You can imagine that growing up in Las Vegas would give you wildly distorted and entirely wayward ideas about what the rest of the world is like, that you would come to regard the pervasive neon, the garish glitz, the profound seediness, and the rampant amorality as totally normal and commonplace — a lurid fantasy world that completely defines your reality. But the Strip is not Main Street. That's not really the Eiffel Tower, that's not really Caesar's Palace, that's not really New York City, and that's not really a woman.
This confusion is what makes Vegas pretty boys the Killers' blatant desire to be the Great American Rock Band so fascinating: Their conception of what "Great American" means is plainly ludicrous. ("Rock" too, come to think of it.) First surfacing in 2004 with Hot Fuss, they began as a delightfully vapid fashionista synth-pop/dance-punk band, but soon betrayed a desperate and all-consuming longing to think Really Deep Thoughts, to transform wine into water, Nevada into Nebraska, and all those glittering neon palms into The Joshua Tree.
The Killers: With Chairlift. Saturday, October 3. American Airlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $32.75 and $47.25 at ticketmaster.com
Then, last year came the band's most recent effort, Day & Age, a luxurious, hedonistic epic produced by Stuart Price — he of Madonna's Confessions on a Dance Floor (i.e., her last good record). The disc boasts the same alluring contradiction: It sounds like approximately $10 million but attempts to rhapsodize the downtrodden and penniless. Typical song title: "A Dustland Fairytale." Typical soul-searching refrain: "Are we human/Or are we dancer?" (?) "We talked about the real things and drove into the fire," frontman Brandon Flowers intones on the ridiculous asexual sex jam "Joy Ride." His lyrics leap haphazardly from striving-American-heartland clichés ("wishing well," "hopes and dreams," "when your chips are down," "the great beyond") to botched Zen koan/pick-up-line nonsense: e.g., "They say the Nile used to run from east to west."
Of course — and you can't overemphasize this — it all sounds fantastic, no matter how implausible it gets: Watch in awe as "Are we human/Or are we dancer?" is transformed into one of the year's prettiest, most rousing choruses, its grammatically unsound gibberish rendered improbably profound. Every other tune eventually resolves to another similarly effortless-sounding delicate/rousing/soaring chorus. It belies the eternal wisdom of a band savvy enough to realize that the most important part of U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)" goes "Oh oh-oh oh/Oh oh-oh oh/Oh oh-oh oh/Oh oh-oh oh."