Last Night: Death Cab for Cutie at Comerica Theatre

Categories: Last Night
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Maria Vassett
Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard
Death Cab for Cutie Comerica Theatre Monday, August 15

There's always been something I've resented about Death Cab for Cutie, but I could never really put a finger on it. Last night's show at Comerica Theatre defined it perfectly.

The band hasn't been truly "underground" since its earliest days, but when Top 40 radio picked up their chiming, smooth, indie rock sound, the band changed. So did the Death Cab crowd, becoming a mix of scene kids that look toward frontman Ben Gibbard as a style god, suburban kids, and wandering Nickelback fans. The band started receiving airplay, and playing bigger and bigger venues, finally landing in downtown Phoenix last night.

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Maria Vassett
From the start, the general vibe of the place was cold. The crowd stood with crossed arms and aloof looks. Death Cab specializes in sweet, soft tunes, but the crowd's lack of energy was surprising. Concertgoers seemed more concerned about taking photos of themselves and of the stage, just to show their Facebook friends that they were so there, even if they couldn't be bothered to pay a lick of attention.

The general "meh" of the crowd could have been overlooked if Death Cab didn't do the exact same thing with most of their music. Sadly, it really felt like they were phoning their Phoenix stop in. It seems like they really, really wanted to try, but found themselves lacking energy once they got on stage.

I saw the band at Mesa Amphitheatre a few years back, and group at least had a little charm to work with then, due in no small part to the hyper-intense, metalesque bassist Nick Harmer. Now, touring their seventh studio album, Codes and Keys, Gibbard and Co. seem to have lost their spark.

I guess you can't blame them. Death Cab's music has never quite settled into being an "arena rock" band. This is a band that probably never should have been bigger than a Marquee stop and a few spins on 103.9, but here they are in Comerica Theatre, trying to fill the expansive venue with jammy melancholy.

Gibbard got behind the keyboard for opener "I Will Possess Your Heart" and began a series of half-hearted spastic moves alongside a shaky voice. His layered, shoulder length haircut was at the center of the show for a good 20 minutes. That coif is the perfect combination of world-famous rock star and not-give-a-fuckedness and it bounces up and down, back and forth as Gibbard shakes. His hair had the most energy out of anything on stage or in the crowd.

It felt a bit like the Ben Gibbard show. Look, there's Ben Gibbard on a guitar! Now he's behind the keyboard. And hey, look at that! A drum kit at the front of the stage had Gibbard pounding out rhythms to "We Looked Like Giants." It was entertaining, but where was the passion?

If the band hadn't captured the crowd's attention by then, it just wasn't going to happen. At one point, a girl in front of me turned around and sat on the seat behind her, looking back at the crowd with crossed arms and dead eyes. That's the sort of vibe that ran through the venue, smacking down any hope for fun. It was a two-fold energy suck, both on the band's part and the crowd's, but my hopes for this show were crushed. Given the chance to see this exact same show again, I would take the option to stay home and watch reruns of Wipeout.

Death Cab for Cutie's set list:

I Will Possess Your Heart
Crooked Teeth
We Laugh Indoors
A Movie Script Ending
Doors Unlocked and Open
Long Division
Grapevine Fires
Codes and Keys
What Sarah Said
I Will Follow You Into the Dark
Title and Registration
You Are a Tourist
Stay Young, Go Dancing
Cath
We Looked Like Giants
The Sound of Settling
Photobooth
Styrofoam Plates
Transatlanticism

Last night: Death Cab for Cutie at Comerica Theatre.

Personal bias: I seem to have a dissenting opinion about Narrow Stairs and Codes and Keys. I liked those albums, and they were some of the best songs out of the bunch last night.

The crowd: How did I end up at a Neon Trees show?

Overheard in the crowd: After Gibbard announced they'll be playing songs from Codes and Keys, smug suburbanite #13 chimes in with "Yeah, and it sucks!"

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Comerica Theatre

400 W. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Music

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14 comments
Fireant333
Fireant333

Glad I didn't waste the money... which at today's ticket prices, pretty much all of them are a waste.  Was it a surprise that a Phoenix crowd was kinda lame? 

