Death Cab For Cutie | Brixton Academy | 4 November 2015
Ben Gibbard really should know better. The quickest way to lose a UK audience is suggest they spend their beer money on anything other than beer – like the support band’s album.
But, one earnest misstep aside, Death Cab For Cutie’s London return is a triumph of rip-your-heart-wide-open proportions. It all begins – and ends – in a wall of guitar feedback, immediately making it clear that, on stage, this band from Seattle, Washington play with a ragged intensity not even suggested by their studio albums.
Gibbard, especially, is all twitchy energy and, complemented by two multi-instrumentalists, the trio turn up the brightness and intensify the bleakness so the heartbreak feels even more devastating. So, influenced by the frontman’s recent divorce and performed back to back tonight, a tempestuous ‘The Ghosts of Beverly Drive’ and ‘Black Sun’ (“how could something so fair be so cruel?”) both bristle with fresh anger and self-doubt, while love song ‘Little Wanderer’ (“we embrace in the baggage claim”) brims with a hitherto-untapped longing.
Of all the tracks from magnificent new album ‘Kintsugi’, it’s the tragi-pop of ‘No Room In Frame’ that slots best into an emotionally turbulent set that swings from the jubilant ‘Soul Meets Body’ to tempestuous ‘I Will Possess Your Heart’. But it’s still inevitable set closer ‘Transatlanticism’ that best captures Death Cab For Cutie’s unshakeable grasp of the balance between light and shade, building from the hunched Gibbard picking out a singular, haunting melody on his piano to the joyous crescendo of marching drums, chiming guitars, and repeated calls of “so come on”.
It’s an invitation that’s readily accepted by the Brixton Academy audience.