Death Cab For Cutie Serves Up ’90s Nostalgia at the House of Blues Anaheim

Death Cab for Cutie
House of Blues Anaheim

It’s been nearly 20 years since Death Cab for Cutie released their first studio album, Something About Airplanes, and though much has changed in the last couple of decades, the unwavering genius of frontman Ben Gibbard has remained constant. Backed by his four bandmates, the iconic indie rock group descended on the new and improved House of Blues in Anaheim for a night of melancholy reflection on love lost and found again, and the moronic innocence of youth in support of their new album, Kintsugi.

Shortly before 9:15 p.m., the house lighting dimmed and the backing playlist quieted. A timpani roll sounded and then it began — a duet of purposely, highly out of tune trumpets, slowly climbing what where clearly the opening chords from Richard Strauss’ famous song “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” otherwise known as the epic intro from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was both grand and comical as the band graced the stage, igniting cheers from the full crowd of people packed into the venue like circus clowns in a tiny car.

The set list Gibbard chose to woo the crowd with was strategic and very well-played. Leading the night’s compilation was “I Will Possess Your Heart” — a song with what might easily be one of history’s longest musical intros at a whopping four minutes and forty seconds before a single word is sung —  presumably to work out any on-stage nerves. When it was finally time for him to shine, Gibbard took to the mic like a hot knife in butter — smooth and effortlessly. From there it was the intentional trip down memory lane, with old school hits like “The New Year” and “Crooked Teeth.”

It was sheer brilliance enveloping the crowd in inescapable nostalgia before moving on to their more recent tracks, like “Ghosts of Beverly Drive” and “Black Sun.” Knowing that most of their fanbase is probably more familiar with the older parts of their catalogue, Death Cab switched speeds once more, bringing it back to tunes such as “President of What?” and “Lightness.”

Considering Death Cab For Cutie is essentially the embodiment of emotional declaration, one wouldn’t be far off in assuming that many of their fans are equally expressive. During their flawless rendition of “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” one ballsy fan took advantage of a soft, acoustic guitar breakdown to defiantly shout to Gibbard “Zooey [Deschanel]’s loss!” But the slimmer and more confident musician was nothing short of professional, never giving into the applause and whistles to acknowledge the dig directed towards his former wife, instead continuing to strum his guitar strings as casually as ever. One can only assume there was a brief moment when he wanted to shout back “Zing!”

For a while there, things had become a bit too honest and the swaying of couples slow dancing had become far too serious, so Gibbard livened things up with the help of Sarah Versprille from opening band, Pure Bathing Culture. Together, the two performed a cover of the Pixies’ “Digging For Fire.” Rounding out the first portion of the setlist was the feel-good “Soul Meets Body” and “Bixby Canyon Bridge.”

As is customary when performing a live show, the band said their thank you’s, blew kisses and walked off the stage. A few people began leaving, but most knew better than to fall for the live music trickery and stayed put, fighting off sleep and the long drive home before work the next day. Sure enough, Death Cab returned for their encore — well, Gibbard and the keyboardist did for a rendition of “Passenger Seat” before being joined by the other members. For their twentieth and final song, the Seattle-natives chose to tug on heartstrings with “Transatlanticism,” sending everyone off with memories of failed long-distance relationships.

I Will Possess Your Heart
The New Year
Crooked Teeth
Doors Unlocked and Open
The Ghosts of Beverly Drive
Black Sun
Grapevine Fires
No Sunlight
President of What?
I Will Follow You Into the Dark
Digging For Fire (Cover)
El Dorado
You Are a Tourist
Soul Meets Body
Bixby Canyon Bridge

Passenger Seat
Movie Script Ending

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