LIVE REPORTWHITE STAGE7/27 SAT
DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
Very Much Alive!
Under perhaps the hardest downpour since the first Fuji Rock – where a bridge was washed away by flooding – Death Cab for Cutie’s current tour banner “Thank You for…” is projected on the massive LED screen at the back of the stage. The band actually chose to reschedule their start time to fifteen minutes earlier, due to the typhoon-like weather making its way across Japan. As the house lights dim slightly, a tom roll is heard before an intro video is played, and the band walks on stage to an electronic beat. The band delivers “I Dreamt We Spoke Again” from their brand new album – Thank You for Today – as the first track of tonight’s set. Ben Gibbard wistfully intones “When I awoke I could not remember anything you said”. At this point in their career, Death Cab for Cutie seems to be leaning more towards pop music than ever before, with the vocals showing hints of Neil Tennant (of Pet Shop Boys fame) and guitars that smack of Violator-era Depeche Mode.
As the song ends, Ben Gibbard yells “Konnichi wa! We’re Death Cab for Cutie from Seattle, Washington!” and the crowd cheers in a surprisingly American fashion. Their second song of the evening seems very “21st Century” , with a hint of the 80’s; in a distorted lead that echoes a hit by the Power Station. Bassist Nick Harmer is also playing with a more electronic tone than ever before ; perhaps akin to New Order’s Peter Hook. Ben Gibbard sings “I don’t know why. I don’t know why.”
The third song is started with a four-four pattern on the hi-hat, and the crowd claps along enthusiastically in unison before the bass jumps in; followed by a dreamy reverb-heavy guitar. Death Cab for Cutie deliver “Long Division” from their album Narrow Stairs, with Ben Gibbard crooning, “The television is snowing softly”. The projection mapping at the back of the screen flows downward like a fountain of gold. As the song comes to an end, Ben Gibbard cries out, “Thank you so much!” And, once again, the audience hollers as if they were from the U.S.
Two songs later, Death Cab for Cutie suddenly leap straight into their recent single “Gold Rush,” which is embraced warmly by the audience. It’s good to hear Ben Gibbard sing in such a relatively happy voice. Towers of fuchsia light explode on stage at different points during the chorus and Ben Gibbard dances around merrily with his guitar, as the song draws to a close. The crowd quickly cheers, and then quiets down, as Death Cab once again flashes back to their 2008 album Narrow Stairs; jumping into “I Will Possess Your Heart”. As Ben Gibbard sings “I could build you a home in my heart”, shapes like the components of an impressionistic painting dance on the LED screen behind the band. All members of Death Cab for Cutie being decked out in black tonight, seems to accent the fact that they are all about the music now; in case there was any doubt before. The crowd roars like a stadium audience as this song comes to an end as well.
Three songs later, Ben gently states, “arigatou gozaimasu !” before strapping on an acoustic guitar and performing “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” solo. The audience cheers wildly at his first vocal break, throwing him off guard for a second. During this song – about following a lover into death – the pouring rain returns to pelt the crowd mercilessly. As the song ends, the crowd cheers louder than ever.
There’s a slight dip in the vibe, however, as the band performs “Black Sun” (from their 2015 album “Kintsugi”) despite it being a brilliant composition. Perhaps it’s because of the rain. Perhaps it’s due to the fatigue of the crowd; as the crazy downpour shows no sign of letting up. Ben Gibbard runs over to bassist Nick Harmer in order to work up some energy during the intro of the next song.
As two more songs draw to a close, Mr. Gibbard says “Thank you! Sing along to this if you know it!”, and Death Cab for Cutie dives into “Soul Meets Body”. As pillars of flesh-colored light stand in front of an LED display resembling ocean currents of blood flow, Ben Gibbard’s vocals bring home an epiphany that Death Cab for Cutie has indeed become a world-class pop band. The audience cheers wildly as the before-last song ends. Mr. Gibbard then gently states “arigatou gozaimasu! Goodbye!” as the piano strains of the last song’s intro starts. While the band performs “Transatlanticism” from the 2003 album of the same name, projection mapping on the LED screen flows in blues, greens and purples, like the ocean itself. Overhead lights burn bright blue, as Ben Gibbard and a second guitarist riff in a chiming fashion; like the old-school version of this band, but with a more forward-moving, and – dare I say – a more positive or optimistic spirit. They bring the chorus back in (“I need you so much closer”) over and over again, then vamp on the chord progression of the song’s ending as the drums get louder and louder. As the last song suddenly ends, the pillars of light burn white against a background of blue, green and purple static. The crowd cheers wildly as the music dies out, and they won’t give up. Despite the ridiculous downpour of rain, they’re demanding an encore. The White Stage’s MC then walks up to Ben Gibbard’s microphone to announce that there will be no encore, and encourages everyone to get home safely.