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There’s something about the music of Death Cab for Cutie that makes it a perfect match for a bitterly cold winter evening. It’s as if the songs somehow project the picturesque but rainswept climate of their Seattle origin.
It seemed fitting that as Death Cab took the stage at a sold-out 170 Russell in on Sunday night, the temperature outside in Melbourne was in single digits and the rain was pouring down. Thankfully Death Cab were more than up to the task of warming the hearts and minds of the brave souls who’d ventured out in such unpleasant conditions, treating all in attendance to a stellar two hour set that left all in a state of awe.
From the moment Ben Gibbard sang the first lines of opener No Room In Frame all eyes in the room were transfixed on him, a state in which they would remain for the remainder of a set made up songs drawn from across their extensive back catalogue.
Flanked by bassist Nick Harmer on one side and guitarist Dave Depper on the other, and backed by drummer extraordinaire Jason McGerr and keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Zac Rae, Gibbard cut a suave figure as he evoked intense emotional reactions with every beautifully crooned syllable, the audience acting like moths to the flame as they responded to his every nuanced move.
Spirits and voices rose and fell as one as Death Cab for Cutie played through the likes of Crooked Teeth, Title and Registration and What Sarah Said, before many were moved to tears by a hauntingly beautiful rendition of I Will Follow You Into The Dark. Those tears did not go unnoticed by the band, and Gibbard took a moment to thank a particular audience member for her tears, one of a few moments in which it was made clear that the respect and admiration that fans have for the band is mutual.
Despite taking place in a nightclub Gibbard described as “a place where guys from Tron take a break from riding their light cycles and share some galactic cocktails” the vibe was intimate, and at times you’d have been forgiven for forgetting that this is a band that plays stadiums, a fact made clear as they delivered enormous versions of The New Year, Cath and Soul Meets Body, before exiting for the first time with the sinister sound of their ode to unrequited love I Will Possess Your Heart.
After teasing the crowd for a few minutes, Death Cab returned for a well-deserved encore consisting of Your Heart is An Empty Room, A Movie Script Ending and a mesmerising version of their signature song Transatlanticism, which remains every bit as special as it was the day it was written. As Gibbard sang “I need you so much closer” over the escalating soundscapes, couples throughout the room gazed longingly at each other while others face-timed the moment with long-distance loves, and many dreamed of a reality in which they were the one Gibbard was singing to.
After the last note rang out the crowd stood in a moment of mass silent contemplation, as if trying to register what they had just seen, the answer of course was one of the best indie-rock bands on the planet making their triumphant return down under after a three and a half year absence.