An encore performance of “Home Means Nevada” earned The Killers ingenuity points Monday night, but their ungainly flub, and subsequent restart, of the state’s official song ultimately spoke louder about the Vegas-bred rock stars’ continued awkward relationship with their hometown and its fanbase.
Locals were slow to catch on during The Killers’ mid-2000s breakout—frontman Brandon Flowers went so far then as to suggest some were actively rooting for the group to “mess up”—and though the quartet has gone from gigging at Café Roma to headlining Glastonbury since, it’s still tough to detect a genuinely warm connection between band and hometown fans.
The elements for such a love-in appeared to be in place on Monday: an intimate venue, a packed house, well-rested musicians off the road since August, a bundle of unperformed material (from November 25 release Day & Age). And yet, though the crowd chanted its way through the “oldies,” and The Killers carried on with boundless energy, the night never broke through to the sort of “special” or “memorable” plateau one would expect from this type of unique hometown appearance.
The band sounded tight as it blazed through six cuts from Hot Fuss, five from Sam’s Town and two from rarities collection Sawdust, but that’s pretty much to be expected at this point. “Home Means Nevada” aside, the only real surprises were the oddly decorated jacket worn early on by Flowers (think naval epaulets sewn from brown feathers) and caveman-resembling drummer Ronnie Vannucci’s decision to strip off his T-shirt briefly under a revealing spotlight. Maybe it’s simply not in these four men’s personalities to cozy up to an audience, but at the very least, an introduction of scene mainstay Tommy Marth—who joined the band to play saxophone on two numbers—would have provided a dash of local flavor.
Presumed to be a warm-up for a scheduled 2009 European tour and as-yet-unannounced U.S. jaunt, the show found The Killers previewing just four songs off Day & Age, among them already-familiar current single “Human” and the catchy, Saturday Night Live-debuted “Spaceman.” The other two: “Losing Touch,” a promising midtempo tune with an epic quality befitting an album’s leadoff track, and “Joy Ride,” a wildly divergent piece of lounge-funk that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the Strip in 1975.
As for the remainder of Day & Age, Las Vegans will have to wait for the upcoming tour to hear that stuff live—assuming the city gets a stop along that ride. After all these years, it’s still tough to tell if The Killers ever truly feel at home in the town that claims them as its own.