Saturday, November 25, 2006

Live: Death Cab For Cutie

Death Cab For Cutie
with Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
11/7/06 @ D.A.R. Constitution Hall

In Five Words
Hey, I remember these guys!

In More Words
Death Cab was a lot better than I expected. I've made no secret of my complaints about Plans on this here Interblog, but I kinda figured those songs would have more life in person. Indeed, they did.

It was an extremely consistent show. The songs themselves were played straight, with one exception (more on that later), so there's not a lot of "ooh, remember when they played X"-type moments to point to in retrospect. But the flip side of that coin is that there were no lowlights either. They have so much quality material in the arsenal that there's no shortage of excellent music for them to plow through. Judging by the set list for the 11/6 show, I tend to think that first show got more of the "interesting" pieces (like opening with "405"... ballsy, given the MTVU crowd). But I like ours... they did play personal favorite "I Was A Kaleidoscope," so I'm glad this was the show I got to see.

The crescendo was the main-set-closing one-two punch of "We Looked Like Giants" and "Transatlanticism." Closing the encore with "The Sound of Settling" seemed like an afterthought by comparison... it's their best song, but it's so short! And it really paled in comparison to "Giants" in particular, which contained what is apparently DCFC's lone stage trick: extending the closing riff with a Jason McGerr vs. Ben Gibbard drum duel on separate kits. It was like Horse... Gibbard would play something and McGerr immediately outdid it and then some. And it wasn't like "everyone stop what you're doing, cause I'm doing a drum solo," which literally any drummer can do. The song groove kept going, and the drum soloing had to hold the riff together. It was just straight-up skills from a highly-skilled band. Very impressive.

Ted Leo's set was just as excellent. That they were an afterthought on the evening is awfully unfair, but I really enjoyed hearing them live. Makes me want to see more of them when their new album drops next year.

But as great as the music was, this show was defined by the externalities that arise when you put a rock show in Constitution Hall.

1) First off, Con Hall is an execrable venue for this kind of show. Sure, it's nice to have space to yourself (as my Decemberists post indicates) but it just sucks the life out of everything. You're stuck in a wooden auditorium chair, in a cavernous, lifeless, pristine, venerable venue. Nobody's at ease, due in no small part to the ushers Gestapo manning the aisles, checking tickets. What fun is that?!? What is this, a fucking school assembly? It's hard enough for acts in Venue Purgatory to connect with audiences in a place like Con Hall even when you aren't holding guns to everyone's heads.

2) The spaciousness and emptiness of Con Hall resulted in a criminally poor reception for incomparable ass-kicker Ted Leo. The place was goddamn empty. Come on, people. Ted Leo is a big deal. Show some respect.

3) The crowd, on the whole, sucked. The venue gets the lion's share of the blame, but a quality crowd could have overcome that. Seriously, everyone in the balconies was just sitting there like they wanted to puke. What'd you buy the ticket for if you're just gonna sit there like a dead fish all night? Too cool to rock out? Don't even get me started on the skew towards new material like "Crooked Teeth" that doesn't hold a candle to anything on The Photo Album. They couldn't ALL have been there to have their tears jerked by "I Will Follow You Into The Dark." I imagine that if I said, "We have the facts... aaaaaaand?" to 99% of the audience, they would be incapable of finishing the thought. (On election night, no less!) Anyway, I guess it's more evidence that sharing is bad.

But having said all that, I still have an exceedingly positive take on the show.

1) Just to reiterate, Ted Leo is awesome. Even from a distance, with naught but empty seats surrounding him, he really rocked out. I'd love to see him headline a show sometime... preferably after I've had a chance to become better-acquainted with Hearts of Oak and The Tyranny of Distance.

2) I forgot how great Death Cab is. It's been a while since Plans came out, and they've been out-of-sight/out-of-mind ever since. This show reminded me that DCFC, in their heart of hearts, is the same awesome band that made Transatlanticism, and not the merely-good incarnation that made Plans. I recall watching their concert DVD, Drive Well, Sleep Carefully, and thinking the band in the concert video wouldn't exist going forward. Entirely untrue. The set list shows an awful lot of older tunes... it's not as if they were catering to the new fans. They rock in spite of their new audience, and it's the new fans' job to come around, not vice versa. That's the right approach, and I'm glad they went that way. In short, rumors of the band's demise have been greatly exaggerated.

3) They played a long set, plus three songs in the encore. Definitely got my money's worth out of them.

You can read DCist for more substance about the show itself. But it should suffice to say that they exceeded my expectations, and alleviated most of my concerns. I still hope for a return to Transatlanticism-style rock for their next album, but even if not, at least I know I've seen them at the top of their game.

Set List
Marching Bands of Manhattan
The New Year
We Laugh Indoors
Why’d You want to Live Here
Crooked Teeth
Title and Registration
Movie Script Ending
Company Calls
Company Calls Epilogue
I Will Follow You into the Dark
Soul Meets Body
I Was a Kaleidoscope
We Looked Like Giants

Your Heart is An Empty Room
I'm Going Home (Sonics cover)
The Sound of Settling

No comments:

Post a Comment