The place was hot, like rain forest-sticky, the crowd already sweating out the specialty cocktails named after the songs they were about to hear.
They’d been waiting hours for the moment that was about to come, shortly after 9:30 p.m. Friday, when the lights went down and the room lit up.
“I’ve got this energy beneath my feet, like something underground’s gonna come up and carry me,” Killers frontman Brandon Flowers sang as the show got underway. “I got this sentimental heart that beats.”
That heart doubled as a metronome, keeping time, as The Killers dug into the title track of an album named after the place in which they stood.
It’d been three years since the last time the band played the song in question, and they did so to a sea of long-stem white flowers held aloft by various members of the capacity crowd, who had been handed them as they entered the stuffy, airless venue, the room temperature driven upward by the heat pouring off the band and audience alike.
By the time the song neared its end, Flowers’ voice was but one of hundreds singing its closing lines.
“I see London, I see Sam’s Town,” the room bellowed in unison. “Holds my hand and lets my hair down.”
A decade ago this month, The Killers released their second record, “Sam’s Town,” the first album the group recorded in Las Vegas and the reason why a band that normally headlines arenas crammed itself into this small ballroom, Sam’s Town Live, to play for a few hundred fans instead of the thousands it’s accustomed to.
“We’re here to celebrate,” Flowers announced midway through the band’s 20-song, 105-minute set, which centered on performing “Sam’s Town” in its entirety, followed by a pair of encores featuring a career-spanning hit spree as well as seldom-played B-side “Under the Gun.”
The entire Sam’s Town property was given over to The Killers for the weekend: Throughout the casino, the band’s songs played exclusively, while the hotel gift shop was transformed into a Killers pop-up store, complete with potted cactuses and a bighorn sheep, on loan from the Nevada State Museum.
The Killers are a hot item here: Tickets for Saturday’s second sold-out show were reselling online for $600, a steep markup from their $99.50 face value.
Friday’s show underscored why: Yeah, The Killers’ 2004 debut, “Hot Fuss,” may have been the bigger hit, but “Sam’s Town” is the band’s definitive record, an album that mated muscular rock ’n’ roll with the pop savvy that made “Hot Fuss” such a hot seller. “Sam’s Town” was The Killers’ bid at making the great American rock record of their day, with songs that were alternately neon-bright and gritty as desert sand.
It was a transformative album, and they revisited it with relish.
“I wanna breathe that fire again,” Flowers sang during crowd favorite “Read My Mind,” sucking in its flames once again as he led the crowd like a maestro conducting an orchestra, his eyes wide, his smile wider still, and seldom fading.
Prior to the beginning of the song, Flowers thanked “Sam’s Town” co-producer Alan Moulder, who had traveled from his native England to be a part of the weekend. Later on, the band was joined onstage by Louis XIV singer-guitarist Brian Karscig, who contributed vocals to “My List,” which he also did on the original recorded version of the song.
“My List,” a stirring near-ballad where Flowers played whirring synth at the foot of the stage, was one of the evening’s highlights, in no small part because the band seldom plays it any more (the last time it did so was in 2009). Rarer still was a performance of “Why Do I Keep Counting?” an elaborately arranged, Queen-influenced, triple-shot of rock ’n’ roll grandiosity, which the band hadn’t aired in nine years prior to Friday’s show.
“Counting” closed the first half of the show, ushering in a suite of tunes that could serve as the meat of a pretty killer greatest-hits collection (“Human,” “Runaways,” “All These Things I’ve Done,” etc).
The songs rounded out a homecoming from a band that never really left.
“This town was meant for passing through,” Flowers sang on “This River Is Wild,” a song that surged like said river during heavy rains.
But as this night demonstrated, sometimes it’s just nice to stay awhile.
Read more from Jason Bracelin at reviewjournal.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.
Who: The Killers
Where: Sam’s Town Live