“Glamorous indie rock and roll is what I want,” Brandon Flowers crooned, “It’s in my soul/It’s what I need.” If his group the Killers’ performance at Irving Plaza last Monday night was any indication, he probably doesn’t feel too fulfilled. Sure, the music itself was plenty glamorous. Guitarist Dave Keuning’s sparkly riffs, bassist Mark Stoermer and drummer Ronnie Vannucci’s lite-disco rhythms, and Flowers’s Cheez Whiz keyboard lines and faux-British vocals combine to make them the greatest Duran Duran tribute band of this young century (yes, there’s quite a bit of competition). Their debut album, Hot Fuss, is a delicious, trashy pleasure. But songs as unabashedly debauched as the genderfuck radio hit “Somebody Told Me” and the glitter-rock hangover “Andy, You’re a Star” deserve costume changes, choreography, and confetti falling from the ceiling, or at the very least some fervent hand gestures. The most we got was Vannucci hopping up and down like he was headlining the Warped Tour.
Dressed like Interpol on casual Friday, the Las Vegas quartet plowed through a 45-minute set with all the showmanship of Alan Greenspan. Flowers, often too bogged down in his synthesizers to even move, directed the whole of his emotional energy toward his eyebrows, arched to signify utmost sincerity. As he sang the climactic lines of the soaring single-of-the-year candidate “Mr. Brightside,” the dramatic rush didn’t come from his leaden delivery. It came from the shimmer of a spotlight reflecting off of Keuning’s guitar.
The Killers could learn a lot from openers Surferosa, a Norwegian quintet fronted by a mulleted platinum blonde named Mariann wearing a skintight bodysuit and red high heels. Working the stage like an aerobics instructor as her beefy backing men played Pretty Poison-ish dancepop, Mariann scolded the audience for not sharing her enthusiasm. For a few glorious moments, she even strapped on an unwieldy synth-guitar. Sure, she looked stupid. But who cares? So did Duran Duran. The Killers look even stupider trying to play it cool. Amy Phillips
Lefty lawyers and their heroes give selves a big round of applause
ACLU Freedom Concert
Avery Fisher Hall
Lincoln Center lefties had an abundance of causes to applaud last week at the ACLU Freedom Concert at Avery Fisher Hall: Protect free speech! Read banned books! Elect John Kerry! Bush: What a dumbass! Applaud they certainly did: Teen-dream hottie Jake Gyllenhaal, one of a handful of megawatt actors performing spoken-word adaptations of liberal-friendly Supreme Court decisions, was forced to endure the weight of his propped-open PowerBook through several bouts of hoots and hollers. Bushy-haired playwright Tony Kushner couldn’t move a music stand without a roar of laughter. Space-case singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith got so caught up in the humanitarian hubbub she dedicated “It’s a Hard Life Wherever You Go” to a congressman friend from Texas, Martin Luther King Jr., Lloyd Bentsen, and children.
But if the Freedom Concert ended up a night of proudly partisan self-congratulation, the three-hour benefit bathed its audience of “commie lawyers,” as Gyllenhaal put it, in the warm glow of inclusion. Paul Simon, in fine voice but looking surprisingly frail, opened with an “America” as freighted with meaning as it’s ever been, then invited the partially reconstituted Dixie Hummingbirds onstage for a hard-swinging “Loves Me Like a Rock.” Patti Smith growled through Allen Ginsberg’s “Wichita Vortex Sutra” over melancholy piano plinking by concert organizer Philip Glass. Mos Def, shuffling around in a fedora and leather jacket, channeled Gil Scott-Heron’s freewheeling soul-rap with the help of a five-man band happy to vamp. Ohio’s two-man blues-punk Black Keys—”It’s a swing state,” singer Dan Auerbach reminded—provided the night’s Elliott Smith-at-the-Oscars moment, rocking the pillboxes between a death-penalty harangue from Richard Gere (who twice called the legendary adjudicator Thurwood Marshall) and a whiz-bang four-character performance by actor-writer Sarah Jones (who bet the indie-skinny Keys wouldn’t be so angry “if they ate a sandwich”).
Glass saved the weird for last: gloriously tracksuited Lou Reed and pink-sweatered Antony duetting on a sepulchral “Vanishing Act” and a jubilant “Walk on the Wild Side,” “banned in 1973 and, oddly enough, banned again now,” Reed muttered. Then, just in case, Wyclef came on and played “The Star Spangled Banner” with his teeth. Mikael Wood