Live review: Death Cab for Cutie w/Frightened Rabbit at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Alpharetta, GA 8/11/11
Ben Gibbard played like a man possessed Thursday night for Atlanta fans. Maybe that’s why Death Cab for Cutie began the show with the eight-minute, stalker-inpsired “I Will Possess Your Heart.” Gibbard sang, “You gotta spend some time, love / You gotta spend some time with me / And I know that you’ll find, love / I will possess your heart” like it was the first time. Fresh and fantastic.
This night was also Gibbard’s 35th birthday, would could account for his stratospheric level of energy. This, in turn, lifted the crowd’s excitement level to almost similar heights. It’s a beautiful thing to be witness to someone who is so in love with his career. The band is touring in support of their eighth studio album, Codes and Keys. The fans even interrupted the show to sing a loud “Happy Birthday” to the singer. He was happy. In between blistering versions of “Crooked Teeth” and “Long Division” was the new “Doors Unlocked And Open,” which gets an easy vote for being great; a song that truly has all the ingredients of a hit. The quartet is rounded out with Chris Walla, the multi-instrumentalist/producer of many Death Cab creations. He took on the guitar, bass, keys and backing vocals. The rhythm section was a force, with the unassuming Jason McGerr on drums, who looks like the dude in the next cubicle until he gets those sticks in his hands (then he becomes cool). Nick Harmer is a monster on the bass and may be confused with a skinnier, more demonic version of Zach Galafianakis. And he plays that bass like a jackhammer.
“I Will Follow You Into The Dark” (Live in Atlanta)
While the highlights of the show are too numerous to list, “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” is surely close to the top. The Romeo and Juliet-like beauty was the sing-along of the night (“If heaven and hell decide that they both are satisfied / Illuminate the NOs on their vacancy signs / If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks / Then I’ll follow you into the dark”). It’s the ultimate love song.
With the new release, the band has evolved to new heights while maintaining some of the old magic, as heard in the title track, “Codes And Keys.” Gibbard plays a beautifully choppy piano and sings his well-known insightful lyrics. This is a band that really has yet to be fully discovered by the average American radio listener. Soon, though. The set list pulled songs from nearly all Death Cab albums. During “We Looked Like Giants,” Gibbard jumped on a hastily set up drum kit facing McGerr’s kit. And the drum-off was on. Gibbard showed another musical skill and was not a slouch about it.
“A Movie Script Ending” (from 2002’s The Photo Album) was another top choice for Death Cab fans. The band returned for a rousing encore ending with the gripping and beautiful “Transatlanticism.” With it’s haunting and repetitive chorus of “I need you so much closer,” this was an apt ending to a special night.
Openers Frightened Rabbit earned their keep that night. Sadly, the band was totally unknown to most of the crowd, but surely gained some warm bodies for their fan club after that performance. Hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, they are doing that whole Brit/folk thing, with hints of Mumford & Sons (minus the banjo, plus some soul) and Arcade Fire (every once in a while).
Leader Scott Hutchison led the impassioned performance, supporting their latest release The Winter of Mixed Drinks. They were a grand complement to Death Cab and fans young and old realized that they just got a two-for-one concert.