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July 22, 2014

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Killers’ warm welcome not marred by sound, short set

Visibly touched by the warm response from the sold-out crowd, a wide-eyed Flowers -- lead vocalist and keyboardist for local-band-made-good the Killers -- flashed a smile and blew a kiss to fans before exiting the stage.

"You all made us feel at home, which is how we should feel," Flowers announced during the two-song encore that capped off the quartet's first Southern Nevada appearance in seven months. "Thanks!"

From the outset, the keyed-up audience demonstrated its familiarity with the Killers' music, despite the fact that only one local radio station -- KMXB 94.1-FM (Mix 94.1) -- airs the group's tunes.

Beginning with opener "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine" and continuing through capper "All These Things I've Done," fans sang along excitedly with the Killers' lyrics.

The latter brought on a particularly impressive display from the crowd, which struck up the track's repeated "I got soul but I'm not a soldier" breakdown ahead of Flowers, accompanied by guitarist David Keuning, bassist Mark Stoermer and drummer Ronnie Vannucci.

A few diehards even continued singing when the Killers dug out a pair of songs not found on the U.S. version of debut album "Hot Fuss."

"You guys sound great tonight," Flowers told the crowd of 1,585 midway through the set. (Promoter XBox purchased several hundred tickets upstairs that it did not use, accounting for the disparity between that number and a regular House of Blues sellout crowd of 1,800).

In contrast to the band's May performance at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., Flowers' keyboard parts Sunday were audible and clear, which is key given the retro-'80s feel of the Killers' best compositions.

Hit single "Somebody Told Me" -- which features the catchy refrain "Somebody told me you had a boyfriend, who looked like a girlfriend that I had in February of last year" -- sounds like something Duran Duran might have written. The sweeping "Smile Like You Mean It" has a definite Smiths feel to it.

Flowers even copped a bit of Morrissey's dramatic stage flair, gesturing with his hands during several numbers, including the soon-to-be second single, "Mr. Brightside."

On the jampacked House of Blues floor, the four musicians sounded perfectly balanced.

But elsewhere in the normally reliable venue, the music came across muffled and distant, as if the only sound being generated came from speakers near the stage. Speakers at the rear of the room seemed not to be in use at all.

Otherwise, concertgoers seemed generally satisfied, though a few appeared surprised when the Killers left the stage after playing for less than 40 minutes before returning for a 10-minute encore.

Considering the band performed all but two tracks off "Hot Fuss," along with the two aforementioned non-album cuts, it's difficult to imagine what a notably longer Killers' set might entail -- at least, until the release of album No. 2, expected sometime next year.

The show's $15 ticket price also included a half-hour set by New York City rockers the Walkmen.

That five-piece outfit's arty approach was mostly lost on the college radio-deprived crowd, which clapped politely between songs but basically counted the minutes before Las Vegas' conquering heroes hit the stage.

The Walkmen really shouldn't feel bad. Not too long ago, the Killers met with similar indifference in Southern Nevada.

That probably explains why they waited so long to put Vegas on their busy tour schedule. Given the way folks greeted them on Sunday, however, don't be surprised if the Killers start heading for home a lot more frequently.

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