Thursday, September 9, 2010

Review: Brandon Flowers goes solo in London

Brandon Flowers does his best Bobby Ball impressionThe scorn poured on Brandon Flowers' solo album mystifies me. Critics are waggling their gnarled fingers in unison, scolding the Killers frontman for having the vulgarity to step away from his band. They call the record boring, bland, self-indulgent. Q magazine even compared it to Chris Rea.

I just don't hear it.

To me, the album is a real return to form after the nauseating sax-solo campery of The Killers' Day & Age. Flamingo is blushed with bankable hooks, sparkling synths and strutting, funkotronic basslines.

Recorded in the wake of Flowers' mother's death from cancer in February, it sees the star re-evaluating his relationships and his faith. Under stormy skies, Brandon barely goes 10 seconds without bleating on about sin or redemption. He even brings in a gospel choir for On The Floor - a song about sinking to your knees and making pitiful, forlorn prayers to your maker.

This is the song Flowers chooses to open his first ever UK solo gig, his head bowed under sombre lights at Islington's The Garage. The performance elicits fears that this could be one of those po-faced solo gigs that slowly sucks your soul out of your eardrums - but then the band count in to Crossfire and the worlds biggest grin lands smack bang in the middle of Flowers' face.

Honestly, he looks like The Joker in a groomsman's suit.

Brandon Flowers looking dapper "Well, thank you very much," he says to the crowd as it ends, explaining he'd been afraid no-one would know the words.

"This is the first time we've played since the record has come out, so it's exciting to see people that have heard a few of the songs."

The celebratory atmosphere continues throughout the show, culminating in an ill-advised bout of dad dancing from the normally suave rock star. The new material is indistinguishable from The Killers' - and a mid-set outing for Losing Touch (from Day & Age) only reinforces the impression that the acorn hasn't fallen far from the tree.

Appropriately, then, the songs feel stadium-sized even in a tiny, 500-capacity venue. Set closer Playing With Fire gains a rousing chantalong coda that builds and builds until the doors start to bulge. An acoustic encore of When You Were Young is entirely drowned out by the audience.

So, it's 500 happy punters and one ecstatic singer that vacate the venue at 9:30pm (note to promoters: this is much more amenable than the usual arrangement). The critics can carp all they want, but the audience know what they like.

On The Floor
Bette Davies Eyes (Kim Carnes Cover)
Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts
Was It Something I Said
Hard Enough
Are You Lonesome Tonight? (Elvis Presley cover)
Only The Young
Swallow It
Playing With Fire
Encore: When You Were Young

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