You really miss their finer points when you experience the Killers only from a recording. How else are you going to witness the wonder that is lead singer Brandon Flowers perched at the lip of the stage, silhouetted by a wall of lights with arms outstretched and hips swiveling?
The Killers are one of those peculiar bands you either love or hate from their albums. Their jittery dance rock is epic, full of crescendos and melodic sweeps that find the unlikely sweet spot between Duran Duran and U2. Yet on record, Flowers often cuts a slight presence, a shrinking violet in a garden overgrown with wild delights.
It really takes a live performance to grasp the band's careful balance of the bombastic with the heartfelt. Last night was such a show. The Killers sold out the 6,000-seat Agganis Arena with an electric performance as glitzy and indulgent as their Las Vegas origins.
The quartet is touring behind a new album, "Day & Age," which splits the difference between its first two, from the synth-heavy New Wave of 2004's "Hot Fuss" to the tumbleweed Americana of "Sam's Town" two years later.
Dispensing early on with their breakthrough hit, "Somebody Told Me," the Killers culled from all three albums, with emphasis on the latest. Though disparate in nature, the older songs complemented the newer ones surprisingly well. The prevailing sentiment of "Human" - "My sign is vital/ My hands are cold/ And I'm on my knees/ Looking for the answer" - felt like the obvious set-up for the desolation of "Sam's Town," with Flowers playing keyboard.
He's a fascinating frontman, a complete natural who's coy enough to get across the most tenderhearted of lyrics and bold enough to upstage his bandmates while doing so. He's never exactly ostentatious yet never dull, either.
On "All These Things That I've Done," Flowers kicked into overdrive on a chorus that demanded it: "I got soul, but I'm not a soldier," he nearly shouted, leading the audience in a fist-pumping sing-along. He looked as if he were about to chuck the microphone stand into the front row; a spray of white confetti shot out instead.
During "Mr. Brightside," Flowers pounded on a synthesizer concealed behind a lowercase "k" built of flashing light bulbs. But he also recognized the collective joy of hearing a sea of people singing the same song.
At one point he surveyed the vast crowd and marveled, "Our family is getting bigger and bigger. It's a wonderful thing."
The French electronic band M83 opened with a set of dense, textured rock that suggested the spirit of the Cocteau Twins and Kate Bush is living happily ever after.
James Reed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org