You would be inclined to think that seeing your favourite band live would automatically equate to an amazing experience. Sadly, the last time I saw Death Cab For Cutie at The Enmore Theatre two years ago, I was underwhelmed to say the least; perhaps it was the heartbreak from Gibbard’s recent divorce, perhaps he just didn’t give a damn. While the songs were delivered note-perfect, the unavoidable truth came in the form of the realisation that there’s more to a gig than just the pitch of a performance – there also needs to be soul and charisma.
In spite of this former disappointment, I had high expectations for Saturday’s show at The Opera House. How would the new album Kintsugi sound? Would the crowd be filled with long-term fans like myself? And most importantly, would it be another dreary re-enactment of the Enmore show? With such high expectations, it would appear impossible to even meet them. But Death Cab For Cutie fulfilled my teenage dream – delivering their indie rock/emo tunes (you choose the genre) to absolute perfection, rendering many more than myself – I swear – teary-eyed with the opening strains of “Transatlantacism”, yet sustaining the ability to create a soaring joy with “No Room In Frame”. The setlist was well rounded, featuring tracks from every album, including some special ones from the pre-Transatlantacism days in 1998.
Despite Gibbard’s best efforts to encourage people to stand, the crowd – bar three or four people – were defiantly seated, remaining lifeless for most of the show. That notwithstanding, this is to be expected at an Opera House show: it meant that there was a distinct barrier between the artist and audience, forcing the band to act a little more professional, a little less chaotic. This change in performance style meant that the band – Gibbard especially – were awkward for the most part, unable to perform in their natural way. They did adapt to the change well, but I think their challenges exemplify that The Opera House is not the right performing space for this particular band.
After Chris Walla’s departure pre-Kintsugi, new band members Zac Rae and Dave Depper joined original members, Ben Gibbard, Jason McGerr and Nick Harmer. With two new band members, the new tour definitely had the potential for a lot of errors that performing for years would not allow. However, the new ensemble performed so seamlessly that one could be convinced that they had been playing together for decades. This was especially evident during the epic and challenging 8-minute track, “I Will Possess Your Heart”. The emotional pull of this track for long term Death Cab fans is such that it is a veritable make-or-break moment: nail the piece, and confirm the quality of the new band members, fail to deliver, and view the cynicism abounding. Fortunately, and somewhat unsurprisingly, the fans responded en masse in an overwhelmingly positive reaction.
As Gibbard’s aesthetic has evolved – ditching the glasses, losing a bit of weight, and throwing out the plaid shirts – so too has his music and the fans that accompany it. From your OC days to the revival of emo music in your later years, Death Cab remains a reminder of who you used to be. Whether you’re aPlans loyalist or are one of the few that adores Codes and Keys, seeing Death Cab For Cutie live is one of those events that is essential in order to satisfy your thirteen year old self.
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And via their website here: http://deathcabforcutie.com/