One-day festivals can attract people for whom music is a hobby rather than a passion. People who might blanch at the camping, toilet facilities and hygiene sacrifices of Glastonbury or Reading will happily spend a day drinking in Hyde Park, thereby lending many of the British Summer Time festival shows a distinctly middle-aged, family feel.
Yet some bands can draw fans to either type of event. A secret show by the Killers excited the most fervent reaction of the entire Glastonbury festival two weeks ago, while this headline set in Hyde Park sold out quicker than any BST bill since the Rolling Stones played the inaugural event in 2013.
It’s not remotely difficult to suss the Killers’ appeal. They write razor-sharp, irresistible synth-rock anthems, with colossal choruses that sting and gleam, and they perform them with a slickness and proficiency that may just be in their Las Vegas blood. They are close to being the consummate arena-rock band.
Singer Brandon Flowers has recently hinted at a possible change in musical direction, rhetorically wondering “How should a band sound in 2017?” There are few clues tonight. We get just one song from the imminent fifth Killers’ album, Wonderful Wonderful, with the band opening their set with its lead-off single The Man’s barbed Bee Gees-like retro-funk strut.
A lithe, snake-hipped showman in a bubblegum-pink leather jacket and a permanent smile, Flowers is almost a victim of his own louche brilliance. His onstage persona – part TV evangelist, part gameshow host – is so upbeat that it can appear insincere. His charisma fully eclipses the rest of the musically tremendous but visually unprepossessing Killers: hirsute and low-key, they look as if they should be playing sludge metal.
Yet Flowers is fully invested in the band. It shows in the way he hurls himself into sleek pop endorphin rushes such as Smile Like You Mean It and Human, and revisits nuggets from the band’s aborted Springsteen-esque phase such as The River is Wide. It’s also clear in his brittle awe as they cover Joy Division’s Shadowplay like a sacred text.
The ferociously ambitious Brandon Flowers has in the past berated his fellow Killers for not having the “drive” to be as big as U2. As they close a high-octane set with 65,000 festival-goers wigging out to the glossy, giddy delirium of Mr Brightside, you can’t help but feel they may yet be bang on target.
• At Genting Arena, Birmingham, 6 November. Box office: theticketfactory.com. Then touring.