I first saw Death Cab For Cutie at the Glass House in Pomona. This was in 2001, and they were the opening band. I can’t, for the life of me, remember who the headliner was. “Who’s this Death Cab band?” I asked my friend. “Oh, they’ve been around a couple years, they’re from Seattle. I don’t know how far they’ll go.”
Pretty damn far.
Steph and I have been looking forward to this show for months: Death Cab for Cutie at the Hollywood Bowl, accompanied by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. And the two opening bands – the New Pornographers and Tegan & Sara – were nothing to scoff at, either. So we packed our food (and wine, and red party cups because we’re classy like that), and headed to LA for a night of post-July 4th relaxation.
The New Pornographers were, sadly, a let down. And I have a mad crush on lead singer A.C. Newman. It could have been my (nosebleed) seats, and the fact that it was hard to connect with the band from that far. But they were just… boring.
Tegan & Sara – indie music’s favorite lesbian twins – were incredibly engaging. They bantered with the audience between every song. They played favorites from their most recent album, and generally got a better reception than the previous band.
But it was apparent that everyone (except the middle aged season ticket holders who were noticeably very alarmed by the abundance of plaid, tattoos, and skinny jeans) was there for Death Cab.
The band played over 10 songs without the Philharmonic. A lot were classics like “This Is The New Year,” Photobooth” (the song that caused me to fall in love with lead singer Ben Gibbard, back in college), and “I Will Possess Your Heart.” Halfway into the set, I turned to Steph, disappointed, and asked if the Phil was EVER going to appear. What can I say… patience is not a virtue of mine.
After playing “Sound of Settling,” the band began to leave the stage and Gibbard announced that they would soon be back with “50 of our closest friends.” Soon, the Phil (conducted by Beck’s dad… niiice) appeared and Gibbard, without accompaniment from the rest of his band, sang “I will follow you into the dark”. Beautiful. Other blogs complained of timing issues and other problems with the song, but I guess my ears are not refined enough, because that song was worth the price of admission, alone. The song was beautifully composed. A harp was played at the right time. A harp! With Death Cab!
When the band got to “Soul Meets Body”, the listless audience finally began to perk up, and sing along a bit. This had to be one of the most boring audiences I have ever been a part of. Attention, people in cheap seats: what you lack in money, you should make up for in energy. I’m pretty sure I made dozens of enemies as I swayed back and forth, sang along, and bobbed my head (because that’s how white people show they like the music).In the late ‘90’s, Death Cab was grouped in with bands like The Juliana Theory, and, most notably, Dashboard Confessional. Their musical style was known as “emo” – short for “emotional.” Death Cab is still an emotional band… so get emotional, bleacher seats!
“Highway” was a perfect example of why only one rehearsal with the Phil could prove to be a mistake. During the height of the horn section, Gibbard’s voice could not be heard at all. The whole song, while gorgeous in parts, was a bit awkward.
The concert closed with “Transatlanticism,” with Gibbard starting on keyboards and then easily transitioning back to the guitar. Midway, the fireworks started, and as Steph pointed out (since I can be horribly unobservant at times), the fireworks were timed perfectly w/ the beats of the song. Did I say “I will Follow You Into The Dark” was my favorite part of the show? I lied. This song was one of the best musical experiences I’ve had in a long while.
I didn’t want the show to end, but part of the reason is because I didn’t feel that Death Cab had really played their heart out yet. I felt that they were still holding out on us, and there was more to be delivered. The set also felt a bit rushed, with one song awkwardly bleeding into the other. A perfect contrast would be T&S’ set, which was full of banter and engagement with the audience, and careful transitions.
Kevin Bronson put better than I could, writing “I need you so much closer” (to quote a Death Cab lyric). Too true.
However, it was freakin’ Death Cab with the freakin LA Philharmonic, which was led by freakin’ Beck’s father. It was a great experience and I can’t wait to see what next summer’s pairings hold.
This Sunday, my friend Bams and I will be back at the Bowl to hear the sexiest voice alive, Ray Lamontagne. Holy yes.