Everybody's favorite gin-soaked dustball of a money pit is synonymous with only the finest names in world-class entertainment: Wayne Newton, Celine Dion, Tom Jones and... The Killers?
Improbably emerging from the Las Vegas sand like so many shaggy-haired palm trees, The Killers are an anomaly. In a town traditionally known as the last stop for entertainers whose best years are at least a decade behind them, The Killers are hell-bent on showing the world that music can grow in the desert.
Ever since Sin City was built on such dependable foundations as legalized gambling and quickie divorces, masses have flocked to the desert with stars in their eyes and ATM cards a-blazin' to help folks engage in what can only be described as a Zen-like sensory overload. Unfortunately for the music scene, little attention is paid to the homegrown entertainment fighting to survive beyond The Strip.
"[Tourists] don't give a crap about local music," says Killers guitarist Dave Keuning. "You know, they're watching Wayne Newton or they're blowing their money in the casinos, so it's hard to get people out to the shows.
"If you have a town like New York or Chicago, you know, you'll come into town and [say], "Maybe I'll go see a band. Maybe not a local band, but I'll go to a bar or something and maybe see a band.' They don't do that in Vegas."
In a town where the wheels of commerce are greased with tourism dollars, The Killers-Keuning, singer Brandon Flowers, bassist Mark Stoermer and drummer Ronnie Vannucci-have concocted a mixture of glam, grunge and punk rock so impudent and precise that not even lackluster local support could keep concert organizers from frantically fumbling through their Palm Pilots to book them.
Drawing on Oasis' bombast and Duran Duran's savvy synth work, the band whips up some mighty fine modern rock tunes. The band doesn't allow its vast array of influences (which, by the sound of their debut album, Hot Fuss, could range anywhere from David Bowie to Liberace) divert from the roaring catchiness. The band recently made its Coachella debut and will soon be making its first appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live while on a short West Coast swing that includes an opening slot with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They have accepted invitations to both the Glastonbury and Fuji Rock Festivals, both notorious in the "Your Band Ain't Shit Unless You Play These Festivals" department.
As usual, it is those music-obsessed Brits who have showered the most praise upon these snappy-dressed wunderkinds. Slowly but surely pumping The Killers with Strokes-like adulation, the British press and heavy video play in the U.K. have made fans out of many a snaggle-toothed tea drinker. The band's current U.K. tour is sold out, and they are gaining the kind of notoriety the normally reserved for Spice Girl-marrying soccer players and every band from New York.
"We were just [in the U.K.] two months ago with stellastarr* and it was starting to get good then, and we came back and it was just like, "Whoa!'" Keuning says.
The Killers have done their damnedest to break the seal on the Vegas music scene and appear to be on their way to greener pastures, but a sustained lack of interest from both the local community and tourists has made the odds of another Vegas band matching The Killers' success slimmer than your chances of winning back Gramma's wedding ring on one last hand of Pai Gow.
"[The Vegas music scene] doesn't seem to be getting any better in the foreseeable future," Keuning says.
At least the shrimp cocktail is still cheap.The Killers play with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, gogogo airheart and Scarlet Symphony at Soma, 7 p.m. on June 10. $17.91. 619-226-7662.