Billy
Billy

Like this if you think this lady is a fucking twat.

little_room
little_room

Wow that review seemed harsh. Granted I was in the pit where there is a totally different vibe then in the seats, but I thought it was a good show. DCFC seemed to fill the bigger stage just fine and I loved how they played from all over their catalog. And by far the best song was I Will Follow You Into the Dark with the whole crowd singing along. I saw them at the Marquee back when they toured for Transatlanticism and I remember thinking they were pretty flat back then, standing around not knowing what to do with themselves. They have grown a lot since then and i like them even better now.

Jamie
Jamie

I left after Frightened Rabbit, who were amazing. Sounds like I didn't miss much. Never was a huge DCFC fan, but I heard from a few friends who stayed that it was pretty half assed. I think that when you've got people paying a decent amount to see your band you've got to put on a damn good show not just show up and play some songs.

Lisa C.
Lisa C.

I agree with Xander. I was in the pit though so I was having a great time. And I saw them at that marquee show all those years ago. I thought Ben and Chris were very endearing. Though next time, I'd rather it be at a different venue. $5 to park on top of 80$ tickets for two people was ridiculous for a band like DCFC. (McCartney, maybe!) Cath...New Year, Transatlanticsm and We Looked like giants were the highlights for me.

Christina Caldwell
Christina Caldwell

I think being in the pit would have made a world of difference. You'd at least be able to fake an intimate vibe that way. I was so totally disappointed in this show. I really, really wanted it to be enjoyable, but it just fell flat. I didn't swoon the way I normally do for songs like "I Will Follow You Into the Dark." In fact, I think their strong point last night was some of the harder moments like "We Looked Like Giants." I forgot to mention "Cath" was probably the highlight of the show for me, but it didn't make up for the rest of the night. 

Xander
Xander

I think it's just you that found it lifeless.  Granted, It's not a fist pumping rock concert like what I expect from the Marquee Theater for example, but the crowd was definitely loving it.  And for a band like DCFC, they hit on all the right notes for the people who came by to see them.

I will agree, they're a stuck between a rock and a hard place right now.  Too big for the smaller venues, but Arenas are just not fitting for them. (even though it can fit their entire audience).

Anyway, good show but something needs to change.  kinda sad you didn't mention about "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" which was the highlight of the show in my opinion, but to each their own.

Christina Caldwell
Christina Caldwell

Sorry, would you rather I lie about what I thought of the show? I didn't like it. I wanted to like it. I did my job. 

BenGibbard'sHair
BenGibbard'sHair

Great review, I loved it. The fact that you worked in a Nickelback comment tells me you are a rockstar. Those guys are painfully shattty. Sounds like DCFC called it in, too bad. Kind of reminds me of Weezer a few years ago when they opened for Foo Fighters, they couldn't give two shits about the show. Good times. Keep up the good work, your review painted a really vivid picture, and it was funny as hell.

Tracy Fairfield
Tracy Fairfield

Cath was absolutely wonderful! I'll agree with you there :) But I think the venue was a lot better than people were giving it credit for. The place was packed to the brim, even through the encore, and to me it wasn't flat so much as... reverent. Maybe it was just the group of people we were sitting near, but I felt like the crowd had a LOT of energy (to the point where the staff felt they had to continually monitor our section, even). It's not really a moshing, fist-pumping kind of band, but there were a couple songs where you could tell people just *had* to move around. The bass line in Crooked Teeth was downright funky, and there were a lot of people getting out of their seats to dance right off the bat. 

And We Looked Like Giants was probably the highlight of the night. I'll agree that a lot of people started to lose interest after that, but it was toward the end of the show and it's *extremely* difficult to follow that kind of intensity, especially with slower songs like Photobooth and Transatlanticism.

All in all, I was very satisfied with the show. This is my second or third time seeing this band perform, and it never gets old! Although, next time I think Ben Gibbard should probably wear something other than a long-sleeve shirt when he comes to an AZ show. The poor guy looked like he was sweating through it with all the energy he had on stage.

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