Rachel Bache is an entertainment writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Concert review: Death Cab For Cutie, St James Theatre

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Musician Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie. Photo / Getty Images
Musician Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie. Photo / Getty Images

Death Cab For Cutie have been around the block since the '90s and yet this is only the band's second time performing in New Zealand, and their first time in Auckland.

Needless to say, long time fans seemed delighted to finally be seeing them.

The St James was filled with a generation of people in love with Death Cab's music. The thick buzz of anticipation and sweat could be felt in the air as the band, led by singer Ben Gibbard, took to the stage.

The trio, joined by touring members Dave Depper on guitar and Zac Rae on keyboard, delved deep into some of their best and most well-known songs, as well as more recent tracks from their latest record Kintsugi which dropped last year.

Death Cab's gloomy alt-rock is more often than not the type of music you'd want to cry yourself to sleep to, but that didn't stop fans from getting into the parts of the show.

Though the band's audience was mostly made up of those who were too cool to dance, the room did cheer loudly for Black Sun and moved to the bouncier bass of The Ghosts Of Beverly Drive while strobe lights flickered.

The band's gently-picked guitars layered with delicate keys swelled in the room, though if you didn't have the luck to secure a good spot near the front, the sound often came through quieter than you'd hope for a rock concert, muffled slightly by the theatre's second tier.

In the thick of it is where you need to be for the St James and to have bands regularly coming through the venue again will always be something to celebrate.

After touring for 17 years Death Cab have perfected their live performance, all the instruments on stage flowed and dipped together effortlessly, each echoed guitar effect and tapping drum built up together to beautifully compliment Gibbard's soft voice and emotion-drenched lyrics.

That isn't to say the band didn't have their rockier moments. Heavy distortion and squealing guitar riffs on The New Year brought a grittier sound to the night.

Company Calls from their 2000 album We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes brought a quirky indie vibe from the Washington band, as did the forceful President of What?. Airy guitars swirled deliciously with a heavy bass line on I Will Possess Your Heart, the track's long instrumental intro allowing Death Cab a chance to really jam together.

During a little technical difficulty while changing over guitars, Gibbard bantered playfully with the crowd, showing that he's not nearly as melancholy as the band's lyrics. It was appreciated, with fans chuckling at his jokes about being the sweatiest man alive and the dismal American presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Gibbard swapped his guitar for a piano during the downbeat Summer Skin, then made a trade for an acoustic guitar, his band mates leaving the stage as he launched into the dreamy I Will Follow You Into The Dark. The audience sang along as Gibbard plucked away during the morbidly romantic song.

One of Death Cab's last songs Soul Meets Body was another favourite of the night, but sometimes there's only so much Death Cab you can take.

Who: Death Cab For Cutie
Where: St James Theatre, Auckland
When: Tuesday, February

- nzherald.co.nz

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