Death Cab For Cutie, Electric Ballroom, London
Sunday 11 May 2008
To a sea of checked shirts and asymmetrical haircuts, Death Cab For Cutie performed a pointedly upbeat greatest hits set with a cheery professionalism refreshing for a group who have laboured under the description "emo" for the majority of their five-album career.
By turns introspective and energetic, their set was a spirited mixture of new material from most recent album Narrow Stairs and better-known classics, with a noticeable disparity in tone between the more experimental offerings from their forthcoming release and college rock hits such as "New Year" and "The Sound of Settling".
Recent single "I Will Possess Your Heart", an initially difficult listen on the new LP, was transformed from a baggy 8-minute mock-epic into an experimental piece of '80s-tinged disco-pop to which the crowd responded with delight. Shimmering chords and enough reverb to make Electric Ballroom feel like the Royal Albert Hall added to the jubilant atmosphere, and the energised crowd created an echo all of their own with a determined singing along.
Frequently when the band chose to give some of their more dour songs a live outing, Nick Harmer's punchy bass lines injected an energy absent on record which helped render Death Cab For Cutie's highly personal lyrical outpourings anthemic and inclusive. Mobilising a depth of good feeling the 21-song set felt upbeat as well as poignant.
Furthermore, the crowd's karaoke spirit helped overcome the band's rare shortcomings; while singer Ben Gibbard has made a trademark of his strained vocal style, at times his voice struggled to keep up with the band's punk reinterpretations of songs such as "Long Division". To his credit, the indisputable highpoint of the evening was "I will follow you into the dark"; taking to the stage alone with an acoustic guitar Gibbard led the crowd in a heartfelt rendition of the rousing ballad from previous album Plans. It was a moment which epitomised the spirit of the evening's performance; at once stirringly intimate and defiantly vivacious.
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