Death Cab for Cutie thrill Atlanta

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.

Set List:

I Will Possess Your Heart
Crooked Teeth
We Laugh Indoors
Doors Unlocked And Open
Long Division
Grapevine Fires
Codes And Keys
What Sarah Said
I Will Follow You Into The Dark
Title Track
Little Bribes
You Are A Tourist
The New Year
Some Boys
Soul Meets Body
A Movie Script Ending
We Looked Like Giants
Marching Bands Of Manhattan


Stay Young, Go Dancing
Title And Registration
The Sound Of Settling

(Thanks to the bloggers at Death Cab for Cutie News for the set list)

92. DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE, 5/31/08

Location: Ninth Street Summerfest, Columbia, MO
Supporting Act(s): Rogue Wave
In the Company of: Russ W. & Sheila W.

What’s in a name? Well, for Seattle’s Death Cab For Cutie, a lot. Travel back with me, if you will, to 1967. You may remember a little movie by The Beatles called “The Magical Mystery Tour.” In that movie, there is another band, called the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. They perform a song in that film entitled, “Death Cab For Cutie.” Got it?

Now, fast-forward to 2008 and an indie rock group that recently had their new release, “Narrow Stairs,” debut at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Pretty amazing for a band that was relatively unknown until 2005’s breakout release “Plans.” This success is definitely not overnight, though. The group, led by singer Ben Gibbard, has been making music together for ten years.

On this warm night under the stars in the cozy college town (The University of Missouri), Gibbard asked the two blocks of fans if any had been with them six years ago for the first time they played Columbia. It was at a club called Mojo’s. A club I was sitting in not an hour before this show began. The place is small and dingy, but with a nice beer selection. One or two yelps answered his question. I’m guessing they were not really there six years ago, but just wanted some undeserved attention from the crowd.

The show kicked off with “Bixby Canyon Bridge” from “Narrow Stairs,” a salute to Beat poet Jack Kerouac. Gibbard starts off the song nearly a capella, but the rhythm section soon joins in to make this a pounding gem (“I descended a dusty gravel ridge / Beneath the Bixby Canyon Bridge / Until I eventually arrived / At the place where your soul had died”). The sound was loud and crisp and it seemed that the crowd had been waiting an eternity for this moment, not just the one-hour delay caused by the storm cells over mid-Missouri.

Other selections from the new release included, “Long Division,” “Cath…,” and the stalking first single, “I Will Possess Your Heart,” played nearly in its entirety of over eight minutes (“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”). The band also treated the crowd to several songs from their last album, “Plans,” including “Crooked Teeth,” “Soul Meets Body,” the touching and hugely sing-along-able “I Will Follow You Into The Dark,” “Marching Bands Of Manhattan,” and “Your Heart Is An Empty Room.”

From 2003’s “Transatlanticism” (the band’s final release on the indie label Barsuk) we heard “New Year,” “The Sound Of Settling,” “Title And Registration,” and the closer, “Transatlanticism” (“…I need you so much closer…”). For the hardcore Death Cab fans, “Why You’d Want To Live Here,” “A Movie Script Ending,” “We Laugh Indoors,” “Your Bruise,” and “405” were performed.

Young faces in the crowd were jumping and singing every word to every song. I felt guilty calling myself a fan not knowing every lyric. But college towns and college radio can stand up and take some credit for Death Cab’s overwhelming success of late. This was an inspired show that will not soon be forgotten.

Opening the show was California’s Rogue Wave. Promoting their 2007 release, “Asleep At Heaven’s Gate,” the band played excellent music that was responded well to by the fans. Highlights were “Lake Michigan” and “Like I Needed.” Headed by Zach Rogue, the band is both atmospheric and rocking in any given song. Something to see if you get the chance.