PHOENIX — For the fourth stop of their Fall 2018 tour, Death Cab for Cutie returned to Phoenix to promote their ninth album, Thank You for Today. In the first album since 2015, the band comes back strong in their signature indie pop songwriting and foggy vocals. The band has already released three singles since the August 2018 album release date, building anticipation for their tour. Death Cab for Cutie added two new members to the band after the departure of guitarist and producer Chris Walla. The two new members, guitarist Dave Depper and keyboardist Zac Rae, seem to bring a new cohesive energy to the band, which made for a polished and low-key performance at the sold out music venue in Phoenix.
When the show started at 8:00PM, opening power-pop band Charly Bliss welcomed the crowd. Lead vocalist Eva Hendricks bounced around the stage, swinging the white fringe from her short shorts. Her spunky attitude infused the crowd with energy, starting off the night with a positive jolt of indie pop rock, reminiscent of the early 2000s.
Joining her on stage was guitarist/vocalist Spencer Fox, drummer Sam Hendricks, and bassist/vocalist Dan Shure. At the end of their set, they generously thanked the audience and anticipation crescendoed for the main act, Death Cab for Cutie. Charly Bliss’ debut full-length album, Guppy, was released in April of 2017.
As the stage washed with ambient purple light, the four members of Death Cab for Cutie took the stage clad in black.
Lead vocalist Ben Gibbard jumped right into their new song “I Dreamt We Spoke Again”, washing the audience in his unique melancholy vocals. Guitarist/vocalist Depper complemented Ben’s voice in creating a beautiful harmony, while drummer Jason McGerr, bassist Nick Harmer, and keyboardist Rae rounded out the sound; making for a solid performance that reflected the band’s years of refinement.
Without pause, they began “Summer Years”, and then picked up the pace with the following song, “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive.” After the third song, Gibbard addressed the audience, introducing the band and briefly thanking those in attendance.
After a few more new songs, they went into “Gold Rush,” the fresh-sounding first single released from their new album. Recognizing the song from heavy rotation, the crowd erupted in cheers and voices rising up in unison. Reactions were similarly enthusiastic when the well-known notes of “Title and Registration” from Transatlanticism reached their ears.
The next few songs were a mix from earlier albums, including “Company Calls,” “No Sunlight,” and “What Sarah Said.” The chill vibes of their show would make for a great date night, or an escape from the work week. Gibbard occasionally dances about the stage facing the drummer and side stepping to the beat. While their performance was strong and their live sound comparable to their albums in every sense, the band’s minimal audience interaction and dependance on old songs might cause a loss of interest in newer listeners. There seemed to be a lack of connection that was sorely needed between the band and the audience. All members could benefit from some storytelling. Their lyrics are so beautiful and meaningful, the audience would surely love to hear some stories behind writing them.
A piano was rolled onto the stage for, “I Will Possess your Heart,” and Gibbard temporarily switched his guitar for the keys. The following song, “Autumn Love”, includes some beautiful lyrics such as, “If there’s no beacon tonight to guide me, I’ll finally break the shackles of direction and let the headlights lead me anywhere that they wanna go.” The depth of their latest album was described in a Facebook post on the date of release, which refers to it as “a record that reflects upon and asks questions of the past”, and “also a record about the future. Looking forwards and backwards simultaneously, from summer to autumn.”
As they finished out the set they finally addressed the audience once again, giving a big thank you to Charly Bliss for being a great opening band. Of course they had to play one of their biggest hits, “Soul Meets Body”, and the crowd went wild, nearly everyone singing along. At the end of the song, Gibbard triumphantly held his guitar up in the air like a trophy. The last song, “Marching Bands of Manhattan”, left the audience still wanting more, cheering into the emptiness as the stage went black.
It only took a few minutes before Gibbard returned, playing an acoustic version of their hit “I’ll Follow You Into the Dark.” It was at this moment that Gibbard opened up to the crowd with some cheerful banter, and he asked the audience to sing the second verse of the song. Afterwards, the rest of the band joined Gibbard on stage and played not one more, but three more songs: “Your Hurricane”, “Crooked Teeth”, and they finished the night with “Transatlanticism”.
With a generous 24-song setlist, Death Cab for Cutie brought a unique and beautiful energy to The Van Buren, and a recording-quality sound. The title of Thank You for Today no doubt resonated with die-hard Death Cab for Cutie fans.
Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega
Death Cab for Cutie & Charly Bliss – The Van Buren 9-29-18
Photography © Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
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