Death Cab for Cutie – Live at Verizon Amphitheater

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Early into their 2011 tour supporting their latest CD, Codes and Keys, Death Cab arrived in Atlanta to join an enthusiastic crowd in sweltering heat.  Front man Ben Gibbard said, “We’ve been looking forward to playing here for a long time.”  Really?  In this heat?

Before the General Admission area was fully admitted, Scottish Indie band Frightened Rabbit opened the show with a brisk set of 8 songs.  By the time “Scottish Winds” arrived midway in the set, either the sound booth had improved some settings or my brain’s circuitry adapted to the musical din enough to understand what lead singer Scott Hutchison was singing.  The band was favorably received, whether due to the music or to Southerner’s being suckers for Scottish accents, I’m not sure.  Watching the facial expressions of Scott’s brother Grant as he drummed was certainly visually entertaining.

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After a fairly quick stage change, Death Cab took the stage.  They opened with “I Will Possess Your Heart.”  Whether the title was a mission statement for the evening is uncertain, but the extended and aggressive musical intro to the song was a great way to trumpet the band’s arrival.

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For those standing in front of the stage, the band’s arrival also invited a compaction of sorts, which is to be expected.  Thus, numerous (not to mention one particularly amorous) 20-something couples pressed into the gaps, and the “Alpharetta Winds” were thereby buffered out.  Still, at least Southerners know that in August, shorts and T-shirts are appropriate.  The members of Frightened Rabbit and Ben Gibbard didn’t think that far ahead, having to roll up their long sleeved plaid shirts early in their sets (The jeans were forgiven, as any musician worth his salt doesn’t wear shorts when performing.  It’s just not done).

The band is certainly considerate of their long term fans.  Of the 24 songs played, five were from albums preceding 2003’s Transatlanticism, IMG_5063which launched the band into wider recognition.  That said, the older songs were generally less popular than those from the last four CDs.

Aside from the opener, another highlight was “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” for which the band exited and Gibbard played solo acoustic.  It was obviously a crowd favorite, as they sang along, pretty well as such things go.

Tracks from their new album were relatively few (4), and hearing them live didn’t open them up in a new way.   “You are a Tourist” had the most appeal, but when it comes to singing about fires, “Grapevine Fires” won, no-contest.

At first glance, it might seem that Gibbard is Death Cab for IMG_5068Cutie.  Not true.  Bassist Nick Harmer plays large in concert, with driving, well phrased sequences that carry many of their songs.  While guitarist/keyboardist Chris Walla lacks any penchant for showmanship, his contributions might be similar to George Harrison with The Beatles:  uncomplicated work that happens to fit the songs perfectly.  It was obvious in this show that he increasingly prefers playing with sound effects.

And that leaves drummer Jason McGerr, who kept the beats moving through the evening.  His moment came at the end of the show, descending on his drums with his full weight at the climax of the closer, “Transatlanticism.”  Take the rest of the might off, Jason!

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Note: Highly recommended for any concert is a cooler in waiting with ice cold bottles of water.  Ahh.

3 of 5 STARS

 

 

Set List:

I Will Possess Your Heart
Crooked Teeth
We Laugh Indoors
Photobooth
Doors Unlocked and Open
Long Division
Grapevine Fires
Codes and Keys
What Sarah Said
I Will Follow You Into the Dark
Title Track
Little Bribes
You are a Tourist
The New Year
Some Boys
Soul Meets Body
A Movie Script Ending
Cath
We Looked Like Giants
Marching Bands of Manhattan

Encores:
Stay Young, Go Dancing
Title and Registration
The Sound of Settling
Transatlanticism

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