The Killers have evolved into a well-oiled, intuitive and assured live act and, gripes aside, its sold-out Cosmopolitan debut inside the awkwardly laid-out Chelsea Ballroom on Dec. 28 was the Vegas quartet’s best and most kinetic local performance to date. Its older songs have evolved over time; its instrumentalists play with precision, confidence and vigorous flair; and increasingly Bono-esque singer Brandon Flowers dominates the stage and fully engages his audience without being distracted by it.
That said, it frequently felt overwhelming. The 10-year old act has ditched whatever nuance and deviations from anthemry it attempted in the past, and much like the city it hails from, everything it does these days sounds and looks utterly over the top. Enabling its walloping tendencies on this tour is a new album (Battle Born) that buries its listener in layered production and untempered sentimentalism. To wit, the band made an already bombastic song like “Runaways” downright steroidal. Ditto “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine,” despite its euphoric, funk-friendly launch. Even Flowers seemed overpowered by the thrust of “Human,” where he got so caught up in the moment that he clipped words, missed notes and sounded out of breath.
The Killers once balanced their arena-rock zeal with welcome degrees of subversion and subtlety, but now they exclusively employ a size-matters, scorched-earth strategy. Such assault on one’s senses would suggest they’re overcompensating for something.
Local upstart quintet Most Thieves opened the show with an ascendant half-hour set that climaxed ably with “Prometheus.”