Brandon Flowers was on top of an amplifier an hour into the Killers' set Tuesday night at the UIC pavilion. The skinny and charismatic front man's right fist was raised high, and he was clad in all black as brightly colored lights flashed in rhythm to the group's mega-hit "Mr. Brightside."
This was the moment -- with every person in the gym singing along with him -- that we'd been waiting for. The reminder that Flowers and the Killers have the capacity to deliver one hell of a good time.
Before this, some doubt had crept in as the Las Vegas boys peppered their performance with cuts from their newest album, "Day & Age," recently rated with a paltry two stars by Sun-Times music critic Jim DeRogatis.
But what started as a seemingly low-energy show picked up steam as the guys from Las Vegas went all-in with their big-time radio hits. And while some lyrics may leave us wanting (I'm pretty sure being a human and being a dancer aren't mutually exclusive), when the synth-pop enthusiasts hammered home "Human" and "Read My Mind," there was little debate that their sing-along fare is built on a pretty sturdy foundation.
The quartet could be one of the more relevant popular acts of the decade, which says more about the overall lack of depth in the field than their own merits. From over-the-top music videos and a sense of larger-than-life histrionics, the Killers have carved out a niche.
Flowers, of course, is the straw that stirs the drink. To his credit, his vocal prowess was impressive for all 92 minutes of the 22-song set. From a heart-pumping rendition of "Shadowplay" to an appropriately subdued and piano-driven "Sam's Town," he showed range and consistently hit his marks.
More than that, the Killers are -- for lack of a better adjective -- sort of cool. Standing in front of a set that featured myriad flashing lights, fake palm trees and replicas of Vegas casinos, it was hard not to admire the calm, cool and collected manner in which they carried themselves.
The crowd predictably reacted most strongly to selections for their earlier albums, but also seemed to give the gang some slack with the more offbeat newer songs. But the simple question remains: why mess with a good thing? If you have the tried-and-true weapons the Killers have in their arsenal, why go for the death blow with a plastic knife?
At the end of the night though, there were more than enough crowd-pleasers from the top of the catalog to erase some of the more mediocre efforts. And if concerts are about memorable moments -- which the Killers more than adequately provided -- then it was a success.
After all, they're only human.
Local music alert: M83 kicked off the night with an energetic foray into shoegazing '80s synth that sounded like a cross between Bloc Party and anything found on the "Pretty in Pink" soundtrack. They were kings of crescendo, crafting sprawling instrumentals that took the audience on a ride, but thankfully stopped short of being pedantic.
Flowers summed up the crispness of their sound with this homage, "I'm jealous of their synths. I need to do my homework."