Death Cab For Cutie

support The Beths
author LL date 10/02/19 venue Store VEGA, Copenhagen, DEN

The indie rock darlings Death Cab For Cutie from Seattle have not been the most frequent visitors to our corner of the world. When they played the NorthSide festival and a headliner show in Amager Bio in 2015, it was the first shows here in almost 10 years. The interest in their music seems not to have waned much since then, considering tonight’s show at Store Vega sold out a few weeks ago. As a long time fan, I am still not done with watching them either. Their 2018 album ”Thank You For Today” has not really settled with me while ”Kintsugi” that came out in 2015 has grown on me massively since they were here last. Thus, as I travel to the venue tonight, I am excited to see how well their new songs are going to stack up against their older material, safe in the knowledge that the performance will no doubt be of high quality. Spoiler alert: When the support band remarks from the stage that this is going to be the most rock’n’roll DCFC set we’ll ever see, they might have been kidding but it is actually the case.

We had no photographer available tonight - check out Vega's own gallery here

The Beths

For support, The Beths from New Zealand have been brought along and that turns out to be a great choice. Their style of indie rock has a decidedly more pop-punk vibe to it than that of DCFC, with a light sort of surf tone in many of their riffs. Their lead singer, Elizabeth Stokes, beautifully turns out her introspective and melodic lyrics while playing guitar, and her jokes and general banter is sparse but well-received throughout the 35-minute set. She is often supported by boyish vocal harmonies from all three other band members and in fact, this touch is one of the more outstanding things in their music. They are almost surprisingly on point and collectively in tune all the time, which can’t be easy to nail with four voices in the mix.

The music instantly spreads a good mood in the venue with the very first song, “Whatever”, including a carefree guitar solo that sparks little smiles all around. Come the fast “Not Running” that has a somewhat darker sound and more moody lighting, the crowd is clapping and wooing as well. “Happy Unhappy”, as well as the more atmospheric “Future Me Hates Me”, and finally the upbeat and dynamic “Uptown Girl” get good reactions as well. All in all, the set works perfectly to get everyone energized for a long headliner show but also feels very much like a showcase. I can only hope that this tour will get them a lot of European fans so that they can come back again and until then, I will definitely be checking out their 2018 debut album, “Future Me Hates Me”, some more.

Death Cab For Cutie

The changeover between bands is swift and soon a rumble of atmospheric sounds are coming at us from the speakers while the evening’s main attraction take to the stage. This develops into the first two tracks from the group’s most recent album, “I Dreamt We Spoke Again” and “Summer Years”, that set the tone with lots of dreamy synths and solid guitar riffs. Frontman Ben Gibbard is also right on point from the beginning, almost over-pronouncing every word so that we are in for one of the rare treats that it is, to watch a rock band with a loud sound mix while still being able to hear and understand every single word of the lyrics. It also has a downside, though, because whenever Gibbard pushes extra air out for some hard consonants, the microphone gives a startling popping sound that is fairly disturbing when you’re trying to let go and get into the emotional songs. It is worst to begin with but appears once in a while in songs throughout the set, so perhaps Gibbard gets better at controlling it or the sound mix is changed slightly but not enough to eliminate the problem. Nevertheless, I would rather have that, than not be able to follow the intricate wording in the band’s beautiful songs, despite knowing most of them by heart.

As they move on to the dynamic “The Ghosts Of Beverly Drive”, we instantly begin to feel more like part of a rock show. While many of their records sound decidedly pretty and polished, live the songs are really fleshed out and the guitars are buffed up ever so slightly to great effect. Unfortunately, some of the guitar parts seem to be quite low in the mix and a few times, riffs seem to almost disappear in the mix only to appear more clearly later in the songs, for instance very obviously with the playful main riff of “You Are A Tourist”. Overall, though, the sound is powerful and the band plays with great energy. They are mostly in their own world but in a way that is open and inviting to the audience, and every step of the way, they seem to merge fully with their instruments. Especially Gibbard is quick to move around the stage to the music whenever he isn’t needed in front of the microphone stand. There’s no doubt as to their experience as a band and little details like singing harmonies live, playing keyboards and guitar at the same time, or adding a shaker at just the right time, keeps the whole show feeling very organic throughout the almost 2 hours they play for us.

With a band of this caliber, the bar is set high and so many of the songs chosen for the setlist should make a fan very happy. They do play a total of seven songs from their most recent album and some of those drift by without leaving much of mark on the audience who respond by clapping politely. And yet, even the songs that I find boring are somehow just a bit more alluring here because of the convincing way the band performs, not least during the dreamy “You Moved Away”. There are, however, four clear highlight sections of the set that stand out more than the rest. The first starts with “The Ghosts Of Beverly Drive”, followed by the energetic “Long Division” with its uplifting chorus, and then the classic “Title And Registration” that has the audience singing along to the iconic first lines of ”The glove compartment is inaccurately named / And everybody knows it”. It gives us the first kick of real rock energy in that significant indie way that has made the band famous.

The second outstanding moment is a more emotional one with the coupling of “What Sarah Said” with the new song “60 & Punk” that has Gibbard singing under a spotlight all the way out on the edge of the stage. They are placed strategically as a slower moment in the middle of the set, followed by the always impressive “I Will Possess Your Heart” that brings us smoothly back into faster songs. The third one comes by the end of the regular set, with a hard-hitting trio of “Cath…”, “We Looked Like Giants”, that sees the band really rock out for a slightly extended jam in the middle, and the very rhythmic “Soul Meets Body”. They both have the audience up front rocking out more and more and quickly raise the tension in the room just in time for us to get really excited for the encore. We get four songs but it’s the last two that really make an impression. “Tiny Vessels” builds on the rougher vibe from the end of the set while the more post-rockish “Transatlanticism”, which is coincidentally my very favorite DCFC song, slowly builds and ends the evening on a spellbinding note.

Now I’ve already highlighted almost half of the set and still their performances of “Crooked Teeth”, the oddly uplifting “No Sunlight”, the sweet older song “Photobooth”, the dark and synth-heavy “Black Sun”, and the encore’s acoustic solo performance of the hit “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” all deserve special mentions. Tonight’s show, then, only confirms the group’s skills as musicians as well as the high quality of their material. The main things detracting from that are the aforementioned slight issues with vocals and guitars but despite them, it is a show that reaches magical heights quite often but without staying there throughout.

Setlist:

  • 1. I Dreamt We Spoke Again
  • 2. Summer Years
  • 3. The Ghosts Of Beverly Drive
  • 4. Long Division
  • 5. Title And Registration
  • 6. Gold Rush
  • 7. Crooked Teeth
  • 8. Photobooth
  • 9. No Sunlight
  • 10. What Sarah Said
  • 11. 60 & Punk
  • 12. I Will Possess Your Heart
  • 13. You Moved Away
  • 14. Black Sun
  • 15. Expo '86
  • 16. You Are A Tourist
  • 17. Northern Lights
  • 18. Cath...
  • 19. We Looked Like Giants
  • 20. Soul Meets Body

— Encore —

  • 21. I Will Follow You Into The Dark
  • 22. When We Drive
  • 23. Tiny Vessels
  • 24. Transatlanticism

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