It’s ironic, really, but with close to 20 years of existence to its credit—at least half of which was spent either near or at the top of the indie rock pecking order—and 100-some songs in circulation, Death Cab For Cutie seems more creatively constricted with each album they release. In town to move units of its eighth studio album, the month-old Kintsugi, at a sold out Riverside Theater show Monday, the seminal Washington band was left to grapple with promoting its new record while trying to play everyone’s favorite songs from its back catalog in the allotted time—all while knowing the performance was being live-streamed on some website called Yahoo.com. It’d be foolish to expect that Death Cab fully satisfied everybody in the full theater, but after whipping through 24 songs spanning eight releases in two hours, it’s safe to assume everyone in attendance (and online) left at least sort of happy with safe, Kintsugi-heavy set they’d witness.
In accordance with the new album, easygoing Kintsugi cut “No Room In Frame” lurched Death Cab into first gear. Either wanting to hammer home the reason they’d came or, more likely, fulfilling label requirements to cram loads of new material into the first third of the set before impatient live-streamers exited their browsers, four of the first eight songs played were off the new record. To help the audience take in songs they hardly knew (if they knew them at all), Ben Gibbard and company rotated the lively and familiar “Crooked Teeth” and singalongable Transatlanticism favorite “Title And Registration” in the early-going as well. With exactly a fourth of the set hailing from the record most in attendance knew the least, the race was on to touch upon almost every full-length in the duration of the performance.
With sparse between-song interaction (save for a clumsy attempt at a Hotmail joke by Gibbard and an utterly shameless plug for Colectivo that, embarrassingly, elicited one of the biggest cheers of the entire evening), Death Cab rang in the “New Year” amid notable songs from Narrow Stairs, Codes And Keys, and no shortage of semi- to full-on hits from its decade-old breakout record, Plans. Every song was played with true-to-album accuracy, including “Soul Meets Body” and a moving mid-show acoustic singalong to “I Will Follow You Into The Dark.” After Gibbard proclaimed the show to be the best of the tour—which was met with an ovation that rivaled the recent local coffee roaster reference—and all 8:30 of “I Will Possess Your Heart,” Death Cab departed the stage. Knowing some of the accomplished indie rock outfit’s best known songs had not yet been played, almost everyone stayed for the assumed encore. The band complied, only to eschew playing “Brothers On A Hotel Bed” or “The Sound Of Settling” in favor of the crawling and subdued likes of “Your Bruise” and “A Movie Script Ending” (the latter seemed done only to satisfy a desire to play something—anything off The Photo Album). However, those two unexpected and largely unappreciated encore options were instantly offset with “Marching Bands Of Manhattan” and spot-on rendition of “Transatlanticism” to send the audience home smiling (if even just an exhausted smile).
Having enjoyed sustained commercial success and artistic accomplishment after so many of the veteran band’s counterparts have faded away or grown to disappoint, Death Cab For Cutie can still put on a hell of a show by playing material that’s stood the test of time. Unfortunately, they also need to squeeze out beloved old songs from their continually sold out theater shows to accommodate its still-growing catalog. There are worse problems a band can have. Watch Yahoo!’s stream below.