Death Cab For Cutie @ Marymoor Park (07.19.09) -     Dance Hall Hips
 
A lot's changed in five years, more specificially the direction and scope of Seattle's own Death Cab For Cutie. It's been roughly half a decade since I last experienced the band's live show, supporting the release of Transatlanticism. In that amount of time, the venues have gotten larger, their popularity skyrocketed, their reach gone worldwide.

When Ben Gibbard and crew stepped on stage at Marymoor Park, I felt a little bit disappointed, not in the realization they were now, five years later, a different band, but in the realization I'd passed up so many opportunities to see them perform since their rise to stardom. Sure, the audience has changed, stage theatrics have been added, and Top 40 singles have stumble onto the setlist, but the band still puts on one heck of a show.

Opening with "Marching Bands of Manhattan", the band resonated a much fuller sound than their latter albums suggest, due much in part to the genius musings of multi-instrumentalist Chris Walla. I also couldn't help but notice the vocal improvements of Mr. Gibbard; the band has always been notable live performers, but Gibbard's vocals have sometimes wavered from studio-worthy (maybe he was a tad out of shape). Not the case now.

The setlist itself was somewhat of a mixed bag, though obviously formulated for an upbeat, energy-filled show, somewhat contrasting the slow, jam-sessions of Showbox yester-year. Songs spanned the band's entire career, from Something About Airplanes "Pictures in an Exhibition" to the Open Door EP's "Little Bribes". Nothing seemed too out of place, save the acoustic ballad "I Will Follow You Into the Dark", which momentarily changed the energy of the night: not too different from a "Time Of Your Life" moment at any Green Day show a decade earlier.

Suprisingly, Narrow Stairs-era tracks were minimal, considering it's fairly recent release; "I Will Posses Your Heart" made for a great concert staple; "No Sunlight" still played as a token radio-hit any Seattle band should be embarassed about.

As I stood next to my brother who was having his first live Death Cab experience, I couldn't help but reminisce of the old days, days where "Company Calls" actually bled into "Epilogue", where bass-solo's (see: "Crooked Teeth") were unthinkable, and where encores ended past midnight, not the 10PM cut-off the Marymoor show seemed to have.

Bitterness aside, I felt I did feel a little guilt slip in and the band ended their set with "Transatlanticism". Like Morrissey once said "We hate it when our friends become successful", I shut out the idea of paying for a Death Cab concert the moment it stopped being possible to buy tickets at the door; playing the Key Arena just out-right seemed ridiculous. But as I stood amongst a crowd of Washingtonians, the gorgeous setting sun washing over the stage, cool summer air blowing, I realized one thing: no matter how big or small, there's something about the band that will always been a part of the Northwest, just like the rain, the rush-hour traffic, the garlic fries at Mariners games, or the promise of coffee at every turn.
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I recently saw Death Cab play with the LA Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. Growing up with solo Ben Gibbard shows at the Crock, I was utterly disappointed with the lack of emotion and connection that I felt with the music and the performance. I do agree that there certainly still are hints of the Northwest weaved into the grand scale of commercial success, but I left that show with a weird, unsatisfying after taste of saccharine.

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