It’s often been said that some music is best heard live, and after seeing Death Cab for Cutie play in Wellington’s Opera House—I believe it.
Playing the first of only two shows in New Zealand, this famed quartet has been called many things—indie pop, indie rock, alternative. Their style unable to fit a precise genre. But let’s just say that if you’re into the heavier indie scene, Death Cab probably wouldn’t be your first pick; though supposedly undefinable you could get away with calling them mellow. Both ends of the indie spectrum have the capacity for intense intricacy, of course; it merely depends on the band’s skill. Death Cab, it seems, hit the nail on the head when it comes to quality.
The pristine white foyer of the Wellington’s Opera House, and its lounge area laced with gold filigree, provided a stunning visual preamble to the dark, rich burgundy concert hall. Still, it was interesting to see Wellingtonians treating the night as an upscale evening. The patrons were of all ages, while this was not unexpected, it surprised me a little as I had spent a lot of my childhood listening to Death Cab in the car with my mother. As I found my seat, I realized that unless one was on the floor, people were expected to stay in their seats and watch the show. For me this was odd—I’m used to having beer poured on me, spending half the time rocking out, and the other half trying to avoid the mosh. What was I supposed to do in this seat?
Despite personal feelings of displacement, the concert was enjoyable and I found myself appreciating Death Cab’s Grammy-nominated sound. A particular highlight was seeing the two lead guitarists stand in front of each other and rock out to each other’s moves. The lighting was extremely well done, timed almost perfectly with the changes in tempo. The song “Black Sun” off their new album Kintsugi shook the concert-hall; and I was proud on behalf of the elderly for withstanding the light show that came with it.
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Death Cab’s compositions are intricate due to original instrumental work and Gibbard’s distinctive voice. Not only that, but the band utilises aspects from various genres throughout history, juxtaposing classic instrumentation with modern musical ideas and themes. The band’s eclecticism is due to the way these elements are blended, and their originality comes to light when experienced live. Gibbard’s voice, a voice with a power that could never be tarnished or weakened, blends excessively well into the instrumentals. I found myself listening intently for every element, picking songs apart and then weighing the pieces against each other. Perhaps the best combination of melodies came when the band returned to the stage for the encore.
Overall, this concert gave me new respect for the band. I have to stress that if you ever have the chance to see Death Cab live, do it, and don’t look back.