Death Cab for Cutie

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.

Ra Ra Riot – Too Too Too Fast
Death Cab for Cutie – A Movie Script Ending
Death Cab for Cutie – Little Bribes

Set List
I Will Follow You Into the Dark
A Movie Script Ending
The New Year
We Laugh Indoors
Crooked Teeth
My Mirror Speaks
Company Calls
No Sunlight
Grapevine Fires
I Will Possess Your Heart
Little Bribes
Fake Frowns
Soul Meets Body
The Sound of Settling
Bixby Canyon Bridge

A Diamond and a Tether
Title and Registration
Expo ’86

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.

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— , April 17, 2009    10 Comments

Honestly, that setlist looks pretty decent. A lot of bands that have just released a new album will favor it much more heavily than that – but I agree, a Death Cab show should have more bummer-tuneage than that. I would have also been happy with the inclusion of ‘Talking Like Turnstiles” anywhere in there – my favorite B-side.

Also, glad you’re still spinning Rhumb Line – I am too. I was seriously underwhelmed by their live show in Jersey back in December. The vocals were all drowned-out by the instruments, which were further drowned-out by the crowd (which was a less chachy version of what you’d find at Sound Academy) waiting for Vampire Weekend to come on. Either way, nice timely review dude.

— Sal, April 17, 2009

You have the live review down, Kevin. Good call on Ra Ra Riot too, I only stumbled across them recently. As for Cold War Kids… I liked a few songs off Robbers and Cowards, but it’s not the kind of thing that I see being enjoyable live.

— Sabrina, April 17, 2009

Death Cab for Cutie played in Halifax recently through Campus Battle. I managed to see their show at a relatively smaller venue in Dalhousie, they played a similar set, closing with that long static distort on Transatlanticism was a brilliant finish. Although like many, I would have loved to see Ra Ra Riot, Rhumb Line can do no wrong, they recently recorded a great Take Away Show in Paris, if you get a chance watch the video for Oh La.

— Jan, April 17, 2009

Much appreciated, folks.

Funny you should mention Talking Like Turnstiles, my friend and I were shouting for it a la that video from Directions. Hilarious.

I saw that Campus Battle advertised. I think UWO had .01% of the population voting, so I didn’t bother wasting texting money. Nice performances at La Blogotheque.

Kevin, April 17, 2009

I saw that show from the sweet VIP balcony up top ;)

— Kyle, April 17, 2009

So you were one of those people. Well don’t worry, I was crammed next to the bar with poor visibility like the rest of the real fans. *grumble*

Kevin, April 17, 2009

ahha yea! I was in the VIP too and it was awesome! I’ll take the comfort and a great view over being a ‘real’ fan anyday!

— Taha, April 18, 2009

Pshaw! That’s not where the action is, on the balcony. You have to be right in the front centre. In the way of flying beer bottles. Being a real fan in a dangerous job, but you have to take the concussions when they come.

— Sabrina, April 19, 2009

Don’t worry Kyle, I know you’re a real fan.

— Daniel, April 19, 2009

My attempts at sarcasm have been failing horribly lately. Fans are fans, I concur.

— Sabrina, April 19, 2009