Brandon Flowers Sound Academy, Toronto ON December 4

Brandon Flowers Sound Academy, Toronto ON December 4
Las Vegas chart toppers the Killers rose to arena status thanks to their talent for mimicry. Their debut mined new wave, post-punk and other then in vogue touchstones, while the sophomore effort did its best to repurpose Springsteen tropes. That's the thing: the band's identity stems from their lack of an identity. Essentially, they're collage artists. Nevertheless, they typically choose their source material well. Setting out on his own, frontman Brandon Flowers wasn't quite as discerning.

Running through the bulk of his forgettable solo record, this year's Flamingo, Flowers played to a curious if not fervent Saturday night crowd. Joined by a proficient six-piece band and backed by a fantastic rumpled curtain, the singer bounced about, thrusting his fist, telling polished tales and only occasionally adjusting his now-trademark waistcoat. Affable and unquestionably earnest, he got an "A" for effort. Still, hard work only gets you so far. When you're playing tired MOR rock -- with a heavy heaping of religious imagery and veiled proselytizing -- it's hardly enough.

Starting with the thankfully spare, acoustic-driven "On the Floor," Flowers evoked mid-period Bright Eyes (i.e., country-discovering Bright Eyes). His influences would go south from there.

"Crossfire" nodded to Bon Jovi -- maybe not the best place to look for inspiration -- minus the machismo (some chest hair would have done wonders). "Magdalena" shot for the Boss but only managed low-rent Gaslight Anthem, albeit with the punk edge replaced by not-so-subtle didacticism. "Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts" learned arrangement lessons from Poison's "Fallen Angel." And "Was It Something I Said?" and "Hard Enough" took vocal cues and backup-singer melodies from Meatloaf.

It's not as though Flowers doesn't recognize a worthy source of inspiration when he sees one. After all, the Killers did cover Joy Division's "Shadowplay." Perhaps his ill-advised choices are symptomatic of an inherent need to distance himself from his day job.

Unsurprisingly, the best-received selections came from the Killers' canon, including an admittedly haunting take on "Read My Mind" -- at least the beginning of it -- and a dance-infused re-imagining of "Mr. Brightside." Neither of which sounded anything like Meatloaf.