Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Death Cab for Cutie - Live in Leeds

At one point during the show, Ben Gibbard quipped about how he'd thought it was hot playing in somewhere in Washington when it was 54 degrees... and then they came to Leeds University Union Refectory. Seriously, what kind of music venue doesn't have air conditioning of some sort? Eh? Still. Even the insane heat could not stop Death Cab from bringing the rock and performing a fantastic 17 songs.

Opening with Marching Bands of Manhattan with it's rousing organ intro followed by the more hard rocking The New Year, the crowd was enthusiastic from the start with impassioned singing along for much of the show. They were a little less enamoured with the older songs because not many knew them but Photobooth and Amputations were still visibly enjoyed by the majority, even if they didn't recognise the songs.

Death Cab brought a certain energy to proceedings that enlived even Soul Meets Body, a song that I thought had been ruined for me by infinite overhearings and being perhaps a little bit dull. But live, with Ben bouncing from foot to foot and Nicholas Harmer on bass throwing himself around the stage and seemingly the entire building singing the "ba-da-ba-ba-ba" section it was glorious.

Similarly joyous to behold was the sight of Ben Gibbard viciously assaulting a drum kit during the extended drum duel that took place during We Looked Like Giants. Never have you seen the man look quite so furious and intense (except possibly if he heard the guy requiesting Such Great Heights). It was also good to see him playing the drum machine part in Title and Registration (well, to begin with). Did you know he played drums on Carparts by The Long Winters? Because he did you know.

Chris Walla is also quite something and it's a shame that his backing vocals were so quiet as when they're loud enough to hear they're nothing short of breath taking. To say the guitarist has the voice of an angel would not be an exageration.

After playing a few of my favourites that I didn't expect to see live (Expo '86 and Your Heart is an Empty Room), the band finished up the main set with the power-poptastic Sound of Settling, a brilliant little upbeat song about giving up on romance and life in general. Sadly the crowd didn't do the stomping and clapping parts but they loved it, sang it loud and in some cases, jumped around very enthusiastically.

After a fairly brief break (during which the crowd got through at least two chants of "BENBENBEN!" and "DEATH-CAB!DEATH-CAB!" and all the OC kids moved to the back or left) Ben returned with an acoustic guitar, thanked the crowd, grinned and began to play I Will Follow You Into the Dark. The audience were for a moment undecided on wether hushed silence or singing along was the correct response, but soon went for the latter which Ben seemed happy about. I think the guy standing next to me might have cried at some point during this song, or it could just be sweat. Did I mention that it was very, VERY hot? Because it was.

And then the rest of the band (including drummer Jason McGerr who I had never really realised was quite so good until seeing him busting out the beats in person) returned to the stage for the epic lighter/mobile phone/matches (there was a guy lighting matches and waving them in the air. Really) waving anthem that is the title track from their 2003 masterpiece Transatlanticism. And whilst a few mumbled about it being really long, I for one loved every second. The piano intro, the guitars ringing off forever, the slowly building pounding drums and once again the majority of the audience doing a rather good job of backing vocals. There could not have been a better ending to an all round wonderful show.

Tonight's Brixton Academy gig is sold out but you really should try your best to catch them whenever they next hit the UK. Ignore the dual "emo" and "OC Band" stigmas and just apreciate the masterful songcrafting of Gibbard and his fellow brilliant musicians.

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