by Sophia Weiss
For the first time in their 18-year career, Death Cab for Cutie performed at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, Sept. 12 to promote their eighth studio album.
Explosions in the Sky opened the concert with a performance reflective of their name. Following the instrumental band’s post-rock setlist, Death Cab dove right in with “No Room for Frame,” the opening track of “Kintsugi,” the band’s eighth album which came out in March this year. To much surprise, that song was among one of the four songs the band played from their newest record, choosing instead to play well-known tracks off of all of their diverse albums. Frontman Ben Gibbard, also of the alt-rock Postal Service, let his iconic voice shine through on bass-heavy songs songs like “Black Sun” from “Kintsugi,” and “The New Year” from “Transatlanticism.” After dashing through several tracks, Ben finally took a moment to introduce himself and the band saying, “We’re just a little group from Seattle here in the big city.”
This release of “Kintsugi” and the start of this tour came about after several big years for both Gibbard and his band. In 2014, the band saw the departure of the band’s longtime guitarist, Chris Walla after seventeen years in the project. This is the first full tour without Walla onstage, but the band has said that their former band mate was “very involved with the new record and will continue to be involved.” You would never know that this band, which was so synchronized and responsive the entire night, had been through so many changes.
The band is known for their layered, complex sound, a reputation they lived up to when performing the popular “Soul Meets Body” and the lesser-known but equally intricate “What Sarah Said,” both from 2005’s “Plans.” There aren’t very many artists with voices like Gibbard’s and in many songs; it is his vocals that carry the weight, especially in the somber love song “I Will Follow You Into the Dark.” This band is all about the instrumentals. Gibbard himself switched between electric guitar, acoustic and piano throughout the night. Two more guitars, a bass, a keyboard and a rolling drum all added to the riff-heavy, complicated set.
At some points the set was monotonous. Sad song after sad song made for a sometimes indistinguishable stream of sound. However, the band was mostly wary of this, and would alternate slower songs like “Everything’s A Ceiling” with the classic, kitschy “I Will Possess Your Heart.”
After a nearly two-hour set, the show finally slowed to a close with the opening beats of the passionate, fan-favorite “Transatlanticism” with Gibbard’s refrain of “I need you so much closer” as sweet and heartbreaking as ever. This band has been selling out shows for nearly as long as they’ve been together. With their trajectory and talent for performance, it seems like Death Cab for Cutie is here to stay for years to come.
Death Cab for Cutie will continue their tour in San Diego and Santa Barbara on Friday, Sept. 25 and Saturday, Sept. 26, respectively.
Sophia Weiss is a Contributing Writer. Email her at email@example.com