If you haven't heard of Death Cab For Cutie, well, you probably haven't wallowed in your woes in the past 15 years. These guys are the kings of moody and melancholy music, with tunes many a teenager could relate to - myself included. Yet when they brought their sound to the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House, it was a gentle reminder Death Cab can also rock out with the best of them.
This was more of a best-of show than a blatant plug for their new album, a choice which kept the fans happy. Kicking off the show with the gently upbeat 'No Room In Frame' from the latest album, we ventured back and forth in time as the band navigated their hits. From as early as 1997's 'President of What?' to 'Transatlanticism's' 'The New Year' and 'Talking Bird', the classics were covered. So too was the ever-popular 'Plans' album, with 'Crooked Teeth', a dedication for 'What Sarah Said', a sing-along on 'Soul Meets Body', and a crowd-stopping acoustic performance of 'I'll Follow You Into The Dark'.
In hefty contrast, the 2008 'Narrow Stairs' album brought forth the bright and bubbly 'No Sunlight' - "we put that particular song on the setlist because it's the closest song we have to a surf rock song," singer Ben Gibbard explained as a means of tailoring the performance to the local crowd. Latest LP 'Kintsugi' yielded the singles 'Black Sun', 'The Ghost Of Beverly Drive' and a lovely version of 'Little Wanderer'.
'THE GHOSTS OF BEVERLY DRIVE' - DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
An extended rendition of 'I Will Possess Your Heart' was the show closer, though it wasn't long at all before the band returned on stage for their encore. Gibbard commenced at the piano for the gentle 'Passenger Seat', before lightening the mood with 'Your Heart Is An Empty Room'. Following up with another track from 'Plans', Deaath Cab gave us an uplifting performance of 'Marching Bands Of Manhattan', before closing the show with 'Transatlanticism'.
As shows at the Sydney Opera House go, this was pretty stripped back and low-key. There was no fancy projection, no accompanying art installations, no visual trickery. This was a very rock 'n' roll performance, with the spotlight keenly on the band's abilities. That allowed a focus on the music which is often overlooked these days, and if definitely paid off. As you'd expect for the Opera House, the sound was impeccable, crystal clear with a degree of accuracy from their albums that's difficult to duplicate. The same cannot be said for the lighting, however; it was frequently overstated, problematic and an intrusion to the experience.
Most impressively, this was a solid two-hour performance, of which the crowd loved every mingle moment; there was no lack in audience participation. The beauty in the natural poetry of their music was a pleasure to witness live, as Death Cab only continues to improve with age.
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