Live: Death Cab For Cutie @ The Empire

Pacific Northwestern alternative rockers Death Cab for Cutie played the first of a trio of sold-out shows at West London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire in support of eighth studio album Kintsugi, which refers to the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery using precious metals.

Ben Gibbard (Kalpesh Patel)

Ben Gibbard (Kalpesh Patel)

Following 17 years as four-person outfit, the dynamic has shifted for this tour as founding member, guitarist and producer Chris Walla departed the band last year following completion of Kintsugi. The touring line-up has expanded to five in order to fill in the void.

Kintsugi track No Room In Frame opened up proceedings followed quickly by Crooked Teeth from their 2005 major label debut album Plans. But it wasn’t until after the fourth track Doors Unlocked And Open, from 2011 album Codes and Keys, that frontman Gibbard addressed his audience, stating that the band had a new record before introducing Kintsugi song Ghosts of Beverly Drive.

Ben Gibbard (Kalpesh Patel)

Ben Gibbard (Kalpesh Patel)

Title and Registration from 2003 album Transatlanticism was followed by new album track Black Sun before the 38-year-old addressed the crowd once more stating “Now for something completely different” before the band launched into the sauntering Kintsugi track Little Wanderer.

“Are you guys ok?” the Crooked Teeth-singer bellowed. “We’re gonna be here for a while so I’ll keep checking”.

Introducing debut record track President of What? Gibbard reminisced “this song was my first tape” to receptive cheers from the crowd. “It’s now available on cassette again” he stated after commenting on the resurgence of audio tapes.

Ben Gibbard (Kalpesh Patel)

Ben Gibbard (Kalpesh Patel)

The biggest cheer of the night so far came as Gibbard left the front of stage and his guitar behind as he stepped behind a piano sat on a riser at the back of the stage and launched into Plans and fan favourite What Sarah Said.

As the rest of the band left the stage, the Washingtonian addressed the crowd. “It’s great to be back in London. But one thing I have to say, what an unbelievably expensive city!” Exaggerating the cost of the capital, he continued “I’m always converting pounds back into dollars. To get the Tube it’s, like, $300. One of those M&S sandwiches, $270”.

He then strapped on an acoustic guitar and played solo acoustic Plans track I Will Follow You Into The Dark, which had the 2000-strong crowd singing back every word.

Ben Gibbard (Kalpesh Patel)

Ben Gibbard (Kalpesh Patel)

“Thanks to We Were Promised Jetpacks” Gibbard said of the band’s opening act. “They prove that the best bands in the UK come from motherf***ing Scotland!” Perhaps a statement better saved for a visit north of the English border given the reaction it garnered.

Narrow Stairs track I Will Possess Your Heart closed the main set, it’s driving instrumental build up allowing Gibbard to roam around the stage focusing on his guitar parts while Nick Hammer’s heavy, repeating baseline infected the very soul of the Shepherd’s Bush Empire.

Ben Gibbard (Kalpesh Patel)

Ben Gibbard (Kalpesh Patel)

The West London crowd were then treated to a four-song encore, which wrapped up with Plans track Marching Bands of Manhattan followed by the title track from 2003’s Transatlanticism.

All in all, an epic two hour set which was a relentless feast for the mind and ears featuring tracks from an extensive career by a remarkable band. New additions Dave Depper on guitar and Zac Rae covering keyboards as well as additional guitars rounded out the remaining core members nicely, if anything enhancing the live show.

I challenge you to listen through the Death Cab for Cutie back catalogue and not find a theme to your own life hidden in there somewhere. And if nothing else, try spotting all of the numerous references to photography!

Catch Death Cab for Cutie at Glastonbury Festival’s John Peel stage on Sunday 28th June ahead of Franz Ferdinand & Sparks’ headline set. They return to the UK in November for a string of dates including a stop at London’s Brixton Academy on November 4th.

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Photography & Review by Kalpesh Patel. Death Cab for Cutie @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 08/06/2015

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