Death Cab for Cutie at Hammersmith Apollo
Friday night in Hammersmith – it’s blizzarding outside and the crowds hurry into Eventim Apollo to see Death Cab for Cutie on their lone London show. The Seattle-based alt-rockers are touring their new release, Thank You for Today – their ninth studio album since 1998. With this production rate, the five-piece aren’t slow burners, they’re burning strong and steady.
Under purple floodlights the group appears and, without pause to take in the sold-out venue, the first warbly synth notes resound, drums kick in and Ben Gibbard’s voice slices through the sonic haze, “I dreamt we spoke, I dreamt we spoke again”. The opener off their new work doubles as tonight’s. The singer’s hot, breathy vocals stretch out the chorus vowels – for anyone familiar with these lyrics, this is classic Death Cab: a poetic meditation on mourning. Somehow, Gibbard’s voice hasn’t changed a touch in 20 years of performing.
Death Cab for Cutie have two opposite strengths: Gibbard alone, churning to the poetry of his lyrics, or the five-piece together, heads down, jamming. In between they risk repetitiveness – not all their songs stand alone outside an album context, and this is apparent tonight. But the band plays to its strengths: on 60 & Punk, the frontman stands solo, immersed in a rust-coloured spotlight, lulling the crowd into a rumination on falling from grace. This is a perfect example of the group’s move from the mysticism of earlier records to a wrought realism – touchingly universal observations penned by an artist. This is in stark contrast to the four-minute, virtuosic instrumental opening to I Will Possess Your Heart – the slow crescendo has the audience on their toes, craning, waiting desperately for the drop… “How I wish you could see the potential.”
Among the band’s albums, Gibbard has declared Thank You for Today is the most relatable to their disparate audience, amassed over two decades, from cult followers to Grey’s Anatomy fans. Whether the crowd know three songs or the rockers’ full discography, tonight’s show offers something for all. Death Cab achieve what they set out to do, “bridge the aesthetic gap people have attached to the band”, successfully fusing the divergent pathways of recent work with long-time favourites. Miraculously, they manage to do this without sacrificing sincerity. And yes, they play I Will Follow You into the Dark. It is stunning. Death Cab for Cutie, thank you for tonight!
Photos: Miguel de Melo
For further information and future events visit Death Cab for Cutie’s website here.
Watch the video for Gold Rush here: