Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A mix of old and new at Death Cab show

Hipsters and indie fans around the city donned their plaid flannel shirts and tapped their feet as Death Cab for Cutie took the stage on Friday.

Ben Gibbard sings acoustic hit "I Will Follow You into the Dark" solo in Toronto July 29.

This is the second time the band has been in Toronto in the past two months, which likely contributed to the several empty seats in the Molson Amphitheatre. However, frontman Ben Gibbard was quick to thank the fans who attended both this week’s show as well as the May 18 performance at the Phoenix Concert Theatre.

The band opened with "Bend to Squares," the opening track to their 1999 album, Something About Airplanes. It was a slow start to the show, with fans jumping up in excitement at the band members’ entrance, and then slowly sitting back down as the performance began.

It didn’t really pick up until the fourth song, “Crooked Teeth,” which brought most of the audience to their feet. However, as soon as it finished, the audience divided into sitters and standers, almost split right through the middle for the remainder of the show.
The band continued with songs from their new album, Codes and Keys, which was released May 31. It quickly became clear that the audience wasn’t quite as familiar with the new songs as the old. However, the band seemed to understand, and played a setlist mixing the classics with new material.

They performed their major hits, including “Soul Meets Body,” “Cath…,” and “I Will Possess Your Heart,” complete with the extra long introduction, which felt like a little jam session on stage. It built up the energy of the song much more effectively than the album version.

Notably missing was "Meet Me at the Equinox," the theme to 2009’s blockbuster New Moon, which likely disappointed the many young fans, whilst pleasing many of the older fans.

Most of the audience seemed to be 20-somethings, with a fairly even distribution between men and women. It was one of the most unenergetic concerts I’ve attended, and it was the first time I’ve been to a Molson Amp show where people didn’t abandon their seats the second the band came on stage. People sat back and enjoyed the music, occasionally clapping along.

Gibbard joked with the audience, laughing that he now knows what Justin Bieber feels like, as he knelt and sang directly into the live-feed video cameras at the base of the stage.

The spotlight stuck to the often-hair-swinging Gibbard, who was equipped with two microphones and a giant pedal board. He ran back and forth from piano to guitar, and performed the acoustic “I Will Follow You into the Dark” solo on the stage.

He declared his love for Scottish opening band, Frightened Rabbits, dedicating to them a performance of the very upbeat “Stay Young, Go Dancing,” which was performed with a level of liveliness much greater than on the album.
The biggest problem with the venue was the sound mixing. Sitting just a few rows in front of the mixing booth, dead centre in the row, the sound should have been flawless. However, some songs had the vocals too low and the bass too high, making it difficult to hear the song properly.

The show ended with a very upbeat sing-along to “the Sound of Settling,” although it seemed a huge chunk of the audience left right before the song as Gibbard bid everybody goodnight. Most of the seats in the rows in front of me were empty by the time the encore began. However, the ones who stayed were treated to an excellent encore.

It began with “Home is the Fire,” the opening track to the latest album, followed by “Portable Television.” Next was “Marching Bands of Manhattan,” where Chris Walla, sometimes guitarist, keyboardist, and producer, joked that it was his first day on the job, when the band had to stall the intro while Walla worked to reprogram his keyboard.

Finally came “Transatlanticism”, the slow, romantic piano-based song. Many of the fans came with their significant others, with a large portion of them hugging during this emotional song that quickly brought a woman in the row behind me to tears.

All in all, it was a tight performance that reminded fans why Death Cab for Cutie remains at the forefront of the indie scene.