To paraphrase Mark E Smith, the audience are here to feel the wrath of Brandon Flowers' bombast.
Brakes/Killers Paradiso 18/11/06
The Paradiso is packed; packed with the kind of people who you would normally expect to find attending a gig at the Heineken Music Hall, or the Ahoy. Indeed the next time they see the Killers in Holland they will doubtless be watching them in one of those two august venues. And doubtless, this audience - comprising as it does of well scrubbed, excessively pomaded youths wearing primary colours and the obligatory skinny white belt/white trainer combination - will welcome the transition to a more bombastic setting. Apparently the Paradiso sold out in 20 minutes.
Not the sort of audience Brakes normally play to, that's for sure. Even their brief sortie with Editors last February didn't bring them into contact with such a solid slab of the "mainstream". Still, it certainly doesn't seem to worry them. Hold Me in The River kicks off a splendidly thrashy set; and from there on there's nary a pause as the band embark on a quartet of fast paced numbers; Hold Me... was followed by Margherita, All Night Disco Party, Cease & Desist, and I Can't Stand To Stand Beside You, which had regular Brakes watchers (us) gasping, and the Killers audience numbed. The odd boorish shout of "get the Killers on" had been replaced by mutterings along the lines of "who is this band?" as Brakes crank out the noise.
There's a notable fluidity and confidence to their set; Eamon Hamilton seems far more relaxed in his role as front man these days. At times he shrieked and rocked like a mini dictator; at others (especially during Beatific Visions) a much softer empathic side was seen, something Hamilton was careful to keep under wraps previously. Maybe its just confidence... As for guitar man Tom White, the chance for him to add live vocals and experiment with the odd guitar pedal has added a great deal to the Brakes live experience. As usual he has the monopoly on rock star moves, bouncing around, pulling poses, falling over, and even taking time to lob a pineapple into the audience during (yes, you guessed it) Porcupine or Pineapple.
A quick word about the rhythm section. Because of the abundance of Killers kit, Brakes had to play in a line with drummer Alex White well to the fore. Far from being a hindrance, it only served as a reminder as to how bloody good Marc Beatty and Alex White are as a rhythm section. And somehow it made the band's presence all the more forcible. To be honest they should do this more often, for a band full of strong personalities it seems churlish to hide some of their manifest talents away.
Still, tasty as the hors d'ouvre was, the audience wants the main course. The hall is now packed. The lead singer of Kane and his (frankly stunning) partner mooch about upstairs, waiting to be noticed. The excitement levels reach fever pitch when a series of dirges come on the P.A. and the lighting is dimmed to reveal a flashing neon sign that is affixed to Brandon Flowers keyboards. The sign says "welcome". Thanks.
And out they come. Executing a crab-like mince (which for some reason reminded me of Carry On star Charley Hawtrey) across the stage, Brandon F plays the role of Showman to the backdrop of Sam's Town. Lest anyone was unaware, Mr Flowers is the lead singer in an International Rock and Roll band. Quite a change from their previous moody Anglophile leanings, this is no-holes barred stadium rock a la The Boss, or even Aerosmith. Songs such as Somebody Told Me and Glamorous Indie Rock and Roll are cranked out with brio and a complete lack of regard for subtlety. Which, to be fair, is precisely how they should be played. At this point the crowd go completely ape and rock snobs like me just have to escape to the upper reaches. To paraphrase Mark E Smith, the audience are here to feel the wrath of Brandon Flowers' bombast. I'm no fan of the Killers. To me their music is just second-rate Sparks, but to be honest I'm beaten hollow by them this evening. The encore All These Things sees the floor boards tested to the limit (proof of this was seen during a toilet break in the basement where the ceiling looked like it was about to cave in). And I realise that I can't be so churlish (though I did enjoy shouting "worse than rubbish" now and again during song breaks.)
Afterwards there was a disco for the "indie kids" downstairs. Which the Killers fans decided to attend in droves. Sitting in a corner (morosely it has to be said, following two days of the worst food poisoning I have ever had the indignity to suffer) I realised that what sounded "fresh" (well freshly ripped off, no one had ripped the obscure end of the late 70s off so comprehensively before) and in some ways exciting three or four years ago was now very much part of the mainstream. Razorlight, The Rakes, Franz Ferdinand, Killers, Bloc Party.... all were played and all were danced to by the pomaded, white belt brigade with sincerity and belief that this was the new thing. Thus the cycle goes on...
Words: Richard Foster.