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:: The Killers :: Brakes ::
20 November 2006 / Apollo / Manchester
By Cath Aubergine

So how much is a 20 gig ticket worth then? The answer, it seems, is not 20. Not for this gig, anyway. All gone in under five minutes, and on E-bay seconds later with a general starting price of 50, there are people in the Apollo tonight who have paid 200 or more for the privilege. No wonder they've all crammed in early, just to get a bit more value out of it - I've never seen so many people in to watch an opening band here. They've come for some Glamorous Indie Rock'n'Roll - but first, some decidedly unglamorous indie country punk. Standing in the A4 sized patch of stage that's not curtained off, with his bandmates clustered around him, Eamon Hamilton looks so little that the absrasiveness of Brakes seems to take some of the crowd by surprise; as the quiet verse of starting point "Hi How Are You?" erupts into the snarled "Won't you shut the fuck up, I'm just tryin' to watch the band!" some chattering not far behind us does indeed quieten. Straight into the glam-bouncy pop of "Ring A Ding Ding" and this gloriously mismatched support seem to be winning the crowd over. And, er, promptly losing them again by chucking in "a nice little country dance tune" (crowd reaction: bemusement); ten second shouty political diatribe "Cheney" followed by thirty second shouty political diatribe "Pick Up The Phone" (crowd reaction: mild discomfort) and worst of all telling them they're not as loud as the crowd in Wolverhampton. Now nobody likes being unfavourably compared to Wolverhampton, do they, even if it might be true. Still one of the many wonderful things about Brakes is how they always look like they're having a thoroughly excellent time playing their catchy little tunes, and from the deranged "Porcupine Or Pineapple" to the lush country swingalong of "NY Pie" there are plenty more reasons to love them. "This one's called Comma Comma Comma Full Stop" shouts Eamon, and their final tune's been and gone whilst half the crowd are still trying to work out what he's on about. "Now I want you to scream six times as loud as that for the Killers..."

And they do. What is it about a pop crowd that makes people scream when a roadie comes on to put the set lists down? By the time the curtains finally go up we're fearing for our ears. But then the following hour and a bit is a performance of pure pop music so absolutely sublime that the screaming subsides into cheering and mass singalongs. So many bands who come from indie origins falter when they get to this stage, looking lost and swamped by a big stage they have no idea what to do with, but the Killers look like they were born to play big. They've made great use of the enormous space around them; decked out with ragged bunting, strings of lights and a colossal "Sam's Town" fairground-style sign the Apollo is transformed into a smalltown American showground, complete with wooden crates across the front; and as the band launch into the album's quite ridiculously overblown title track the penguin-suited Brandon Flowers strides up and down them, revelling in the limelight. Guitarist Dave Keuning, too, has transformed from shy indie boy into rockmonster, stepping up for each guitar break with his flowing curls and snakeskin jacket. Another concession to superstardom is the second keyboard player, hiding away at the back and filling in the grandiose sound-sweeps to allow Brandon even more chance to ponce about at the front. Tracks new and old sound positively enormous here, from the knowingly trashy pop of "Somebody Told Me" to the desert highway grandiosity of "When You Were Young"; Badly Drawn Boy watches from the side bar, possibly finding an unlikely kindred spirit in this unashamed homage to Bruce Springsteen. And the hits just keep on coming; suggestive new single "Bones" working the girls down the front into a frenzy (forget it, he's married) and the still ludicrous but fun "Glamorous Indie Rock'n' Roll" prompting a mass of raised pints from the older fans Then the early live favourite and single-that-never-was "Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine", and half way through when Brandon returns to his keyboard for that keyboard break, the place almost explodes - and we remember the first time we saw this band, just three years ago, that was the moment we knew support sets in the back rooms of pubs would not be on the Killers' schedules for very long. By the time they encore with the anthemic "All These Things" every single voice in the place is shouting along to "I've got soul but I'm not a soldier" - regardless of the fact that it still doesn't actually appear to mean anything. It just sounds good, and that's what great pop's all about. What's impressive is the way the band have managed to crack the big time so comprehensively without losing the charm and live energy that endeared them to those early indie audiences, many of whom still come along, or would if they could get tickets - Razorlight must be spitting feathers in envy.

Back in the bar the girl serving says she preferred the support band; we direct her to the Roadhouse, where Brakes will be back on more familiar territory on 3rd December. The Killers have also booked their return trip to Manchester for February; that'll be at the Arena; that one took a whole half hour to sell out and tickets are already going for over a hundred quid online. God only knows what they'll manage to do on a stage that big - but there's little doubt they'll pull it off.

The Killers

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