Even though it would be another four hours before the doors would open, there was already a line of fans outside the Sound Academy in Toronto's docklands, shivering in Saturday's late-afternoon cold as they waited to see Killers singer Brandon Flowers play the last show of his first solo tour.
Some, snug under blankets as a sound check performance of Crossfire bled through the walls, appeared to have been there for hours, and probably have been following the singer for weeks. "Bless 'em, they are devoted," says Flowers after sound check, in his tour bus. "I see some of the same faces every night."
"It's great to have the support, and I realize that it comes out of the love that they first had for the Killers," he adds. At the same time, he confesses to feeling a bit awkward knowing that these fans have heard the same patter in different cities. "I feel embarrassed to do some of the same things, even though it's new for 95 per cent of the audience."
Such self-consciousness may seem surprising, but it's something Flowers has dealt with for most of his professional life. Even though he's spent the past decade fronting one of the more flamboyant bands in alternative rock, Flowers is hardly the strutting peacock some of his fans assume.
"I've never felt comfortable just in my own skin," he says. "I've always been self-conscious. I know it's strange, considering this is what I do, but I still feel self-conscious. If I'm in line at the bank, or I'm out walking - whenever I'm exposed in any way and there's someone that can see me, I feel so strange."
Watching him during sound check, with his shoulders hunched and his hands tucked into the pockets of his grey hoodie, it's clear that Flowers is not one of those singers who hungers to be onstage or lives for the limelight; if he were a character on Glee, he'd be the kid who sits quietly in the back row, unnoticed until it's time to perform.
But when the lights come up and the band is cooking, Flowers seems another person entirely. Onstage at the Sound Academy that evening, he was effortlessly commanding, urging the crowd on through smart, synth-spiked rockers like Swallow It and Playing with Fire. There was even a bit of the preacher in his delivery as he presented the picaresque rocker Magdalena.
As with the Killers, the musical references were mostly eighties new wave - some Billy Idol in Jilted Lovers and Broken Hearts, some Cars beneath Was It Something I Said? - and he even covered Kim Carnes's 1981 hit, Bette Davis Eyes. But the cover that got the strongest response was Losing Touch, from the Killers' third album, Day & Age.
Frankly, Flowers would rather be on tour with the Killers than doing his own project. "The idea of taking a year and a half off from being onstage scares me a little bit," he says. "Being on the road is something I've been cultivating. I feel like I've grown a lot, and I'm feeling comfortable onstage. I don't want to lose that."
But some of his fellow Killers were sick of touring, which led to the band announcing early this year that it would go on hiatus. "A couple of 'em just want a really long break," says Flowers, shrugging. "I mean, I can't make them tour, and I wouldn't want them to make me do something."
During their time off, drummer Ron Vannucci recorded a couple tracks with Mt. Desolation, which also includes members of Keane and Mumford & Sons. "I think he's working on [his own]record now," says Flowers. Meanwhile, bassist Mark Stoermer produced an album for the Australian indie band Howling Bells.
"So everybody's keeping pretty busy, but we're going to reconvene in May, it looks like, to get together and start writing."
And even though the band was officially on break, the four still got together to record their annual charity Christmas song. "I'll tell you how it happened," says Flowers. "Every now and then I get these freak phone calls, and one day I was in the Belagio, in Las Vegas, and it's Bono on the phone. And I'll never get used to that. It could be 30 years down the road, and it'll still seem weird. He's someone I really admire.
"Anyway, he's got this Product Red campaign that he's starting up," he says, referring to Bono's African AIDS charity. "He wants to know if I will be on a Gap ad. I didn't want to do it, but I offered, instead, to write a Christmas song and donate it all to the thing. So he said, 'Great.'
"Now it's become a Killers tradition," he says. "We're on our fifth Christmas song this year. It's called Boots, and if you buy it on iTunes, the whole dollar twenty nine goes towards this campaign. And we've got Starbucks on board, so if you go to starbucks.com, every time you click on the video, they donate five cents. Jared Hess, the guy who made Napoleon Dynamite, made the video this year."
He laughs. "For charity it's great what you can get people to do," he says. "It's amazing what these guys are doing for people, and I'm thankful to be a part of it."
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