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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Death Cab For Cutie Brought the Hits and Then Some to a Packed-Out Agora

Concert Review

Posted By on Wed, Dec 5, 2018 at 9:48 AM

Death Cab For Cutie playing the Agora Tuesday night. - PHOTO BY LAURA MORRISON
  • Photo by Laura Morrison
  • Death Cab For Cutie playing the Agora Tuesday night.
When Ben Gibbard was nearly 30 years old, he wrote a song that people would travel far and wide to hear. At that point, back in 2005, he'd been writing songs with his Seattle band Death Cab for Cutie for almost a decade. But with the emotional and sparse "I Will Follow You Into the Dark," a track off the band's major record label debut Plans, something resonated deeply.

Last night, in front of a tightly-packed sold-out crowd at the Agora, Gibbard made his fans wait for the song. But finally, for the start of the group's encore,  he came back out alone with an acoustic guitar and gave everyone what they came to hear. The entire audience sang every word and teared up and held their cell phones high to record and hugged their friends. At one point near the end, Gibbard even had the crowd sing a chorus without him, to which they obliged.

"If heaven and hell decide that they both are satisfied/And illuminate the no's on their vacancy signs/If there's no one beside you when your soul embarks / Then I'll follow you into the dark."

Of course, there were plenty of other tunes that people came to hear last night. Playing a nicely-tossed mix of classic and new, the band capitalized on its fresh album Thank You For Today with songs like "When We Drive" and Gold Rush" while still satisfying fans with the oldies like the super emotional "Title and Registration" and "We Laugh Indoors." Other fan favorites like "I Will Possess Your Heart" and "Black Sun" also pulled out huge reactions.

In the interludes, Gibbard was nice enough about Cleveland, saying his band was happy to be back to town with a new record in tow. He recalled the first time the group played here back in 1999 at the Grog Shop.

"Listen, I've traveled all around the world," he said from the stage. "And I've never seen a more disgusting bathroom in my life than the one there." This admission naturally made everyone cheer ferociously because even if the Grog's bathroom was terrifying back in the day, it's our bathroom.

This is a band that knows how to build mood and atmosphere. Out of foggy and rainy instrumentation (full of wonderful bass lines and hum-able keyboard licks) came Gibbard's pure and angelic voice. It cut through the noise, even the noise of some ruder patrons who were constantly chatting loudly with their neighbors. When the five-piece band got louder, even at one point pulling out three guitars at the same time, that's when the Agora's acoustics really shone through.

Above all, this was Gibbard's show. As the only member of the group who's been there since the beginning, he carries everything. The frontman was even more active on stage than one might expect listening to the band's often contemplative tunes, and he was up there faux-moonwalking and soft-shoeing around. Moving from guitar to piano and back again, Gibbard made everyone remember why they loved the band in the first place.

Ending with "Transatlanticism," a song that's all about being closer together, Gibbard promised Death Cab would return to Cleveland, and then, he was gone. 

A note about the opener Jay Som, aka Melina Mae Duterte: Her solo works seemed charming and admirable. Too bad she could barely be heard above the din of the chatting crowd. 

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