Band’s love of playing comes through at Toronto show
Who: Death Cab for Cutie
Where: Massey Hall, Toronto
When: Fri., June 2
Vibe: An earnest passion to enjoy music
Highlight: A quaint, tear-inducing singalong to I Will Follow You Into The Dark
Next: Grey Eagle Event Centre in Calgary on June 12; Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver on June 14 & 15
Rating: NNN (out of 5)
THROUGHOUT THEIR DECADES-SPANNING MUSIC CAREER, it’s clear that Death Cab for Cutie still have passion for what they do. You can feel how much the band members enjoy playing every song, whether it’s a new track, an all-time favourite singalong or a deep cut. The abundance of energy is evidenced by frontman Ben Gibbard bouncing around the stage with a sweatband, wiping away at his brow every couple of minutes.
During their nearly two-hour-long set, the beloved Seattle band dive into their expansive catalogue, including oldies 405 and A Movie Script Ending. Gibbard reminisces on stage about those early albums when the band first started touring and how difficult it was to cross the U.S./Canada border for their first show in Toronto at the Horseshoe Tavern in the fall of 2001.
The new songs from their 2021 album Asphalt Meadows, like I Don’t Know How I Survive, Roman Candles and Foxglove Through The Clearcut are generally well-received by the crowd, though the enthusiasm reaches a lull between the big hits. In total, the band plays eight songs from the new album out of a total of 23 songs on the setlist.
The band plays patiently, drawing listeners in during their long-form songs, like the jam session that is I Will Possess Your Heart and the ever-mournful Transatlanticism for the final encore of the evening. Gibbard performs solo for I Will Follow You Into The Dark, going an extra round of the chorus, letting the crowd sing once on its own before taking the lead again. He comments that he dislikes it when he personally sees a great band play their biggest hit at a show, but then makes the audience sing it for them — though he jokes that it’s different when he’s the one on the other side of the mic.
The show has something for fans of each Death Cab for Cutie era, though it might be a disappointment for fans seeking a show with strictly the greatest hits. While Asphalt Meadows has been a great “comeback” album that appeals to nostalgic fans, the anticipation to hear favourites from Transatlanticism and Plans can’t be beat. Still, it’s a feat to write and perform great music for decades and it’s impressive how Death Cab are able to give it their all every night on tour.