Brandon Flowers at the Olympia Theatre – Review
Setting sail on his second voyage as a solo artist, The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers dropped his anchor in Dublin for the opening night of his European tour. With his band on hiatus since the conclusion of their 2014 world tour, Flowers has showed just how prolific a songwriter he is with 6 albums released in just 11 years since his band’s emergence in 2004, an impressive return by today’s standards especially given the ‘megaband’ status The Killers have risen to over the last decade. Compared to U2, The Killers dining partners at rocks top table, who have turned out just 3 albums in the same period, it highlights just how eager Flowers is to keep making music, with or without his bandmates. Like much of The Killers last record, 2012’s Battle Born, his sophomore solo effort The Desired Effect takes many of its cues from the synth pop sound of the 80s and the blue-collar storytelling style of Bruce Springsteen. Inconsistency is a frustrating trait that has plagued The Killers over the past number of years. Capable of producing world beating singles, but rarely serving up the albums to match. Their world conquering debut Hot Fuss is a case in point, with an incredible opening of 5 songs giving way to a latter half made up mostly of filler. However, many music critics have hailed The Desired Effect as Flowers’s most consistent record since 2006’s Sam’s Town.
Making the crowd wait until 9:15 before emerging on stage to (mostly female) hysteria, Flowers’s impressive 8 piece backing band launch into ‘Dreams Come True’, the brass infused opening salvo from the new record. Despite always seeming to be a reluctant frontman in his band’s first few years, his live performances at times wooden and emotionally cold, tonight proves he has slowly grown into his role of leading man, lapping up the crowd’s adoration whilst grinning from ear to ear and mounting the stage monitors in true ‘rock god’ fashion. Sleek lead single ‘Can’t Deny My Love’ gets an early airing, its icy synths and sharp breathless chorus make the song sound like it was lifted from an 80s blockbuster movie. Also dropped early into a front-loaded live set is debut solo single ‘Crossfire’, a straight up stadium anthem which is up there with any of The Killers’ biggest hits. Roaring straight out of the traps with the obvious crowd pleasers seems a smart move given the rapturous crowd reaction but one worries whether it leaves little in the tank for later. Dipping into his solo debut album Flamingo for tracks ‘Magdalena’ and ‘Hard Enough’, the crowd sing along enthusiastically. Like fellow noughties indie frontmen turned solo stars Julian Casablancas, Kele Okereke and Paul Banks, Flowers is acutely aware his audience is mostly made up of those who love what he does in his day job. He treats his audience to several Killers’ tracks tonight, altering their arrangements to suit his less bombastic solo sound. A stripped down acoustic rendition of ‘Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine’ inspires a mass singalong yet only makes you long to hear the rocked up original version, whereas ‘Read My Mind’ replaces Dave Keuning’s stadium sized guitar solos with some country style slide guitar work. New single ‘Lonely Town’, one of the new records more instant tracks, keeps up the 80’s theme with some particularly retro sounding synth patches.
Tonight’s audience are impressively familiar with the new material given its release only a few days previous, something that doesn’t go unnoticed by Flowers, who is visually delighted by their response. Melodic 2010 single ‘Only The Young’ shows the softer side of Flower’s songwriting with chilled out atmospheric synthesisers and a gentle singalong chorus, it plays like a Killers track with the other band members parts stripped from the mix, but oddly sounds all the better for it. Ending the main set with the Jaques Lu Cont remix of The Killers ubiquitous breakthrough smash ‘Mr. Brightside’, it should be a triumphant rousing closer, however it struggles due to a muddled sound mix which leaves it ending up sounding like a drum and bass cover of the song. Following a short interval, Flowers returns for an encore made up entirely of new songs with mixed results. The call and response pop shimmer of ‘Still Want You’ goes down a storm, new album track ‘I Can Change’ struggles partially due to its unfamiliarity with sections of the crowd, before finishing with a rousing extended rendition of new album closer ‘The Way It’s Always Been’.
Having branched out from The Killers by stripping down his solo material and shedding the rock ‘n’ roll histrionics to fully embrace 80’s synth pop, Flowers has kept things fresh by offering a notably different live experience from that of his band. However, some of the old problems remain and with a live set that ebbs and flows, Flowers’s live show ironically mirrors the recorded output of The Killers. Quite often brilliant, but scattered with some less impressive moments.
Review by Gary O’Donnell