After the jump, my thoughts on a few concerts I saw recently...

After the jump, my thoughts on a few concerts I saw recently...

Wednesday, April 29: Junior Boys at Skully's I missed opening act Max Tundra, which was a huge bummer considering my positive previous experience with the one-man wonder and rave reviews from friends that suggested his Columbus performance was just as eye-opening.

Junior Boys weren't quite so vigorous, though I was surprised how aggressive their typically toned-down tunes came across in this setting. Equally surprising was how much of the sound they seemed to be creating live rather than relying on samples. I didn't know what to expect from these guys, but I didn't expect it to be so rock 'n' roll.

Still, it wasn't like Jeremy Greenspan was Mick Jagger up there. Electric guitars, keyboards and live drums only go so far toward creating an engaging live experience, and even while performing supreme head-bob jams like "In the Morning," the three-man lineup seemed like their hearts weren't totally in it. Their music has always been sleek and sophisticated, but no one could accuse them of the cool detachment on display that night.

It was as easy to mentally drift away from this music in the live setting as on record. In headphones, that can be a plus, especially when your mind checks back in just in time for some glorious crescendo. The effect might have been similar somewhere like the Wexner Center's performance space if ever an act was destined to play the Wex, it's Junior Boys. But in a half-full Skully's, catching up with an old friend seemed more captivating than paying close attention to the Junior Boys' wispy electronic ballads. I can only imagine how much of a downer it must have been after witnessing Tundra's bluster of sounds and contortions.

Thursday, April 30: Beaten Awake and Fey Gods at The Treehouse The following night was much more rewarding. I was too late for Chris Burney and too exhausted to stay for Brainbow, but I was glad to begin the night by finally seeing Fey Gods do their thing. As with Nick and Lula Perry's former project, Grave Blankets, only after seeing Fey Gods live have I fostered a real taste for their skronking, occasionally pop-infected noise rock.

The origin of Fey Gods was simple enough. After shuffling through drummers at a Spinal Tap-worthy clip, Nick and Lula decided to try their hand as a duo, relying on prerecorded drum tracks while trading off guitar and keyboard duties. The results on this Thursday night were sometimes meandering but more often marvelous trips to pop's most demented corners and noise's most accessible nooks. The Times New Viking influence that began to rear its head in Grave Blankets was still active here, with melodic choruses acting like a neon sign on their condemned building of a catalog. (I mean that in a positive way.) They played a bit too long for my taste nearly an hour, it seemed but they left a good impression.

The main reason I came to the Treehouse that night was for Beaten Awake. Much of the reason I loved their debut Let's Get Simplified so much was the interplay between dual singer-songwriters Jon Finley and Joel McAdams, so I was disappointed to find out McAdams (and, presumably, his songs) had left the band. But Finley, whose wispy, melancholy wail provided top tracks "Brownstown" and "Goin' Nowhere," did a great job carrying Beaten Awake, leading the group through a set of new tunes that stood up to his previous killer cuts. I already knew the keyboard heavy "Coming Home" was a keeper; the rest were just as strong.The addition of Houseguest bassist Gabe Schray on second guitar brought a lot to the table as well. Can't wait to hear the upcoming full-length on Fat Possum.

Tuesday, May 5: The Killers at LC Pavilion When it comes to The Killers, I have always been a hater. I always thought "Somebody Told Me" was lackluster in spite of going so far over the top, and it took me months to come around on "Mr. Brightside." Even as they've won me over one dumb lyric at a time, I had never come close to calling myself a fan until last fall when The Killers dominated the radio during my trip to L.A. and I realized "Read My Mind" and "When You Were Young" wanted to love me, if only I would consent to love them back.

So I went to last week's show at the LC hoping for a revelatory arena rock kind of night. Much to my disappointment, The Killers were decidedly not killer. I should have known better.

First of all, I never realized how much these guys rip off U2 before I heard Brandon Flowers' passionate wail over and over and over. The Springsteen mimicry is still evident too, but Flowers is much more of a Bono wannabe. Now, ripping off U2 isn't necessarily a deadly sin. Lots of bands have concocted great music by taking cues from those guys. But if you're going to bust out rock star moves, you have to pull them off, and Flowers seemed more like a guy playing rock star than the genuine article. His feeble attempts at grand gestures seemed calculated and half-hearted. At least his voice came through loud and clear.

His band was even less impressive. Normally I don't mind musicians using pre-recorded backing tracks, but The Killers' sound is so dependent on keyboards that it seemed ridiculous how often a signature melody line came from a canned track rather than the keyboard stand Flowers occasionally toyed with. The guitars, too, often seemed to be pumped in from some mysterious backstage boombox while Dave Keuning played simplistic high-register Edge parts with no urgency. The drums and bass were effective but nothing special.

The show also revealed that this band's well of quality cuts is pretty shallow. Even a few of the hits, including "Smile Like You Mean It" and the recent "Spaceman" fell flat, though a late string of highlights "Read My Mind," "Mr. Brightside" and a triumphant encore rendition of "When You Were Young" added some redeeming value to the show. All in all, though, they underwhelmed.