Death Cab For Cutie - Brixton Academy - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Death Cab For Cutie - Brixton Academy

by Priscilla Eyles Rating: Release Date:

This highly anticipated show started off with a set from the Seattle-based band The Head and the Heart, whose songs, while not exactly original (basically The Decemberists/Fleet Foxes-lite), were sufficiently crowd-rousing. Their set was hampered, however, by terrible hiss and feedback from the sound system - probably the worst sound I've heard from a Brixton Academy gig which was worrying, but which was thankfully sorted out by the time Death Cab came on, otherwise I'm sure there would've been riots.

Now the level of devotion to Death Cab and Ben Gibbard is an extraordinary thing to witness, with people carring placards saying how they've flown thousands of miles to see them, and people queuing for hours to get to the front row. There's definitely a religious fervour when it comes to this band, and this fervour is repaid by the heartfelt, emotional nakedness and 'rockability' (as Gibbard says during the set when citing the importance of untangling his guitar lead) which Gibbard puts into his songs and performances - not to mention the bodily fluids, Gibbard certainly sweated and spat his way through this performance, a visual reminder of just how much he puts into performing. To dismiss them as just another melodramatic emo band seems crude and misguided. And when Death Cab come on accompanied by a cool floodlight of red and blue lights, there is a lot of worshipping going on.

They start proceedings off on a controversial note, given that it is arguably their most famous song, with an extended album version of 'I Will Possess Your Heart', with Gibbard bouncing up and down with a restless energy at the piano stool, and pounding that piano as if his life depended on it, his voice sounding as boyish and bittersweet as it does on record. When you have such a magnificent arsenal of songs as Death Cab have then you can get away with doing things like that. And their set was filled with gems, spanning their whole back catalogue in a value-for-money 25 songs, moving from energetic to stately, and pleasing both die-hard fans and more casual new fans (though the vast majority seemed to be die-hard).

Early on an urgent and impassioned version of 'We Laugh Indoors' from The Photo Album had everyone singing along (at one point in the show , before 'Soul Meets Body', Gibbard asks the audience to sing along which seems highly redundant) with the same passion, while Gibbard rocked from side-to-side with his guitar (the default Gibbard posture). It reminded you of how good many of those early songs are, while strident, energetic versions of 'Long Division' and 'Cath from Narrow Stairs' had the crowd dancing joyously, and highlighted their ability to really amp things up.

There're just too many highlights to mention, including beautiful renditions of Plans' stately 'Summer Skin' which showcased some great drumming (and is just me or is that drumming pattern from Paul Simon's 'Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover'?) from Jason McGerr, bass-work from the ever energetic Nick Harmer and some haunting guitar work from Chris Walla. 'I'll Follow You into the Dark' (also from Plans) was an unforgettably intimate campfire moment, which also had Gibbard doing comedy 'oooh's. Also up there in the eyes-closed moment stakes was 'Grapevine Fires', a song Gibbard asks us to sway to and which the audience does with pleasure, but which was slightly diminished in potency by the lack of backing vocals found in the achingly beautiful recorded version.

The new songs were well chosen and worked well alongside the older songs with 'Doors Unlocked and Open' and 'Underneath the Sycamore' being particular highlights. Their sole cover in the encore of Ride's 'Twisterella', meanwhile, was a nice, modest nod to their "indebtedness to British music" as Gibbard put it.

The closer, an extended version of the magnificent 'Transatlanticism', was the prefect ending to a perfect night, with its plaintive chorus ("I need you so much closer") and its epic slow build. It summed up what makes Death Cab so great: their capacity to touch emotional chords.

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