Following the release of their eighth album Kintsugi, Death Cab For Cutie embarked on their first full UK tour since 2011, save for a few London shows and a slot at Glastonbury earlier this year. Despite being the die-hard Death Cab fan that I am, I met the idea of their live show with some scepticism – with their intense, heartbreak-tinged brand of melancholia, I had to question just how vibrant and exciting their set would be.
First, however, was Chastity Belt, Death Cab’s fellow Seattle counterparts. It was clear that the majority of the room had only just become aware of Chastity Belt’s existence. Their brand of grungy riot-grrl rock mixed with dream-pop sounds, like a cross between Courtney Barnett, Bikini Kill and Beach House, had a fairly divisive effect, being met with enthusiasm from half of the audience and apathy from the other. Singles such as Singles such as Lydia from their recent sophomore release Time To Go Home received a better reception than their lesser-known ones, but ultimately their set failed to ignite any real excitement or leave a lasting impression on the greater majority.
It was the second song of Death Cab For Cutie’s set – Crooked Teeth – that well and truly began their set, rather than the opener No Room in Frame from their most recent release, with half of the crowd singing to the latter but the entire room taking great joy in shouting ‘you’re so cute when you’re slurring your speech’ along with Ben Gibbard. This remained a pattern throughout the rest of their set; all songs were met with enthusiasm, but the older, better-known songs, like You Are A Tourist and I Will Follow You Into The Dark received the strongest reception.
When you see a band with a discography of eight studio albums, six EPs, a demo album and numerous stand-alone singles, it’s reasonable to expect their set to comprise their most famous, successful songs and few to none of their older, album-only or lesser-known tracks. Death Cab, however, were sure to include a number of these, the particular highlight being Company Calls from their 2000 album We Have The Facts and We’re Voting Yes.
My fears regarding their set being less lively or spirited or enjoyable than other bands’ were misplaced, though. Songs such as The New Year, Doors Unlocked and Open, and Bixby Canyon Bridge filled the room with excitement – indeed, one member of the audience shouted ‘BIXBY CANYON’ at various intervals and then physically roared with joy when it was finally played. By contrast, the selections from their plethora of sombre songs seemed to unite the entire audience in a flood of emotion. Prime examples of this include their renditions of Brothers On A Hotel Bed and Your Heart is an Empty Room, the latter of which was reduced to just piano and voice. However, the real sentimental crescendo came with the closing song of their set – Transatlanticism. When there’s a room full of teary-eyed gig-goers gently swaying and chanting ‘I need you so much closer’ multiple times throughout a seven-minute song with unwavering attention, there’s something remarkable happening.
Death Cab For Cutie might not deliver the most energetic or flashy set, but they can definitely deliver one laden with intensity, vigour and emotion for twenty-four songs, and that’s truly something special.By Lucy McLaughlin