Orem • With The Who’s “Eminence Front” blaring out of the speakers, the four members of The Killers walked on stage with two touring members, the house lights still on.
The Who anthem faded, and then came the immediately recognizable opening notes from one of the Las Vegas rock band’s biggest hits, “Mr. Brightside,” and the multitudes in the sold-out UCCU Center in Orem swelled toward the stage in unabashed adoration — with the house lights still on.
The Killers are one of the most popular bands in Utah, in part because of frontman Brandon Flowers, who was raised in Utah and still talks openly in interviews about being a devoted and faithful father and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But the popularity is mostly due to the band’s evolution over the past decade from a synth-pop band into an experienced, improved ensemble that has collected the influences of its four albums into an appealing, melodically catchy, confident rock group that wants to be Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (without the self-doubt that Springsteen faced when his “Born in the U.SA.” transformed him into an icon).
Now at the height of their powers, The Killers are a band for arenas.
It is too bad, then, that The Killers chose to come not to an arena but to a basketball gymnasium that cruelly masquerades as a music venue. The UCCU Center once again proved that it is one of the worst places in the state to see and hear a show. In comparison, EnergySolutions Arena acoustics are kin to the Tabernacle.
Flowers and bandmates Dave Keuning, Ronnie Vannucci Jr. (who has a home in Park City) and Mark Stoermer managed to rise above the din with their apparent glee in performing in front of a homecoming crowd. Flowers, clad in all black with his signature close cut, is an appealing and engaging frontman. But the band was ultimately undone by the shoddy, echoey acoustics of the space.
By the time the second song arrived, the house lights shut off and it appeared as if The Killers wanted to let their music do the heavy lifting, with minimal stage effects and the requisite colorful abstract imagery as a backdrop. Flowers boasts a unique, talk-singing voice that makes up for its limited range by oozing emotion, but the nuances of both his voice and the synths — which still separate The Killers from their peers — were overpowered by throbbing bass and a wall of — how should I say it? — garbage. It took me a good minute to decipher that the band was playing one of its other big hits, “Somebody Told Me,” and other radio hits such as “Spaceman” and “Human” sounded more like “Metal Machine Music” than the slinky Bowie-esque tunes on the records.
While he is no Springsteen, Flowers’ lyrical gifts are getting better and better as he is tackling more adult issues as a 31-year-old, but those gifts were obscured. (Save for a moving requiem for his mother, who died of cancer two years ago.) Before the band’s latest album, the members took a hiatus and three released solo albums. I would have liked to have heard more from their expanded talents.
I might be more inclined to blame the sound problems on the sound guys, but after seeing underwhelming shows at the UCCU Center from the likes of Bruno Mars and Arcade Fire in the past two years, I’m afraid that the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in our venue.
Many venues have problems with acoustics, but compounding the frustration of the evening were the mile-long lines for concessions and the miles-long trek from the University Parkway off-ramp to a parking space in heavy traffic that was at a standstill for most of the journey. It took me an hour to get from the off-ramp to my spot, directed there by too few parking attendants. All of that comes after a 45-minute drive from downtown Salt Lake City.
All of this might have been mitigated if I had some water to cool me down. But there’s no way I’m standing in that God-forsaken line.
Killers in Orem
P Bottom line • Sound problems mar The Killers’ homecoming show.
When • Friday
Where • UCCU Center, 800 W. University Parkway, Orem