Death Cab: Worth the fare

Sweeping in from the West, Death Cab for Cutie converted the 9:30 Club into a sea of denim jackets and thrift-store shirts Saturday. The show went into the wee hours of the night but was well worth the sleep deprivation.

A hush fell over the crowd, however, as Death Cab took the stage and went into “The New Year.” From the outset, the band was successful in bringing to the stage the lavish ambience that permeates Transatlanticism while still remaining organic.

The first transcendent moment came during “Title and Registration,” as vocalist/guitarist Ben Gibbard closed his eyes and lost himself in the music. “Sound of Settling” destroyed the show’s pervading sense of stoicism only momentarily, as the band cut loose amid a chorus of “ba-bas” that belie the song’s melancholy. During “We Looked Like Giants,” Gibbard imitated Hendrix (teeth) and Page (faux violin bow) to comedic effect, while bassist Nick Harmer responded to a request to remove his shirt, saying, “I used to do it all the time, but the guy from Creed just ruined it.” However, the band soon got back to what it does best – achingly beautiful music. The second to last song, “Tiny Vessels,” stirred emotional wreckage, while the closer “Transatlanticism” slowly built up a magnificent ending to a cathartic set.

Aveo was sonically interesting, but not compelling enough to provide more than a backdrop for idle conversation.

Ben Kweller thrilled in his closing set. Whether strumming an acoustic guitar or pounding the keys like an indie-rock Liberace, Kweller’s best moments came when he put the thrash away and let his winsome melodies speak for themselves.

But the best performer that night was Death Cab guitarist Chris Walla. “It’s all day today stuff. It’s all in-between lines and all those in-between moments and relationships and the awkward things that happen between sentences,” he said, describing his favorite book by Gwendolyn Riley. He might as well have been talking about his band. Exuding a sense of import and equipped with amazing metaphors and arrangements, Death Cab for Cutie provided an exercise in understated splendor.

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