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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 23, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 04
Death Cab for Cutie brings it back home
Arts & Entertainment
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Death Cab for Cutie brings it back home

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
THE CROCODILE
January 20


'We're Death Cab for Cutie and we're from here,' said Ben Gibbard to a packed room at The Crocodile on Tuesday night. 'We're from here.'

Indeed, the Seattle rock group played their first concert of 2015 to an intimate hometown audience of about 500 people this week, previewing material from their forthcoming album, Kintsugi, and delighting fans with familiar favorites from previous recordings. This was also the first performance without original band member Chris Walla, who parted ways amicably to pursue other interests. Dave Depper, a Portland-based guitarist, and keyboardist Zac Rae from Los Angeles have been temporarily added to the lineup, although neither has been announced as a permanent replacement for Walla.

The show kicked off with 'I Will Possess Your Heart,' from 2008's Narrow Stairs release, played in its entirety, all 8 to 10 minutes of it. Gibbard, wearing dark brown slacks with matching color shoes and midnight blue dress shirt, played guitar for half of the song, then switched to an electric piano. His bangs evenly hung down over either side of his face. 'Crooked Teeth,' off 2005's Plans, and 'Photobooth,' which appeared on Death Cab for Cutie's 2000 EP Forbidden Love, got many longtime fans merrily chanting along to the lyrics.

The crowd ranged from students in their early 20s to trendy 30-somethings to bearded men in their 40s, all grateful to see and hear a band in a shoebox-sized club that can easily sell out mid-size sports arenas. Thousands of fans attempted to purchase tickets online when they went on sale a week ago, resulting in the concert selling out almost instantly. And even though the multiple Grammy nominated outfit could've played the Paramount or WaMu theaters, they chose The Crocodile because it's where Death Cab for Cutie got its big break in Seattle. Their first sold out performance in the Emerald City was at this exact venue back in 1988; Gibbard recalled crying after the show because he'd been to so many concerts at The Crocodile and couldn't believe that his own band had just sold it out.

From the upcoming release, available on March 31, the group introduced three tracks, one of them being the leadoff single, 'Black Sun,' which was somewhat dark and carried a heavier rock sound than the usual melancholy pop songs that Death Cab for Cutie delivers. It's a great tune, especially heard live, and concertgoers seemed to like it unanimously. I particularly loved Jason McGerr's drums on 'Black Sun,' adding a slightly dramatic effect to it. 'The Ghosts of Beverly Drive' and 'No Room In Frame' were also unveiled on Tuesday to appreciative fans, some of whom closed their eyes and absorbed the lyrics and Gibbard's subtle, yet stirring and infectious, vocals. From what I've listened to thus far, the new record points Death Cab for Cutie in a more rock direction.

'You Are Not a Tourist,' from 2011's Codes and Keys, was rebooted after Gibbard stopped it about 20 seconds in, stating 'that was a shitty start to that song.' By this time, the group's frontman was drenched in sweat; his shirt completely soaked and his hair wet and slicked back. There was singing and movement from the audience during 'The New Year,' one of Death Cab for Cutie's biggest hits from 2003's breakthrough album Transatlanticism. Meanwhile, Nick Harmer's deep bass nicely accentuated 'Cath...'; there were moments during the show he stood in front of McGerr's drum set and jammed away with his back to the crowd.

A pair of fan favorites from Plans closed out the main set, 'Soul Meets Body,' which found Depper switching from electric to acoustic guitar, and 'Marching Bands of Manhattan' with Gibbard returning to piano. A 15-minute encore featured three entries, the aforementioned 'No Room in Frame' and a real oldie but goodie, 'A Movie Script Ending' that was included on 2001's The Photo Album. 'Transatlanticism' closed out the two-hour performance.

Despite the loss of Walla, Gibbard living in Los Angeles, and McGerr moving his family up to Bellingham in recent years, Seattle is still where Death Cab for Cutie calls home. This is where they went from playing small clubs to selling out 10 to 15,000-seat venues around the world, and headlining festivals in North America. This is the city that put them on the map, and respectfully they've returned the favor.

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