- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 12, 2005

If there was one lesson to be learned Wednesday night at Merriweather Post Pavilion, it was that nice guys — sensitive guys who probably weren’t the coolest in high school, the kind who love their mothers — sometimes finish first.

Members of the English trio Keane are definitely those guys. Touted as openers for the keyboard-infused quartet the Killers, Keane managed to steal the show from perhaps one of the hottest American rock acts currently on tour — and all without a guitar.

After its guitarist suddenly left the band in 2002, Keane was left with simply voice, drums and piano and reworked its sound without him. The result is a gorgeous brand of piano-driven rock, ethereal but fast-moving, unlike anything currently heard on American airwaves.

Keane’s lyrics touch on universal themes — love, loss, friendship — and the three band mates, all childhood friends, truly form a cohesive unit that creates a surprisingly forceful stream of music.

Singer Tom Chaplin had kind words for the audience and was clearly blown away by the crowd’s exuberance. By the time the band played “Everybody’s Changing,” from its debut album, “Hopes and Fears,” the audience and the band were a blissful, sweaty mess.

The Killers arrived on a luxuriously curtained and blood-red stage looking as though they’d walked right out of their hometown of Las Vegas. They opened with “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine,” the first song from their 2004 debut release, “Hot Fuss.” The foursome — propelled onto the charts last year with their hits “Somebody Told Me” and “Mr. Brightside” — are part of the brigade of “the” bands (the Vines, the White Stripes, the Strokes), which, generally, are known for resurrecting the sounds of yesteryear.

In the Killers’ case, it’s a provocative mix of 1980s synthesizers and light punk with songs that tell dark Vegas stories about equally dark (but fun and mostly jealous) characters with names such as Natalie, Andy and, of course, Jenny.

Their performance was clearly focused on singer-keyboardist Brandon Flowers — decked out in his trademark black eyeliner and the skinniest pants this side of the Mason-Dixon Line — who came at the crowd with a strong voice and plenty of operatic arm swoops, but not much more.

Words for the crowd were few and far between, and so were surprises — save for a B-side, a new song and Mr. Flowers’ sudden playful tackle of guitarist David Keuning. The earnest and very personable Keane was a tough act for any band to follow, but theKillers’ larger-than-life, blinking-lights performance somehow didn’t quite meet expectations.

Their thousands of fans couldn’t have cared less. The quartet jumped into “Somebody Told Me” early into their set, and within moments, the entire pavilion was singing “You had a boyfriend/Who looks like a girlfriend/That I had in February of last year.”

“Mr. Brightside” was the band’s final song before the encore, and it had many in the crowd speeding back to their seats or their spot on the lawn (beer spilling and nachos flying) to sing along. All in all, a fun show — but maybe they should have opened for Keane.

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