April 5, 2009, Toronto, Canada – After missing out on their headlining show on Toronto Island last summer to watch the Evil Dead musical instead, I decided that if I was ever going to see Death Cab for Cutie, it might as well be now.
Coming into the show, I heard that Sound Academy was basically the worst venue in the city for numerous reasons. While the sound wasn’t as bad as I’ve heard, all complaints about location are completely valid. It truly is located in the middle of nowhere; without a ride I would’ve been pretty screwed for getting there. I was really taken aback at how cavernous it was, hardly a comparison to the intimate venues I’m used to frequenting, and hardly the crowd I’m used to. Many jokes were made about the 14-year old girl content of the crowd.
I probably wouldn’t have made the trip if Ra Ra Riot wasn’t opening. I’ve had The Rhumb Line on repeat for the last few months, one of the most overlooked albums of 2008 in my opinion. The band seemed a little nervous to be playing in front of a crowd that size, but they performed admirably in an all-too-brief set. Cellist Alexandra Lawn’s vocals on ‘Too Too Too Fast’ were sadly drowned out by the rest of the band, somewhat spoiling my favourite song off the album. Still, I’d jump at the chance to see them at a smaller venue. They showed some great energy.
I didn’t care for Cold War Kids. Prior to the show my only exposure was the song ‘We Used to Vacation’, which I didn’t mind, and which didn’t get played. Their performance didn’t impress me at all. It was very classic rock-influenced, and the music was fine, if a little bland, but what got me were the vocals. I really couldn’t stand their singer. If I had any chance of getting to the merch table and back during their set, I probably would’ve done that, but instead I sipped my Moosehead and quietly waited for them to finish.
With a band like Death Cab for Cutie, after six albums and nearly a hundred songs to draw from for a live performance, you’re bound not to get absolutely everything you want in a set list. As expected, the band drew a lot from Narrow Stairs and the recently released Open Door EP, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I did miss stuff from Something About Airplanes, We Have the Facts, and so on. Keeping that in mind, it was still a pretty rad performance. Opening with ‘I Will Follow You Into the Dark’ seemed a tad strange at first, but it did manage to draw everyone into the show while getting it out of the way. The band then obliged their older fans by playing a few favourites. ‘A Movie Script Ending’ followed by ‘The New Year’ was particularly powerful. I couldn’t help thinking no one knew what was going on during ‘Company Calls’. Interspersed between songs was some cheerful banter, mostly involving Ben Gibbard live-Twittering his thoughts on the concert, before giving up prior to the encore awaiting the next big web thing. Barring a few hilarious gaffes during ‘Fake Frowns’, prompting Gibbard to suggest rehearsing for tomorrow night, the band was remarkably tight. Bassist Nick Harmer owned the stage, seemingly on a rampage from song to song, particularly during the extended intro of ‘I Will Possess Your Heart’. Once again, my desire for what I dub “bummer music'” went unsatisfied. Something like ‘Photobooth’ or ‘Styrofoam Plates’ would’ve gone a long way, but I guess people don’t like being driven to tears in public. Perhaps next time. Steep price to see the show, but I felt it was worth it to see one of my favourites in the flesh. Just as a side-note, I seem to be running out of bands on my must-see live list. I should be able to cross off Eels when the Hombre Lobo tour kicks off, but after that it looks like I’ll be experimenting far more with my live experiences.
I Will Follow You Into the Dark
A Movie Script Ending
The New Year
We Laugh Indoors
My Mirror Speaks
I Will Possess Your Heart
Soul Meets Body
The Sound of Settling
Bixby Canyon Bridge
A Diamond and a Tether
Title and Registration
As a bonus, I found these excellent bootlegs from a night of the Death and Dismemberment tour. In 2002, a post-Photo Album Death Cab for Cutie and a pre-break-up Dismemberment Plan went on tour together. From the sounds of it, it would’ve been pretty excellent to see.