Death Cab for Cutie + The Antlers @ Metropolis – 8th May 2015

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We Are The RhoadsClient: DCFC

I have no deep emotional attachment to Death Cab for Cutie. This is not a personal condemnation or a misguided badge of music-snob pride, but it’s worth mentioning when trying to discuss a band that has forged a career out of making a direct connection to the hearts and minds of the people that love them. Those fans came out in droves last night at the Metropolis – and while Death Cab for Cutie’s set might have felt a little safe to the casual observer, the faithful in the crowd wrapped themselves in that comfort and familiarity like a fuzzy oversized sweater.

Brooklyn three-piece The Antlers started the evening off with a short set, playing moody and atmospheric dream-pop to the packed crowd of the relatively large venue. Opening with “Drift Dive” off their 2012 EP Undersea, The Antlers maintained an unassuming stage presence, and the crowd responded with enthusiastic applause despite a perpetual hum of excited chatter in anticipation of the headliners. Having broken through with the quiet meditation on love-as-terminal-illness of 2009’s Hospice, The Antlers’ music seems tailor-made for a bedroom stereo and comfortable headphones. Even so, the Brooklyn group’s patient six-song set of airy vocals and shimmering guitars climbed up on floaty synths and patient drumming to reach out and hug the packed house of the Metropolis.

The Antlers setlist:

Drift Dive 
Kettering 
No Widows 
Parade 
I Don’t Want Love 
Putting the Dog to Sleep

Around 9 PM, Death Cab for Cutie took to the stage with “No Room In Frame”, the first song off their brand new record Kintsugi. I started listening to Death Cab fairly late, just in time for 2011’s Codes and Keys (represented here by only two songs, “Doors Unlocked and Open” and single “You Are a Tourist”). Even so, I’ve found it hard to get excited about this new material, marked (save for the up-tempo “Ghosts of Beverly Drive) by less immediate lyrics and a certain feeling of by-the-numbers routine and resignation. These qualities are only made more apparent in a live setting, sandwiching the flat go-nowhere single “Black Sun” and follow-up “Little Wanderer” between more driven and reflective classics like “Grapevine Fires” and “A Movie Script Ending”. Even the fans looked disconnected from the new songs, passively Shazam-ing unfamiliar cuts with an academic nod to their phones. Seemingly acknowledging potential mixed reception to the new album, only half of Kintsugi’s 11 songs made the set-list, which instead pulled tracks from across the group’s discography – with particular focus on 2005’s Plans.

Looking and sounding as boyish as ever, vocalist/guitarist (and, on cuts like “What Sarah Said”, pianist) Ben Gibbard seemed more than happy to remind a mostly older crowd of the ups and downs of past days – the kind of crowd that, at least in my neighbour’s case, might reply to “love is watching someone die” with a hearty “woo!” The benefit of maturity and hindsight also apparently cast older material in a new light, with jammy main-set closer “I Will Possess Your Heart” drawing massive cheers despite a confused reception in 2008 to its dark parent album, Narrow Stairs.

Although Death Cab for Cutie might not be anyone’s first choice for a dance party, a large proportion of the seemingly early 30’s crowd appeared to have let go of any old baggage, cutting a rug to “You Are A Tourist” and turning “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” from a plaintive ode to love and death into a rowdy campfire sing-along. So while encore closer “Transatlanticism” might foreground lyrics like “the distance is quite simply much too far for me to row / it seems farther than ever before”, you’d never be able guess at that distance from looking at the Metropolis. And even though my own history with the band isn’t nearly as tight-knit as their relationship with their fans, I really did feel part of it too.  

Death Cab for Cutie setlist:

No Room in Frame 
Crooked Teeth 
Why You’d Want to Live Here 
Doors Unlocked and Open 
The Ghosts of Beverly Drive 
Grapevine Fires 
Black Sun 
Little Wanderer 
A Movie Script Ending 
Photobooth 
President of What? 
You’ve Haunted Me All My Life 
What Sarah Said 
I Will Follow You into the Dark 
Everything’s a Ceiling 
You Are a Tourist 
The New Year 
Cath… 
Soul Meets Body 
I Will Possess Your Heart 

Encore:

Binary Sea 
Your Heart Is an Empty Room 
The Sound of Settling 
Transatlanticism 

Review – Dan Corber

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