Saturday, June 04, 2011

Death Cab For Cutie, The Lonely Forest @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto (May 18, 2011)

  Yes, that's Death Cab For Cutie

It's funny how long seven years can be. In the grand scheme of things, seven years isn't necessarily a long time. On the other hand, a lot can happen in seven years. I'm already nostalgic for 2004. Things were just a lot simpler back then (believe me it was). Musically, it was also somewhat of a renaisance period which for me culminated with my trip to Coachella that year where I latched onto bands (not necessarily new bands) that seemed to break out that year (or perhaps just prior to that year) such as Broken Social Scene and what is the topic of this post, Death Cab For Cutie. The Washington State indie four-piece had already released several indie albums, but broke out with their 2003 album Transatlanticism. A few years later they'd jump ship for the majors which brings us to the present as the band's third major-label album entitled Codes and Keys was just released and which brought the band to the Phoenix Concert Theatre a few weeks ago to promote the album with an intimate club show.

Lucky ticket-buyers were subjected to a will-call process to get into the venue, which while warding off scalpers, meant a lineup into the venue that snaked down Sherbourne even half an hour before doors opened which was when I arrived. But fortunately it was a mild spring day which made the waiting process more bearable. Finally making it into the venue, Anacortes, Washington quartet The Lonely Forest were already into their set warming up the fairly packed house. I'd have probably have been more into this band perhaps 7 years ago, their music in the vein of melodic emo pop-rock not entirely dissimilar at times to headliners Death Cab For Cutie. The band's musicianship and melodies was satisfying on one level but there was also something of generic quality that I couldn't get passed. Perhaps it's not such a good move to open up for Death Cab For Cutie if you sound a bit like them, just saying.

For a band who's worked their way up to scheduling their biggest show yet in Toronto on July 29 at the Molson Ampitheatre, you'd figure that an intimate club show would have the all-ages crowd at the Phoenix delirious. While the band entered onto the stage amidst a euphoric reponse, the crowd soon lulled into a passive state even though the band kicked off the set with fan favourites "I Will Possess Your Heart" and "The New Year". Honestly, from my vantage point from the middle of the room just past the drinking area barrier, the crowd seemed dead. The setlist, while including a number of songs from the new album (early on in the set including "Some Boys" and "Doors Unlocked and Open"), also included most if not all the fan favourites that I could think of. I think it wasn't until Ben Gibbard bantered to the audience that they'd play a lot of new songs and then quipped "This is like free jazz Death Cab...whatever happens happens" that the crowd finally warmed up with a chuckle.

Soonafter, with Ben on keys, the band broke into "What Sarah Said" with the crowd launching into singalong during the song's outro "who's gonna watch you die", a poignant closing to that song. With the band minus Ben leaving the stage, Ben polled the audience "This is fun right?" before leading into the other big audience singalong of the night of "I Will Follow You Into The Dark' with more than a few smartphones raised in unison to capture the video for posterity. Of the five or so new album songs played during the night, my favourite was "You Are A Tourist" with it's urgent tempo and sinewy, melodic guitar line. "Underneath The Sycamore" while less memorable was also enjoyable, at least within the group of the last part of the main set list which ended the main set on a high note. "Soul Meets Body", Twilight-soundtrack contribution "Meet Me At The Equinox", "Cath", "Crooked Teeth", "Sound of Settling" -- what more could any Death Cab fan asks for.

Well an encore for one, which the band gave to us with four songs, including some earlier catalogue tunes including "Photobooth" and "Your Bruise" but intermixed with Transatlanticism faves "Title and Registration" and the title track. When the band plays the Molson Ampitheatre in July it won't be the first time they've played a big stage - I did see them play the mainstage at the Sasquatch Festival at the Gorge Ampitheatre in Washington State in 2008 and the band just played that festival this past Memorial Day. While there wasn't as fervent a response from the crowd at the Phoenix as I'd hoped overall, the crowd did warm up and it turned out to be an enjoyable set. One can hope that their Molson Amp show will be life-changing for someone - I will attest that hearing "Transatlanticism" on a big stage amongst a sea of people and flickering lighters and illuminated mobile phone screens will virtually move you to tears.

ps. No photos for this show, except for the less-than-stellar cell phone photo above. I had a ticket for this show but not a photo pass. And I also just want to apologize for the lack of posts lately; general laziness on my part but I hope to get up reviews and photos for other shows I've attended lately including Austra, Anna Calvi, and The Radio Dept. Plus, of course, Luminato and NXNE is coming up. Stick around.

MySpace: The Lonely Forest
MySpace: Death Cab For Cutie

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