The Electric Factory buzzed with anticipation on Tuesday night for indie veterans Death Cab For Cutie. The Seattle based foursome have built a loyal following since releasing their first album, Something About Airplanes in 1999. The packed house that awaited Death Cab was a mix of new fans discovering the band since their recent major label debut, Plans, as well as hard core old-timers who have been listening since the band first played Philly at Nick’s in 1999. While the band has been shunned by some of their fans for “selling out” and signing with a major label, the Factory crowd couldn’t have cared less what record label was involved in Death Cab’s past and future releases, so long as they continue making them.
Frontman/lyricist Ben Gibbard and Co. came out to the type of hero worship typically reserved for religious revivals. They spent the next hour plus proving to the congregation exactly why they deserved the adulation. As indie acts go, Death Cab are practically the Rolling Stones in terms of both popularity and longevity. Those in attendance at the Factory were treated to the vast array of songs that are part and parcel of any band that has been around for 8 years and released 5 studio albums.
Death Cab launched right into Plans with the album opener, “Marching Bands Of Manhattan”. The album sounds remarkably more alive in the concert setting than it did on disc for me. Death Cab’s music at times feels held back and restrained. Gibbard’s ethereal vocals fit well with his introspective lyrics, but at times I wish he’d dig deeper to really pour through more raw emotion. During the upbeat “The Sound Of Settling” from Transatlanticism, Gibbard sings, “If you’ve got an impulse, let it out.” I wish he’d take his own advice.
On Tuesday, however, Death Cab did exactly that, and the juxtaposition of pitch perfect vocals, expert musicianship and emotive performance meant for a dynamite show. By the third song, Gibbard was soaking wet, spitting on the stage and guitarist/organist/producer Chris Walla was singing all the words, even though he didn’t have a mic in front of him. It was gratifying to see a band member singing along to a song for himself, not the audience. That’s a musician who is into the shit. No slight on bassist Nick Harmer or drummer Nathan Good, both of whom brought their A games from the first chord to the last riff.
Death Cab got to the majority of the new album’s best tracks, as well as making plenty of time for old favorites from Transatlanticism, We Have The Facts… and The Photo Album. The highlight of the show was Gibbard’s acoustic “I’ll Follow You Into The Dark” from the new album. The crowd melted into the singer’s performance in a moment of real synergy between artist and audience.
Death Cab returned for an encore, and ultimately concluded with the title track from Transatlanticism, a beautiful lament on long distance love. As Gibbard implored, “I need you so much closer”, emo girls grabbed their boyfriends and obliged as the crowd showed Death Cab what Brotherly Love was all about.
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