Music

Brandon Flowers Sang “Bette Davis Eyes” (And, OK, A Lot Of His New Solo Songs) At Highline Ballroom

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Brandon Flowers
Highline Ballroom
Thursday, August 26

But seriously, “Bette Davis Eyes”! Is that not a perfect fit for this guy? Blatantly nostalgic, a little serious, a little corny, a little, uh, smokey? You like it just a little more than you’re willing to publicly admit? A perfect cover tune can make up for anything, y’know. Even that vest.

So if the Killers are still trying their best to emulate U2’s career exactly, ol’ Brandon here, temporarily going the solo route, is trying to do Rattle and Hum all by himself, very earnestly plumbing his “earthier” “roots.” Standing onstage at the Highline, a lusty pack of front-row ladies cheering him on and a full but still somehow still stripped-down band behind him (the synth guy reined in and confined to a goofy pulpit-looking enclave), Flowers rumbles jovially through tunes from his imminent Flamingo, which often feels simply like the Killers divorced of their cheeseball absurdity.

You get to miss it, though, the absurdity, when he’s amiably roots-rocking his way through songs about Mexico, songs about playing with fire (“You know you’re gonna hurt somebody tonight”), songs about the crossroads between Heaven and Hell, songs about jilted lovers and broken hearts. (Sample song title: “Jilted Lovers and Broken Hearts.”) This is very much the Jenny Lewis route, the pop tart gone slightly folksier. (She shows up on the record, actually.) And he’s certainly a likable dude, his voice still booming out clear and true, but the gulf is widest when he pulls out a couple refashioned Killers tracks: “Losing Touch” and “When You Were Young” don’t quite work if he’s not wildly overemoting and there isn’t an unapologetic synth-pop cornfest raging around him. This is fine for now, but hopefully he brings back the ostrich boas and so forth soon. He can keep the vest if he wants.