Review and photos – Death Cab for Cutie at Rogers Arena, Vancouver, Oct 21 2011
The best thing about seeing a band like Death Cab for Cutie is that the people at the show really want to be there. This allows the band to showcase the music they love, in the manner of their choosing, without the fear of losing the crowd. If you’ve been to a rock show where the band has lost the crowd, you know it ain’t pretty.
A four piece indie-turned-rock package from Bellingham WA, Death Cab for Cutie is the little band that could. Now on their seventh album, Death Cab is no stranger to the stage, though their unassuming stageshow might make you think otherwise. Minimal backgrounds and a small light show played second fiddle to their passionate 20-ish song set list.
Although they were FAR from selling out a super-venue like Rogers Arena, the band played as though every seat was full, taking the modest crowd on a journey through their albums, one song at a time. They showcased several songs from their current album Codes and Keys including the title track, and the radio single “You Are a Tourist” but they weren’t afraid to draw from the classics, giving the crowd its way with favorites from every album.
Highlights of the show included a completely acoustic rendition of “I’ll Follow You Into the Dark” where all band members left the stage, save for frontman Ben Gibbard, who serenaded the audience with quiet confidence until the rest of the group rejoined him. Also, a trademark drum duet between Gibbard and dummer Jason McGerr provided a great throwback to the percussion party of the 2006 tour with Franz Ferdinand. Gibbard jokingly introduced “Soul Meets Body”, calling it a true “stadium rock song”, thus recognizing, but not apologizing, for the mellow nature of the group.
There was slight confusion when the group reclaimed the stage for an encore. Gibbard seemed slightly off-kilter and admitted that perhaps they had returned a moment too soon, as he had no instrument. The situation was quickly remedied by a stagehand, and the group played an unprecedented four-song encore. The first three songs were less recognizable and the crowd’s enthusiasm seemed to wane, but all was forgiven and forgotten when they heard the familiar slow build of “Transatlanticism”, the title track from their fourth album. The song has a great flow, and managed to end the show on a high note.
The group has clearly improved in both musicianship and stage presence since their tour in 2006 (the last time this reviewer saw them). They may never sell out a multiplex, but that is also possibly the best and most honest thing about Death Cab for Cutie. They seem quite content to occupy a place between the mainstream and their indie roots.
****Special thanks to Raphael, without whom I may still be sitting outside Rogers Arena, singing “Styrofoam Plates” by myself. A stranger did something awesome for me this week. I need to return the favour****
More Death Cab for Cutie photos: