Not so long ago, Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard was coming to us solely on video from his home studio. Remember the days when we were trying to keep each other sane from a distance? Gibbard spent over a year online, posting numerous solo performances and like many artists, provided us with some solace during uncertain times. On Saturday night, it was comforting to see that Death Cab for Cutie are still energized, with Gibbard taking the stage full force – as always.
We got treated to an opening set from LA’s Illuminati Hotties. A project fronted and conceived by Sarah Tudzin – a woman who has been able to achieve no minor feat – a successful career as an audio engineer, mixer and producer. (As a side note – true story: I was in a Music Business program in college and a recording studio owner told us that “Women could never work recording sessions because they always run into the early hours. They would have to keep stopping to check their makeup, or something…”) Sarah is clearly powering through. As a songwriter, she seems to be fortified by a steady diet of Neko Case, L7, Wilco, Minutemen and many other things. It’s hard to place her sound, which is a good thing. She set the tone by taking the stage to Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” – then her band launched into a snarky hardcore tune “Joni: LA’s No. 1 Health Goth”, the pop punk “Pool Hopping”, told everyone to “grab someone they love” for a surf ballad slow dance and then switched to the raw, dissonant “Mmmoooaaaaayaya”.
Death Cab have the presence of a band who know the drill – but clearly still enjoy playing. Benjamin Gibbard leads the charge in perpetual motion, switching instruments and getting the band revved up during the extended, masterful instrumental opening of “I Will Possess Your Heart”. The set list generously spanned their catalog with favorites from Transatlanticism such as “The New Year” and “Title and Registration”, “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive” and “Black Sun” from Kintsugi and “Cath…” from Narrow Stairs.
We got to hear two songs from band’s latest album, Asphalt Meadows, which will be released in September. The lead singles “Here to Forever” and “Roman Candles” communicate the type of restlessness and anxiety that’s clearly all around us.
Their 2005 album Plans gave us “Crooked Teeth” early in the set, an intimate solo acoustic and chorus sing-a-long version of “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” and the encore ending with another long-time audience favorite “Soul Meets Body”.
Looking forward to seeing Death Cab once again when they return to NY for the second leg of the Asphalt Meadows tour in the Fall.
All Photos: Deb Johnsen