30th January | O2 Academy
Photos: Lee Ramsey
I feel like it’s important to note from the outset of this review just how much I love Death Cab For Cutie. While I’d be the first to admit that this may not seem particularly ‘cool’ in current indie circles, the Seattle alternative rockers have nonetheless been an important and enduring feature in my life thus far. It can be said that the band have become something of a shoulder to cry on or an understanding, tentative companion during not-so-great times.
Vocalist and lead songwriter, Ben Gibbard has a power like no other, the ability to tug on your emotional heartstrings and inevitably make you cry. I remember the first time I heard Narrow Stairs’ ‘The Ice Is Getting Thinner’ or 2005’s ‘Brothers On A Hotel Bed’, two songs packed with enough emotional fragility to force an adolescent teen to well up and blame the small trailing tears on the easy scapegoat of biting, harsh winds. Upon seeing Death Cab For Cutie for the first time at their very own concert, it seems I’m not alone. For one night, at Bristol’s 02 Academy, not a single dry eye is in sight.
It’s been around ten long years since Gibbard and Co. brought their brand of stirring, emotionally fraught and melancholy indie rock to Bristol. In those intervening years, the band and Gibbard himself have undergone vast changes – including the breakdown of Gibbard’s marriage, the departure of core member Chris Walla and the band’s new found embrace for electronic tinged indie rock.
However, this has done nothing to detract the band’s ardent, almost cult-like following. Getting to the venue at around 7:30, spaces near the barrier were already filled with eager teens and 30-year-olds hoping to revisit past memories of listening to 2003’s Transatlanticism on now long-forgotten iPod Nanos.
After a rousing and superb performance by New Zealand college rock act, The Beths, Death Cab For Cutie entered the stage to sheets of mist and layers of atmospheric visuals. The band launched into the ethereal opening track off their most recent album, Thank You For Today, entitled ‘I Dreamt We Spoke Again’. This was an album that Gibbard relied on heavily throughout preceedings, playing a total of seven tracks from it.
However, this was not why many in the audience had taken to the 02 Academy. As good a tracks as ‘I Dreamt We Spoke Again’ and ‘Summer Years’ were, the eerie silence that befell the room as Gibbard plucked the punctuating acoustic introduction to 2003’s ‘Title and Registration’ spoke volumes.
Seeing Gibbard and Co. live merely emphasised the vitality of the bands back catalogue, reaching out and connecting with the audience as individuals. From the unparalleled euphoria of ‘Crooked Teeth’ to the touching tangle of despair illustrated by ‘What Sarah Said’, it was the band’s pre-2010 material that packed the biggest emotional sucker punch and garnered the tantalising attention of the sold-out crowd.
Gibbard brought the evening to a poignant close as he opened the band’s encore with a solo acoustic rendition of their biggest hit, ‘I Will Follow You Into The Dark’. The song saw Gibbard momentarily step away from the microphone, allowing the crowd to boom his poetic lyricism back at him. A moment for fans to simply highlight how much Gibbard’s music has meant to them for so many years. A perfect ending to an evening that evidently reverberated on such a personal level to much of the audience.
See the video for ‘Gold Rush’ here: