During one of the obnoxious yet mandatory interviews interrupting the first half hour of Death Cab For Cutie’s hour long performance at the iHeartRadioMusic Theatre, Benjamin Gibbard declared that Los Angeles was neither a villain or a hero on their just released album Kintsugi. As a transplant of this harsh city who has survived upon the sun dried slab of cement for nearly 15 years; those words could not more perfectly sum up the experience of someone who somehow lucked into watching the band knock off some ring rust as they head out to promote their stellar new album.
With cameras overhead and 30 minutes to wash down a free beer from your friends at Budweiser, the former The Tonight Show sound stage is typically reserved for the likes of Katy Perry, Shakira, and the Dad from Growing Pains actual son. Starting promptly at 7pm for those tuning in via radio and internet, the now five piece band kicked the night off with the recently eligible for classic rock radio fan favorite The New Year. Where most people in the room more than likely assumed we would get a new song, the energy level in the room jumped massively with the unexpected curve ball.
With the first half hour being both radio and webcast, Death Cab did a phenomenal job blending new songs with hits. With hints of the City of Angels in both The Ghosts of Beverly Drives and Black Sun, the crowd has already instantly related and bonded to the latest additions to the Los Angeles influenced songs spread across the band’s catalog. With time restraints more than likely preventing I Will Possess Your Heart, You Are A Tourist and Soul Meets Body did a fine job of throwing some hits out to keep the VIP types up in the balcony.
As far as the forced interview went, perhaps the best question was if the new song You’ve Haunted Me All My Life was about being a fan of the Seattle Mariners and never making it to the World Series. Longtime fan Gibbard had a good laugh and stated this would be the year they win it all. While time will only tell if that happens, we also learned on this evening that bassist Nick Harmer spent his downtime between albums creating a mosaic piece of Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch completely made out of Skittles.
Once the radio audience dropped off, the band seemed to loosen up a lot. Opening with the 1-2 Kintsugi punch of No Room In Frame and Little Wanderer, the band still has that layer of vulnerability in playing these songs in front of people that will be long gone by the time the now five piece pulls into the Hollywood Bowl later this year. Where the band never sounded bad or out of place; longtime fans without a doubt noticed that the two musicians taking the spot of recently departed founding member Chris Walla can emulate yet not truly recreate what he brought to the table. Impossible shoes to fill, songs like Crooked Teeth and the set closing Transatlanticism lack a certain warmth, yet will have no problem bringing out the emotions of the massive audiences the band are about to embrace.
A perfect warm up for what’s to come, Death Cab For Cutie made the most of their hour at The Burbank Studios. A few more chord progressions perfected, a chance to play in front of a loyal crowd, it will be interesting to see how tight this band becomes by the time they wrap up the touring cycle for this album. Leave it to Death Cab For Cutie to make an indie gig feel like a party in your friend’s back yard.