They came, they saw, they donned sparkly pants (at least one of them, anyway).
Three takeaways from The Killers’ sold-out show Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden:
About that pink confetti in your Michelob Ultra …
It came early, as what looked like a salmon-colored snow storm temporarily engulfed the arena, papering countless draft brews as The Killers launched into “The Man,” the second tune in their 23-song, two-hour performance.
Speaking to the RJ the week before the show, Flowers acknowledged that it took the band dozens of performances to begin convincingly inhabiting the first single from its latest record, “Wonderful Wonderful.”
Late last summer, The Killers aired “The Man” for one of the first times during a taping for “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in front of Caesars Palace. They were pretty stiff back then when attempting to nail the song’s strutting funk in its all winkingly cocksure glory, the tune feeling far more conceptual than lived-in.
They’ve come a long way since.
“Who’s the man? Who’s the man? Who’s the man?” a trio of female backing singers cooed as Flowers channeled his inner “Saturday Night Fever”-era John Travolta, swishing his hips and packing a lifetime’s worth of finger pointing into four hot-and-bothered minutes.
This was no small thing.
“The Man” is a clear outlier in The Killers’ catalog, different in both tone and temperament, goosed forward by a self-aware sense of humor. As such, it’s a fitting entry point to “Wonderful Wonderful,” an album that serves as a bit of an artistic palate cleanser for the band, setting The Killers up to go in any of a number of directions next time out.
Had they not been able to make a song like “The Man” work, perhaps they would have incentive to retreat from the adventurousness of their most recent record.
That they’ve learned to make “The Man” feel like their own suggests otherwise.
“Puttin’ on a rock and roll show ain’t easy,” Flowers said after the song in question, before quoting Evel Knievel. “People pay to see the attempt, not the perfect landing.”
Maybe so, but they stuck the latter on this night.
The Evangelical Elvis makes an appearance
Even the rutabagas at Albertsons know The Killers are from Las Vegas — and it’s not just because they’re well-known to be the most musically savvy of tubers. But it’s always been fair to wonder if anybody would ever discern the band’s hometown from its music alone, if they weren’t such vocal boosters of the city.
This point is fast becoming moot. See: Brandon Flowers’ glittery costume change for their four-song encore, which began with the brooding bombast of new song “The Calling,” where the New Testament goes glam.
In an Elvis-gaudy sparkly gold suit with matching shoes, Flowers carried himself like Presley-meets-street-preacher, a pious peacock who gesticulated with a faith healer’s outstretched arms while singing of biblical comeuppance.
It was a showy display even by the standards of a city where the phrase “Thunder From Down Under” is more suggestive of sculpted pecs than Australian weather patterns.
“The Calling” was one of six tunes the band played from “Wonderful Wonderful,” which also included the show-opening title track, a manic “Run for Cover,” the Vegas debut of a surprisingly muscular “Tyson vs. Douglas,” and a stirring, soulful “The Rut,” a song that balanced ostentation with earnestness.
Only in Vegas
No one was boiling any pet rabbits or anything, but local Killers devotees had a right to be all Glenn-Close-in-“Fatal Attraction”-jealous when perusing the set list for the group’s recent two-night stand in L.A.: There, the band performed a new song in tribute to the city (“L.A. Song,” naturally).
Enviousness aside, The Killers did give Vegas some local love, though, by performing a pair of tunes they hadn’t been playing elsewhere on tour.
First came a feisty take on “Viva Las Vegas,” with Killers slot machine reels rolling on the massive video screen behind the stage.
Then, during their encore, they dug into “Sam’s Town” for the first time since their mini-residency at the titular casino in October 2016.
Two songs later, the band concluded things with usual show-ender “Mr. Brightside.”
“We gotta head to Denver,” Flowers explained to a round of groans. “I know life can be tough sometimes. That’s the way it goes. But you gotta know, sometimes it swings the other way.”
And with that, the Evangelical Elvis soon left the building.
Contact Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.