Splendour Sideshow Review: Death Cab For Cutie - HQ, Adelaide (03.08.15)

Photo Credit: John Goodridge

I last saw Death Cab For Cutie play HQ in 2012 and it was the first time I'd seen a crowd of 20 somethings - both men and women - react so intensely, revelling in nostalgia, melancholy and an emotional tornado swept up by the band's excellent delivery of lovelorn rock tunes. Fast forward to 2015 and we're back in the same venue but nothing much else has changed - the fans and the band have gotten a few years older but we're all wanting that same experience.

The place isn't sold out (or at least, doesn't seem to be) when I arrive, near the end of Say Hi's support set. Having flown out from Seattle to tour with Death Cab, the solo performer is holding his own audience well and although I think I needed to be here from the beginning to get the full scope of what he was doing, he was an intriguing and entertaining watch for the few songs I did see.

I'd stayed away from looking up set lists from any of the previous Death Cab shows on this Australian tour so far and most definitely avoided checking up on their Splendour set to see what material the band had included and omitted - with a catalogue like theirs, it's pointless to try and guess what tunes will fly and what won't make the cut. When Ben Gibbard and the band take to the stage, the applause is amazing and some of the screams seem slightly out of place for the type of music we're about to witness. Admittedly, without Chris Walla in the fold, I felt a bit odd about watching this line up, but it didn't take long for those vocals of Gibbard's to remind me how great Death Cab's music is regardless.

"We love you, Ben!" is repeated numerous times throughout the night as the band's frontman leads the band through Kintsugi material, as well as a solid number of tunes from their back catalogue. With a set list reaching 20 songs plus an epic four song encore, the audience was getting their money's worth from Death Cab tonight and they kept the atmosphere and momentum sustained strongly. From "The Ghosts of Beverly Drive" to "No Sunlight" and the dedication to the fans in "I Will Follow You Into The Dark", seeing Death Cab for Cutie perform kind of reminded me of when I saw Cold War Kids earlier in the year - there's an intensity to their performance that is grown from years on the road refining their craft and it's one that I feel is missing from a lot of pop and rock bands coming through today. Each tune had it's own defined spot in the set, regardless of the amount of songs in the set list, and the crowd was endeared to with every delivery.

"I Will Possess Your Heart" is an epic jam moment of the evening, while main set closer "Marching Bands of Manhattan" is the perfect way to tie up what's been a rollercoaster ride of emotions, red and blue stage lighting and Gibbard-style vocal strain. The crowd has barely finished applauding the band exiting the stage before they return and re-tune their instruments in the dark. I like a band that doesn't waste time with a drawn out wait in between main set and encore, especially with a band like Death Cab, you can guarantee the encore is going to be as important as the main chunk of show.

Opening with a rendition of "Passenger Seat" that almost had me tearing up, the encore consisted of cuts from 2005's Plans and 2001's The Photo Album and 2007's Transatlanticism. Although it was a predictable move, placing "Transatlanticism" as the final song of the night felt so right and as I had thought, that swell of emotions that come with Gibbard's repetitive 'I need you so much closer,' lyric is undeniable.

The crowd begins to clap as the percussion builds and as the lights flicker inside the venue, we're all singing along with Gibbard as he sings, 'So come on, come on...', fringe in front of his face as he rocks back and forth from the microphone. It's the image we all have of the vocalist from back in the day - the days when Seth Cohen and The OC brought Death Cab to the 2000s teenage masses and when the Six Feet Under fandom bonded with Claire and her friends in Season 4. It's a brilliant night to revisit those moments and also to acknowledge this new phase of the band as they've proceeded through 2015.