Death Cab For Cutie made a triumphant return to their native area when the band performed at Seattle’s Key Arena on Saturday. Lead singer Ben Gibbard made sure to let the crowd know that the band was, in fact, from the Seattle area by repeatedly stating “It’s good to be home.” or “We’re from here.” While Gibbard isn’t the best at on-stage banter between songs, he is deft at crowd pleasing. The set list was chock full of Death Cab’s hits, but also featured several songs from early releases like We Have the Facts and We Are Voting Yes and The Photo Album. I’ve seen Death Cab For Cutie a handful of times over the last 4 years, and they are extremely consistent live. They get more into their on-stage jam sessions each time I see them, and they’re near-lullaby songs are heavier when performed live. Which makes Gibbard’s comparison to Led Zeppelin (because Zepp played in arenas like DCFC did this night) more understandable than if they kept their music as toned down as it is on their albums.
With a “What’s up, Seattle?” when the band members first walked on stage, Gibbard whipped the already roaring crowd into frenzy, which seemed to crescendo with the first few bass notes of “I Will Possess Your Heart,” the song that kicked off the more than two hours of music to come. With Gibbard and guitarist/keyboardist Chris Walla frequently making trips to the keyboard set up on stage, the band kept from being stagnant on stage, and Nick Harmer always manages to find his way around stage, as well. And though Gibbard may not be the best at banter, he was successful in riling the 8,000 or so people in the Key Arena into a screaming mass several times with simple dedications to the opener the Head and the Heart, or a seemingly benign “Thank you.”
With the crowd fully engaged with the band, the four former Western Washington University students delivered an energized set that spanned nearly their entire catalog, and featured many great deep tracks for balance with the bands ever growing hit list. With swirling guitars, layered keys, thick bass and banging drums the four members work off each other and create many memorable moments in their long set.
Perhaps the highlight of the show was when a small drum kit was set up on stage near Harmer. While the band began to jam together, Gibbard sat at the kit with his back to audience and began hitting the drums with conviction as he and Jason McGerr synced for a tandem drum solo that led into “We Looked Like Giants.” While the band is currently tour in support of this year’s Codes & Keys, they played as many songs from Transatlanticism and Plans, and only one fewer from Narrow Stairs, illustrating the well balanced set list.
Death Cab For Cutie is a great live band, and I’ll continue to see them whenever I have the chance because they are consistent, among many other reasons. I have never seen an off show from this group, and they are exceptionally good at playing their brand of piano-tinged indie-rock.
The band now heads to Europe for a string of dates (mostly in the United Kingdom), before returning for an already sold out show in Portland on December 8. There are rumors that they’ll play another show in Seattle this fall/winter. They’ll release a remix EP, Keys & Codes, November 22 on Atlantic Records.