TVD Live: Brandon Flowers at Echostage, 7/29

PHOTOS: TOREY MUNDKOWSKY | On Wednesday night, one of the more high-energy rock concerts currently touring came through DC. Brandon Flowers belted out a fun, hour and a half set at Echostage that had the crowd buzzing well after the show ended.

Brandon Flowers achieved notoriety as the lead singer and keyboardist for the Las Vegas rock band The Killers, whose success began with their debut album which reached triple platinum status and has continued in the decade since. The band made it clear that Flowers’s first solo album, Flamingo in 2010, was a project in addition to The Killers, not a departure.

While Flamingo was a successful release, Flowers really found his footing as a solo artist with his second album released earlier this year, The Desired Effect. The credits feature Bruce Hornsby, Tony Levin, and other notable musicians who add a dimension that was lacking from the first album. Over half of the songs on the LP are potential singles, and he showcased many of them during his set.

Flowers displayed his Vegas roots as he hopped on stage and donned a shimmering gold suit jacket, bowed to his audience, and ripped into the first track from The Desired Effect, “Dreams Come True.” Flowers’ accompaniment, which included two backup singers, a small brass section, along with the standard guitar-bass-keyboard-drum set up, was shrouded in smoke and shadows, allowing Brandon’s high energy showmanship to run the night.

I always appreciate when songwriters give some background on their songs, and Flowers did just this, most notably for the song “Magdalena.” He explained that there is a pilgrimage every year on October 4th in Mexico in which people walk 60 miles from Nogales to Magdalena. This journey inspired the proud Mormon to write one of the best songs on Flamingo, and this background added depth to the performance.

Echostage is not nearly as large as the arenas Flowers is used to playing with The Killers, but is still a 6,000 capacity space. The show was made more intimate however, with frequent lights turned on the audience to sing back and forth with Brandon. Between songs he encouraged audience engagement, creating a more intimate atmosphere than I would have thought possible in the space.

About halfway through the performance, he finally broke into The Killers repertoire with “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine,” and two songs later, “Read My Mind.” After these standard crowd-pleasers, he threw in a delightful curveball by covering Spoon’s “The Underdog,” utilizing his brass section for a roaring crescendo. He closed out the set with The Killers’ first and biggest hit, “Mr. Brightside.”

Flowers came back out, having traded the gold jacket for a simple black vest, for an encore that was definitely worth sitting in traffic for after the concert. The light show, while impressive throughout, was stepped up a notch, shining lasers over the heads of the crowd. All three of the songs in the encore were from The Desired Effect and he rip-roared through them.

Opening act Donald Cumming, like Flowers, is the former frontman of a mid-2000 dance rock band, albeit a less successful one. He was the guitarist and vocalist for the band The Virgins who had opened for The Killers in 2013 for a series of shows which included Madison Square Garden. His new solo project follows the 1980s inspired trend that is all the rage with an obvious Dire Straits influence.

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