Over the Weekend: Death Cab for Cutie and Frightened Rabbit at the Verizon Theatre

Death Cab for Cutie, Frightened Rabbit
Verizon Theatre
August 13, 2011

Better than: sweating in the heat only to watch a band implode.

After living through the nightmare that was the Kings of Leon show a few weeks back, it was nice to be in the cool confines of Verizon Theatre Saturday evening to catch a much more fan-friendly band in Death Cab for Cutie. And from start to finish, Ben Gibbard and crew were, thankfully, enthusiastic, charming and, best of all, sober.

The crowd, of course, ate up every moment like a crack whore at Charlie Sheen's house.

Playing songs from across the band's impressive catalogue, Death Cab for Cutie were on their game throughout the band's lengthy set. Beginning with "I Will Possess Your Heart" and ending with "Transatlanticism," the band held the crowd in the palm of its hand.

Indeed, dancing and singing along, the sizeable audience was delighted. Large portions screamed with glee at the beginning of nearly every song.

It was as if any choice was the perfect one.

And as opposed to the drunken petulance of Kings of Leon's Caleb Followill, Death Cab's Gibbard was charming as he addressed the crowd with optimism to spare.

"I think we brought the rain with us!" Gibbard exclaimed, commenting on our recent brush with decent weather. Then, after performing a beautiful version of "I Will Follow You into the Dark" alone on acoustic guitar, Gibbard joked, "I was envisioning myself as Johnny Cash."

"Isn't it nice when a band actually entertains a crowd?" one fan was overheard asking another.

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The only drawback to Saturday night's show was evident on the louder numbers: On songs such as "Crooked Teeth" and "Doors Unlocked and Opened," Gibbard's nasal and nerdy vocals had no problem shining through the mix; on a song like "We Laugh Indoors," where the amps are turned up to 11, Gibbard was drowning in the band's haughty ambitions.

Plus, that particular song's "I loved you Guinevere" refrain is kind of annoying.

But such is petty criticism when it's obvious that Death Cab for Cutie is just a collection of nice guys who play nice music. Nothing earth shattering here. Actually, it's kind of surprising that a band that plays this kind of angular, indie pop has found a mass audience.

Death Cab for Cutie may have reached its pinnacle with 2003's Transatlanticism, but there is certainly nothing wrong with the recently issued Codes and Keys. Such was aptly demonstrated on the album's cool title track, which was performed midway through the band's set.

All in all, great stuff from a band that clearly resides on the good side of the tracks.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I am not the biggest Death Cab fan, but these guys do have something nice going on. The songs are infectious, their stage banter sincere and the entire show came off like a sing-a-long at summer camp.

Random Note: A group of guys sitting directly behind me were true fans of Death Cab. Not only did they know the words to every song, but they expressed a desire to be stage hands as well. When Gibbard briefly left the stage to get a drink, one guy behind me yelled out, "I'll bring you water!"

By The Way: The show started right on time at 8 p.m. as a big crowd was already assembled to catch openers Frightened Rabbit. The Scottish band played a terrific set of Americana-influenced rock that sounded a little like a less pretentious Waterboys.

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