Concert Review: Death Cab for Cutie Possesses My Heart

By Charlotte Freccia ’19

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Those of you who don’t follow me on Snapchat may not be aware that this weekend, I crossed off an important item from my personal Bucket List: I saw Death Cab for Cutie––a band I have loved and admired to the point of hero-worship from the age of fifteen––live in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, accompanied by Miranda, my best friend of more than a decade.

(To those of you who do follow me on Snapchat and who thumbed through endless shaky video content of said band accompanied by my ecstatic, wandering voice as I sang along to “Soul Meets Body,” I can only say I am sorry).

But can you blame me for wanting to record every kinetic, hypnotizing moment of Death Cab’s nearly two-and-a-half hour set? Concerts are my favorite thing to spend money on, and this was undoubtedly the best one I’ve seen yet. Not only was the band’s performance everything I’d hoped, but I felt an amazing kinship to the audience I counted myself among. Miranda and I were some of the youngest members of the assembled crowd, which was peopled mostly by bearded twenty-something dudes in ironic t-shirts and their skinny girlfriends. I heard several different people say several different times that they’d loved Death Cab since high school. Well, sure, I thought. So have I. But high school, for me, is a not-so-distant memory, while other audience members surely received their diplomas ages ago. This was one of the first shows I’ve seen of a band so well-established as to have such a devoted and lasting fan-base, to have a group of people so inspired by their music as to allow it to follow them through all stages of early-adulthood, a constant comfort in a fluid and always-changing identity.

It was so special, almost magical, to stand among strangers and watch this band and sing along to their song “You Are A Tourist,” an intimate and personal song that was significant to each of us for different reasons. We all loved Death Cab, and their extensive catalogue, and their unique and evocative lyrics, for different reasons. “You Are A Tourist” is significant to each of us for different reasons. And yet, within that four minutes and forty-seven seconds, we were ageless and genderless and void of individual identity. We were one voice, one swaying body, one beating heart, experiencing a fleeting moment in an infallible and unprecedented togetherness.

“You Are A Tourist” was one of my favorite songs played within the not-long-enough two-and-a-half-hour set. Death Cab is a prolific band that has released nine EPs since their inception in 1998. This provides them with an almost limitless catalogue from which to draw in their live shows. I consider myself fairly familiar with their discography and yet recognized, I would estimate, only about ⅔ of the songs they played. I lack a particular familiarity with Kintsugi, Death Cab’s most recent album, because I see the album as sadly lackluster. Largely inspired by frontman Ben Gibbard’s divorce from indie-darling Zooey Deschanel, Kintsugi is pensive, subtle: it contains no single song with the daunting energy of “The New Year” or the heart-shattering beauty of “A Lack of Color.” Of course, I realize that the show I attended was part of the Kintsugi tour. And yet, I almost wish the band had omitted the six songs they played from this release in favor of some tried-and-trues like “Passenger Seat” or “Stay Young, Go Dancing.”12009796_10153603732656678_2420215678388186355_n

That said, I have no further complaints of the evening’s selected songs. Naturally, their live rendition of the dreamy “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” was a particular highlight: Miranda and I grasped hands and stood motionless as the stage lighting illuminated the swaying bodies of those around us and “What Sarah Said” was rousing and dynamic, a song in which I felt a direct connection to the band as they were playing, as if Death Cab and I were the only breathing beings in the venue and they were playing this song just for me. The last song they played––the last of their eight-song, forty-five minute “encore” set––was, of course, “Transatlanticism,” the epic eight-minute meditation on lost love and loneliness that is considered to be the band’s masterpiece. All I will say about that performance is that it seemed pervaded in a sense of the surreal: I never imagined I would be lucky enough to hear “Transatlanticism” live.

Other highlights of the weekend included Twin Shadow’s quirky, buoyant opening set; eating delicious Indian food at North Market, my favorite Columbus haunt, before the show; the several scrapes with death Miranda and I experienced at the hands of our friendly-but-daring Somali cab driver; and finally falling asleep on the linoleum floor mid-conversation with my best friend, my body wracked and still tingling with residual energy and emotion from the truly mind-blowing explosion of light, color, sound, and uninhibited artistry that I experienced that night.

I may have crossed “see Death Cab live!” off of my Bucket List, but I know that this weekend contained only the first of many Death Cab shows I will attend and enjoy in the years to come. As long as the band continues to make songs that are provocative and illustrative and cleverly-named and full of kineticism, I will be a devoted follower and fan.