The Killers

"Heaven ain't close in a place like this" is the recurring echo of the Killers' left-field hit "Somebody Told Me," and the Las Vegas band certainly has spent the past year cultivating an air of amoral decadence around itself and its debut album, "Hot Fuss." The fickle British press bit, proclaiming the band wanton American rock-and-roll saviors (for a month or so, anyway). But at the sold-out 9:30 club Sunday night, the Killers looked and sounded like a garden-variety garage band -- and not a very exciting one at that.

The Killers' musical models are mostly Britpoppers like Pulp, Blur and Oasis -- singer Brandon Flowers and guitarist Dave Keuning first bonded over Oasis -- but the NYC stances of the Strokes and Interpol came through clearly during the 40-minute set.

Led by Flowers's faux-Brit vocals and sleazoid keyboard riffs, the Killers are best consumed as a singles band: "Mr. Brightside," "Midnight Show" and "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine" all grind forward with a new-wave thump that sounds good from a car radio. That trio of tunes was the best thing about the show, with Keuning carving the chord changes into Flowers's licentious lyrical snapshots. The rest, like the ridiculous "Indie Rock and Roll," were forgettable at best. And it was telling that the evening's most delicious moment of rock-and-roll decadence was not anything the Killers did, but rather the dirty strains of Kiss's "Calling Dr. Love," slithering from the PA before the band took the stage.

-- Patrick Foster

Shanghai Traditional

Instrument Orchestra

The Shanghai Traditional Instrument Orchestra opened up a treasure chest of multifaceted musical jewels Sunday afternoon, setting aglow the hall of the Chinese Embassy. The event was part of the Embassy Series, a unique set of concerts in dozens of Washington embassies that director Jerome Barry created more than two decades ago. In 21/2 hours of sonic radiance, conductor Wang Yongji led the chamber-size orchestra through ensemble and solo dazzlers.

The traditional Chinese instruments that were played included the pipa (a pear-shaped fretted lute), the sanxian (a fretless long-necked lute), the erhu (a Chinese violin), the gu zheng (a harplike zither), the suo na (a clarinetish reed instrument) and the xiao (vertical flute). Qiao Haibo displayed exquisite artistry on the Chinese panpipes with nostalgic shadings and hypnotic vibrato. As moving were Luo Xiaoci on the gu zheng, her entrancing circular strumming resonating in ornate variations. Yu Bin played an eloquent dance on the pipa. Interspersed with Chinese traditional music were energetic romps into Western tunes. A mirthful "Home on the Range" and some hyped showbiz from Hu Chengyun on a bluesy suo na brought audience chuckles. Duan Ai'ai and Han Yuliang's "Czardas" added a peppery Hungarian touch.

-- Cecelia Porter

Hackneyed to death? The Killers were commonplace criminals at the 9:30 club.