Rock stars are often seen, culturally, as wolves in sheeps' clothing, seducing and subverting once they have gotten their fangs into the hearts of music listeners, using their Pied Piper powers of coercion to ensnare innocent ears and radicalize minds with their unholy aims. But what if that archetype has flipped — or was never real in the first place?
Exhibit A might be the career arc of Brandon Flowers: his band the Killers aggressively stalked the popular consciousness in the mid-'00s with a string of über-hits that mixed new-wave sheen and a dark majesty that was pounding and relentless. But a funny thing happened when Flowers continued to stick around and pile up hits and sales plaques: he revealed himself to be a sheep in wolf's clothing, using a Trojan Horse of disco decadence to sneak in what may be his ultimate subversion — a true belief in the transformative powers of music.
"When I fell in love with music, everything changed," Flowers beams, as he talks from his tour bus in Denver, where just a few hours later he performed a solo act that will swing into our House of Blues on November 26. "I mean, look, when I was 12 or 13 I was this unpopular kid in this dinky town in Utah, and my older brother gave me this Cars cassette. And suddenly the whole town changed. You know? It just changed! I think a lot about the effect that those songs had on me when I was younger, and how much better my days were because of them."
For Flowers, as with most people who wind up becoming enormously successful songwriters and rock stars, that initial love of music turned into a quest to develop both a sense of cool and a personal mythology that would work musically. This eventually manifested itself in an obsession with Las Vegas, the town of his birth that his family moved away from when he was eight. Although Flowers's older brother later hepped him to Anglophile favorites like U2, the Smiths, and Depeche Mode, he couldn't help but be drawn to other, more un-cool sources for myth-building inspiration. "When I was around 15 or 16," Flowers says, "I started buying Sinatra albums. One in particular, this live record from the '70s called The Main Event, I really loved because it drew me back to Vegas. I dunno, the past and the roots of Vegas are interesting and important to me."
Flowers grew up in a Mormon household, and his success story, unlike that of most rock stars, does not see him renouncing that background. "Yeah, part of my whole interest in Vegas definitely has to do with how I'm a Mormon, and how the Mormons settled Las Vegas, and just watching how it started from that and what it's become. I mean, it's all interesting, that history, up to, you know, Sinatra and Elvis. It's great! I feel like the ghosts are still there, and I am just really so attached to it." Like Sinatra and Elvis, Flowers's singular voice is powerful and recognizable, occasionally hitting more of a crooner vibe than your average rock singer exudes. Flowers doesn't deny his crooning side either: "Oh totally! I mean, you can look at some of my big influences, like David Bowie, for example, definitely a crooner. Morrissey as well."