You have to hand it to The Killers. The band that emerged from Las Vegas a decade ago with ambitions of becoming the next U2 won’t be giving up their dreams of global domination any time soon. And judging by last night’s concert in Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum, they’re willing to take risks to get there.

“Hello Vancouver,” beamed frontman Brandon Flowers after the band strode onstage following the obligatory thunder and lightning effects, “It’s been too long!” 

“A Matter of Time” was perhaps an odd choice for a show opener, but in their quest for arena rock supremacy The Killers are pinning much of their hopes on their latest album, “Battle Born,” a collection of songs clearly designed with stadium stages in mind.

Which was interesting, because the crowd was clearly in the mood for the golden oldies. “Smile Like You Mean It,” two songs later, sent a noticeable jolt of energy through the arena, which continued with the equally bouncy “Spaceman.”

“Somebody Told Me,” came soon after, still sounding like a sassy tale of late night androgyny. Which made its follow-up, irony-free power ballad “Here With Me,” even more alarming. An unapologetic diversion into album-oriented rock territory, latecomers could have been forgiven for thinking they’d wandered into the Journey concert (taking place simultaneously at Rogers Arena) by mistake.

“Whataddaya think?” asked Flowers when the cheese had finally subsided, perhaps unsure if they’d carried it off.

“Here With Me” was probably the most extreme detour into old school soft rock, but it wasn’t the only culprit. “Battle Born” is a record that embraces broad brushstrokes and love-at-first-sight lyrics over the obtuse tales from the band’s past.

Out of all the new tracks unleashed last night that standout was “Runaways,” the Bruce Springsteen homage/pastiche that resonated with The Boss’s twin trademarks of relentless optimism and big choruses.

Not that Flowers has the natural charisma of even a 63-year-old Bruce Springsteen. But he was trying hard, launching himself around the stage, jumping into the crowd to high-five fans and delivering his mid-song patter with authority if not spontaneity. The other star is drummer Ronnie Vannucci, whose power and performance make up for the lack of personality from bassist Mark Stoermer and guitarist Dave Keuning, the owner of possibly the least convincing foot-on-the-monitor move in rock history.

“Runaways,” was the cue for the best blasts of the evening, a run of “Mr Brightside,” “All These Things That I’ve Done,” “Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine,” and “When You Were Young,” each lapped up by a grateful and vibrating crowd. Which made the final song of the night, the title track of “Battle Born,” a confusing and not-altogether welcome return to AOR-land.

“You haven’t deserted us yet,” smiled Flowers, before disappearing onto the floor for hugs and more high fives.

Smart enough to realise that his band is challenging its crowd, Flowers probably understands that it will be concerts like this that decide their future. Will this new direction lead to U2-sized glory or Nickelback-shaped ignominy? Only time will tell.

All of which contrasted sharply with a delightfully understated support slot from Tegan and Sara. The duo, aided by a four-piece band (all of whom towered over the tiny twins) delivered their elegant sophisto-pop with smiles and sincerity. Vancouver resident Tegan Quin was in particularly high spirits, confessing her excitement and checking the audience’s comfort level so frequently she admitted, “I’m like your Mum.”

“Hell” and “Closer” were highlights of a set that hinted that they still have years of greatness ahead of them. They might never fill arenas, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.