Death Cab for Cutie at Royal Albert Hall
Death Cab for Cutie took the Royal Albert Hall by storm last night. The Seattle-based indie rockers delivered a magic, emotional and infectious performance that took the 5,000-strong packed crowd from their early days to their latest album Asphalt Meadows.
The New Year – their third track of the evening – got things ignited and prompted the first bona fide screams from the audience. Frontman Ben Gibbard’s nasal, magnetic voice works wonders on their melancholic, catchy tunes. And – while Gibbard doesn’t have moves like Jagger – his jittery, syncopated movements are an absolute perfect fit. Bassist Nick Hammer also brings a lot of panache sporting long hair and a salt-and-pepper beard and as he throws his head up, closes his eyes and gets lost in his bombastic bass lines
The show stepped things up with Here Forever – an upbeat, captivating synth and acoustic guitar number that marked the first highlight of the night. Black Sun immersed the crowd in a melancholic, trance-like atmosphere, complete with neo-noir lights and fog. After a quirky shout-out to Boots – yes, the pharmacy, of all places – by Gibbard, the irresistible beat of I Miss Strangers had everyone moving
Nostalgia took centre stage as the singer shared a story about their early days, all the way back to their second gig ever in London, at the Dublin Castle, where a young and exasperated Gibbard ran to the sound guy and told him he couldn’t get close to the mic the venue as provided, because it “smelled like ass”. The sound guy shrugged his shoulders, and the frontman realised he just had to keep singing to that. The entire Albert Hall – and that includes me – exploded in laughter. The band launched into Rand McNally, an ode to those old scrappy days
And then Gibbard brought out the big guns. Alone on stage, with only his voice and his acoustic guitar, the now legendary notes of I’ll Follow You into the Dark filled the concert hall. We all knew every word, and the frontman took a step back to let the crowd sing an entire chorus, as a thousand phone torches filled the dark like fireflies
The iconic bass intro of I Will Possess Your Heart sent the audience into a craze and took things to a darker, moodier place, while the surreal intro and ethereal atmosphere of Your Heart Is an Empty Room brought a lighter touch with its soothing piano. Another little gag followed as guitarist Dave Depper realised he had been given the wrong guitar, to which Gibbard quipped “Well… we came all this way. We don’t wanna use the wrong guitar. This ain’t the Dublin Castle. It’s the Royal Albert Hall”. Again, everyone laughed
Sound of Settling had the crowd dancing and smiling, and the haunting beauty of Foxglove Through the Clearcut was introduced as a prayer to the American West – “always flooded, always on fire”
The encore kicked off with a massive sing-along for Soul Meets Body – that song had the people in the seating area take to their feet and dance, and the night ended with Transatlanticism, an epic crescendo of music and terrific light work where both the band and the fans gave it their all
Death Cab for Cutie explore the darkest and sweetest depths of the human soul. Their music settles in your heart and doesn’t leave you, and their terrific performance made the iconic Kensington venue – even just for two hours – like Ben’s American West.
Photos: Virginie Viche
For further information and future events visit Death Cab for Cutie ‘s website here.
Watch the video for Pepper here: