By Sorena Dadgar
January 31, 2023
A Sunday night didn’t stop folks from piling into Ovens Auditorium to see Washington indie rock band, Death Cab for Cutie. The Asphalt Meadows tour, named for the band’s latest album, came to the Queen City on its third stop in the new year, after visits to Raleigh and Asheville during the first leg in October.
Los Angeles rock band Momma opened the show. They started their set with “Rip Off,” the first song off their 2022 album Household Name. The duo, consisting of Etta Friedman and Allegra Weingarten, continued showcasing their ‘90s grunge-style vocals and catchy guitar riffs, alternating lead vocals for their 30-minute set before exiting the stage.
Crew members quickly turned over the stage and the house lights dimmed for a prompt 9:00 p.m. start time for Death Cab for Cutie. Red and blue ambient lights took over with the calm opening lines of “I Don’t Know How I Survive,” from their latest album. Frontman Ben Gibbard began with the softer vocals before leading into the thunderous chorus donning his usual striped shirt and black jeans. They followed with “Roman Candles,” another track off Asphalt Meadows.
If there’s one thing Death Cab for Cutie has learned over 20 years of touring, it’s how to work a crowd. For “Soul Meets Body,” Gibbard had the crowd chant the “ba-da-ba-da ba-ba” that acts as the first chorus. Fans also sang along to some of their most recognizable songs, including “Cath…,” “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” and “You Are a Tourist.” For the high-tempo hits like “Crooked Teeth,” Gibbard skipped between both sides of the stage to play alongside bassist Nick Harmer and guitarist/keyboardist Dave Depper.
Every song during the show was paired with a unique light sequence. “Northern Lights,” had a colorful wash of lights covering the stage. Red lights appeared during “I Will Possess Your Heart,” matching the tension of the four-minute bass-heavy intro to the song. A single spotlight drew focus from the baseline to the increasing volume of Gibbard playing the piano.
Death Cab for Cutie ended their set with “Foxglove Through the Clearcut,” from Asphalt Meadows. The low-fi rock sounds resonated through the swaying crowd before each member left the stage one by one. It was a quick pause before the encore. The band picked up right where they left off, playing “Pepper,” the following track off Asphalt Meadows.
Death Cab’s setlist spanned nine albums and over 22 years. The oldest song came during the encore, after Gibbard joked, “People always ask us to play our old stuff. This is for them.” He then started “405” off their second studio album, We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes (2000).
Soft blue and green lights filled up the auditorium as Gibbard made his way to the piano. The serenity that took over the room could only mean one thing:“Transatlanticism.” The crowd’s cheers turned silent for the eight-minute song as the band gently played through the end of the show. The stillness that overtook the auditorium broke and the audience erupted in applause.
Later this year, Death Cab for Cutie will be joined by The Postal Service on tour. The Postal Service, a project consisting of Ben Gibbard, singer-songwriter and musician Jenny Lewis and producer Jimmy Tamborello, will play their album Give Up in its entirety, while Death Cab will be doing the same with Transatlantiscm. Both albums are celebrating their 20th anniversaries this year.
“I Don’t Know How I Survive”
“The New Year”
“A Movie Script Ending”
“Here to Forever”
“I Miss Strangers”
“I Will Follow You Into the Dark”
“I Will Possess Your Heart”
“Your Heart Is an Empty Room”
“You Are a Tourist”
“The Ghosts of Beverly Drive”
“Soul Meets Body”
“Foxglove Through the Clearcut”
“Marching Bands of Manhattan”