A&E

Brandon Flowers revels in the past at his Bunkhouse debut

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Brandon Flowers, performing March 21 at the Bunkhouse.
Photo: Erik Kabik

Two and a half stars

Brandon Flowers March 21, Bunkhouse Saloon

Brandon Flowers’ first American concert ahead of the release of his second solo album took place on March 21 of this year, but it almost could have happened in 2010—or 1988, for that matter.

Instead of favoring songs from The Desired Effect, due out May 18, The Killers’ frontman performed seven cuts from his first solo album, 2010’s Flamingo, not counting a bonus cut from that record’s deluxe edition (“Right Behind You”). In fact, he didn’t play a Desired track until 11 songs into his 16-song show, which also included only two other new cuts, four Killers chestnuts and, bafflingly, a cover of Robert Palmer’s "Simply Irresistible."

If I had been a diehard fan, I imagine I’d be pissed that I was getting a throwaway and irony-free cover—of a song that encapsulates everything that was artificial and insipid about the '80s, no less—rather than a new original.

Brandon Flowers at Bunkhouse

That said, '80s radio cheese has been Flowers' primary inspiration for the last five years, which includes the last Killers' record, Battle Born. You could hear it in "Can't Deny My Love," the first single off Desired, which sounded a lot like Stevie Nicks' "Edge of Seventeen," or in another new song, "Digging Up the Heart," which recalled uptempo George Strait. Even Flowers' shiny sports jacket looked like a loaner from Huey Lewis.

The mind also boggled at the lack of a dedicated keyboardist onstage, despite the obvious need for one. Instead, we got synth tracks piped in and two just-serviceable guitarists. Even more astounding in this scenario: Closer "Mr. Brightside" was essentially an edit of the decidedly synthy Jacques Lu Cont remix.

Not that it didn’t sound good. It was, unsurprisingly, a set highlight, as was the song before it, "Only the Young," the most resonant song Flowers has written since 2008, and "Dreams Come True," a robust newbie debuted on the Bunkhouse stage with confidence and stridency. They balanced out the loss of oomph experienced during "Read My Mind" and a Johnny Cash-lite rendition of "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine," both suffering without The Killers driving them. If there’s one thing Flowers needs to avoid once he's on tour proper, it's reminding audiences that his primary bandmates aren't behind him.

Setlist:

"Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas"

"Crossfire"

"Magdalena"

"Hard Enough"

"Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts"

"Jenny Was a Friend of Mine"

"Read My Mind"

"Human"

"Simply Irresistible" (Robert Palmer cover)

"Swallow It"

"Digging Up the Heart"

"Dreams Come True"

"Can't Deny My Love"

"Right Behind You"

"Only the Young"

"Mr. Brightside"

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