollar sports bauble in Arlington.)
Over the course of 100 minutes on Thursday, Flowers and his seven band mates showed no mercy, reeling off one hit after another: Opening with “Sam’s Town,” before spinning into crisp, surging anthems of tension and release — “When You Were Young,” “Spaceman,” “Somebody Told Me,” “The Way It Was” and “Shot at the Night” — the crowd often singing louder than Flowers, and the exchange of energy between performer and audience crackling with an almost palpable electricity.
Clad in a dark suit with a white dress shirt open at the neck underneath, the 37-year-old Flowers could hardly keep the grin off his face, seeming for all the world to be having as much or more fun than those crammed together before him.
“We’re the Killers, so tonight, that makes you all the victims,” Flowers cracked midway through. “After this set is over, I don’t want one single soul to let us get away with it.”
The teeming roomful of victims was only too happy to let these Killers off the hook, dazzled and delighted by the string of beloved hits and assorted deep cuts (it was pleasantly surprising to hear the left-field track “Glamorous Indie Rock & Roll” pop up in the encore).
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Despite the relatively cozy setting, the Killers didn’t skimp on spectacle: Lasers, smoke, a restless video screen and a pair of confetti explosions punctuated the night. But perhaps the most indelible moment was the most spontaneous: Flowers singled out a fan down front named JP, whose sign asked if he could supplant drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. during “For Reasons Unknown.”
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Impressed by the signage (“This is the best sign,” Flowers noted) and the sentiment, the band brought the young man up, and he proceeded to do a startlingly credible job, as Vannucci picked up a guitar while JP kept time. (“He’s a hell of an artist,” Vannucci offered, as JP, the room vociferously chanting his name, exited stage right.)
It was a nifty bit of fan service, but also a vivid reminder that those faithful, phones outstretched, faces alighted and voices raised, are a large part of why the Killers have endured.
Yes, the glittering hit singles have helped, but a passionate core of admirers retained through the excursions from lithe, new wave-spiked pop to earnest, Americana-tinged rock have allowed the Killers to pursue an evolution on their own terms, an increasingly rare privilege in the 21st century music industry.
As Thursday night’s masterful, intense performance unfolded, it was impossible to overstate how far the Killers had come, but also how much they’d given along the way — hit after hit after hit, each eternal in its own way, stacked one on top of the other until all we could do inside the room was close our eyes, sing our loudest and get lost in the glorious chaos.