Death Cab for Cutie | 11.27.06

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As they left the stage, Gibbard stated matter-of-factly, "We're Death Cab for Cutie from Seattle, Washington!" as if they were a little-known opening band and not the headliner shouting over the raucous applause of a boisterous, sold-out crowd.

 

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The Pageant, St. Louis, Mo.

Following the psycho dance party ending of OK Go's set, it took a massive adjustment on the audience's part to adapt to the much less hectic tones of mope rockers Death Cab for Cutie. The Bellingham, Wash., quartet certainly didn't make the transition any easier, either, choosing not to explode out of the gate but to start the pace out slow and build from there. Opening with the melancholy "405," the band segued into "Your Heart Is an Empty Room," a gently rising track from their most recent album Plans whose chiming, ascending guitar signature echoed the powerful intro to U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name."

It took until the third song—"The New Year," the blistering opening track from 2003's Transatlanticism—for the band to finally lurch to life, buoyed by Chris Walla's echoing, underwater-like guitar. The song ended in a squall of feedback that bled into the opening of "We Laugh Indoors," the noise finally subsiding as Jason McGerr whipped his drum kit into submission. Though the music was picking up the pace, the band didn't seem to truly kick things up a notch until "Crooked Teeth" ("A song for you and yours," joked singer Ben Gibbard during the introduction), with McGerr and bassist Nick Harmer launching into a tight groove.

The set list once again relied heavily on the band's two most recent albums (13 of the night's 20 tracks), and the pace of the set rose and fell like the waves on a lake from a gentle breeze throughout the middle third of the set, often within the same song (most notably the slow-burning "Company Calls" and its "Epilogue"). Gibbard gave a shout out to St. Louis' own So Many Dynamos, hoping to "purge their bad luck" with Transatlanticism's "Expo '86." Gibbard's rhythm guitar came dangerously near to funk at times, but Walla's epic solo was what exploded the song into the stratosphere.

The crowd was at its most excited during a massive sing-along of "Soul Meets Body," the first single from Plans. In a repeat of their performance in St. Louis this past April, "We Looked Like Giants" gave Death Cab the opportunity to stretch out, with Harmer and Walla trading instruments back and forth; an extended instrumental jam gave Gibbard a chance to show off his drumming skills by playing in lockstep with McGerr. The main set closed with a tender run through Transatlanticism's title track, Gibbard opening the track playing solo on keyboard. As they left the stage, Gibbard stated matter-of-factly, "We're Death Cab for Cutie from Seattle, Washington!" as if they were a little-known opening band and not the headliner shouting over the raucous applause of a boisterous, sold-out crowd.

In what is quickly becoming a tradition, Gibbard opened the encore with a solo acoustic take on the sweetly precious ballad "I Will Follow You Into the Dark." The slow build of Plans' opening track "Marching Bands of Manhattan" guided listeners into the performance's only full-on rock moment with a cover of the Sonics classic "I'm Going Home" that was far punkier than you might expect them capable. The show ended with the explosive pure pop bliss of "Sound of Settling," Gibbard joking to the crowd, "You're all incredibly attractive and have a bright future ahead of you," a statement that could be used quite appropriately to describe the band itself. | Jason Green

Photo by Todd Owyoung

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