2015 has seen something of rejuvenation for Seattle’s alt/emo pioneers Death Cab For Cutie; following 2011’s Codes and Keys and the mixed reception it received, the band has returned with Kintsugi and a new lineup to boot, rediscovering the sound that made them great in the process.
Tonight’s Birmingham date marks the final date of the band’s brief UK tour, taking in Glasgow, Manchester, and a sold out Brixton Academy along the way.
Opening with ‘No Frame In Frame’ from Kintsugi, Death Cab For Cutie wasted no time in reminding everyone in the room that tonight was about new music rather than a Greatest Hits set, before powering straight into ‘Crooked Teeth’, taken from 2008’s Narrow Stairs album.
Frontman Ben Gibbard displayed his high spirits early in the evening, saying ‘hello Birming-HAM’ before quickly correcting himself with ‘Birmingham’ much to the crowd’s amusement. When recounting the story of his run that day through Birmingham, Gibbard described how a 12yr old child, a quarter of his own size, began swearing and threatening as he had brushed by; the incident providing a perfect introduction to ‘Why You’d Want to Live Here’.
In a setlist comprised of tracks mostly released after 2003’s breakthrough Transatlanticism. Death Cab proceeded to demonstrate how after over 20 years together, they still remain as relevant as they always were from the startled crashes of ‘The New Year’ (soundtrack to every lonely New Year’s eve for the past 10 years), to the electronic pulse of Kintsugi’s ‘Everything Is a Ceiling’, there was something for everybody in the near 2-hour set. ‘You Are A Tourist’ and ‘Codes and Keys’ offered a brief glimpse at the 2011 release of the same name, however a massive ‘I Will Possess Your Heart’, and ‘President of What?’ offered enough highlights to make up for the omission of other more recent tracks.
The main set ended on a one/two of alt-lullaby ‘Soul Meets Body’ and Narrow Stairs opening track ‘Bixby Canyon Bridge’, while the encore began with a customary sing-along of ‘I Will Follow You Into The Dark’, which saw Gibbard return to the stage alone, and winning the best crowd reaction of the evening. ‘Transatlanticism’ brought the show to an epic finale, a final demonstration of the new relaxed atmosphere you sense the band has. Ben Gibbard freely danced around the stage – something that has been ever present since his Postal Service tour – while new touring members Zac Rae and Dave Depper gave both new and old songs an added depth that wasn’t fully achievable with four members.
They’re no longer attempting to reinvent the wheel and win over new fans, and after 20 years together they no longer need to. Keep releasing records as strong as Kintsugi though and maybe we’ll get a few more years out of them to.
All photos by Ashley Robak.