Death Cab for Cutie Deliver a Mesmerising Set to Fans at the Civic (Concert Review)

As part of the Auckland Arts Festival, indie rock band Death Cab for Cutie took the stage at Auckland’s Civic Theatre, for a night of old and new favourites. There was something for everyone, with the band mixing in their popular hits alongside fresh tracks from their most recent album Thank You for Today.

The band’s founder and lead vocalist Ben Gibbard was undeniably the star of the show, taking centre stage and dominating the entire performance, with the other band members forming a square around him as he danced about, frequently swapping guitars and at times moving to the keyboard to pound out his emotive melodies. Gibbard, who comes across as the kind of boy who would invite you back to his family home to try some of his mother’s famous apple pie, has a distinctive vocal style that was easily recognisable and provided a cohesiveness to the performance, creating the feeling that each song is part of a larger narrative, an ongoing project that seeks to grasp hold of elusive emotions and times, to bind them in place and coax some true meaning from them.

The band eased into things with the aptly named starting track I Dreamt We Spoke Again, the mesmerisingly dreamy first song from the new album, followed by Summer Years, the second song on the album and a natural continuation in theme and mood.

The track 60 & Punk, an ode to a former idol turned washed up alcoholic, was strangely moving, touching on the cruelty of time and faded dreams. Time and lost chances are a recurring theme in Gibbard’s lyrics – in What Sarah Said, another heart-breaking and emotional performance from the band started with the line “And it came to me then that every plan is a tiny prayer to father time”, a sentiment echoed throughout the night with many songs touching on loss and the process of moving on.

Crowd pleasers included the rocking Long Division and the powerfully grimy Black Sun.

Other highlights from the new album included Northern Lights, a fan favourite in the making, and the funky fresh Gold Rush.

The catchiest tune, and easily the crowd favourite was the haunting and emotional I Will Follow You Into The Dark, performed solo by Gibbard in a much anticipated encore. Couples in the audience gripped each other tightly and I suspect more than a few surreptitious tears were shed.

The final track from the band was a high energy performance of Transatlanticism, bringing the audience up out of their chairs for a standing ovation to send the band on their way.

All in all Death Cab for Cutie delivered what the fans were there for – their signature style of melancholy and heartfelt emotional rock, a mix of old and new, performed with passion and delivered with gusto.

Rosie Woodruffe

Click any image to view a gallery from Veronica McLaughlin