Music Review

The Killers blend pop and rock to perfection

Brandon Flowers of the Killers at TD Garden.
Brandon Flowers of the Killers at TD Garden.Rob Loud

Brandon Flowers’s perfectly parted hair remained neatly coifed and the jackets of his glamorous stage outfits never left his svelte frame during the Killers’ commanding two-hour performance Sunday night at the TD Garden. As Flowers belted out one high, clear anthem after another, leaning one foot on the monitor and coaxing the crowd with a raised arm, the only sign of the 36-year-old singer’s exertion was an occasional giant video screen close-up that revealed sweat beading on his brow.

But at the same time as Flowers’s practiced poise fostered an aura of superhuman ease — a staple of 21st-century arena pop — the videographers also often chose dramatic close-ups that accentuated drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr.’s all-too-human exertion — a staple of 20th-century arena rock.


In many ways, the contradictory focus on the two performers made sense. For starters, the Las Vegas band’s two other founding members are both sitting out this global tour, replaced by four touring musicians — a lead guitarist and bassist up front, and a rhythm guitarist and keyboardist half-hidden behind Vannucci’s drum riser, augmented by three female backup singers.

But more important, the Killers have always made a career of managing the apparent contradictions between rock and pop by drowning them in the musical melting pot of the 1980s, the last time the two genres were often one and the same. True, the schizoid divide between innocent pop longing and knowing rock swagger often threatens to capsize the Killers’ fifth and latest album, “Wonderful, Wonderful.” But onstage, aided by special video projections and graphics displays, the mood seamlessly moved from the new album’s booming opening title track into the disco revival hit “The Man” — a tongue-in-cheek blast of macho hubris — and then back to a pseudo Brit-rock smash from 2004, “Somebody Told Me.” And then (why not?) to the 2008 “Flashdance”-like romp “Spaceman,” replete with “Whoa-oh-oh” choruses.


Through it all, the 13,000-plus fans packing the Garden bobbed and sang along, filling in entire verses on their own whenever Flowers asked. Though the almost all-white crowd seemed to lean middle-class and up, the variety of ages and sartorial styles suggested that the Killers reach more broadly than most 21st-century rock bands could dream. The 90-minute main set bogged down a bit with overly earnest numbers, like the 2012 Bruce-meets-Bono anthem “Runaways,” but it also included surprises like a cover of the Cars’ “Just What I Needed.” And the four-song encore kicked off high with the strutting “The Calling” and closed with “Mr. Brightside,” a song about destructive jealousy so uplifting it made the pursuit of contradiction feel like a life calling.


At TD Garden, Sunday

Franklin Soults can be reached at fsoults@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @fsoults.