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Death Cab for Cutie’s biggest draw was nostalgia – but was it enough?

Written by
Jordi Kretchmer
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It’s been over 20 years since Death Cab formed and around 12 years since they rose to the forefront of pop culture’s conscience by soundtracking some of the mid-’00’s biggest TV shows and movies. Luckily for fans, much of their back catalogue is still as emotive as the day it was released, and the Seattle band proved it across a 22-song setlist at the Opera House on Monday evening.

While singer-songwriter Ben Gibbard impressed upon fans that this was a rock concert and we could stand, the Concert Hall’s seats made for the optimal spot to relax and take in moodier songs like ‘I Will Possess Your Heart’ and ‘We Looked Like Giants’.

Other tracks, like ‘Title and Registration’, slapped harder when they blasted into your bedroom post break-up than it did on stage – but new tracks like ‘Gold Rush’ and ‘Northern Lights’ translated beautifully live, replete with slide guitars, vocal harmonies and high piano chords. Brighter songs ‘Cath’ and ‘Crooked Teeth’ reminded us that even though Death Cab may get lumped in the indie-emo genre, they can make you smile too.

A set highlight was a stirring rendition of ‘What Sarah Said’. When the song was released in 2005, a fair whack of the then-teenage audience probably hadn’t experienced the loss of many loved ones, but 12 years on and the song has new layer of meaning for many in the crowd. The restrained and emotional piece let Gibbard’s songwriting shine – detail-riddled, hyper-personal and narratively-driven, yet somehow universal. American recording artist Halsey recently pointed this out when covering ‘I Will Follow You into the Dark’ for Triple J’s Like A Version as well.

While Death Cab for Cutie may attempt to deliver new schtick – even the spiel on the Opera House’s website says ‘[their latest record] delivers a fresh Death Cab for Cutie sound’ – it’s just not that fresh. And that’s OK – nostalgia and fond memories are often more powerful anyway.

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