REVIEW: Death Cab For Cutie at Summerfest
With the bleachers full well before their 10:15 start time, it was evident that Death Cab for Cutie hasn’t lost any support in the decade since the band’s Atlantic Records debut, “Plans” took them from indie rock darlings to mainstream stardom. On stage, it was also very clear that the band had not lost a step, either. With some short introduction music, the band stepped into the spotlight, and kicked things off with “The New Year” from 2003’s “Transatlanticism”. The crowd sang along with every word,trying to match frontman Ben Gibbard’s energy as he swayed back and forth, guitar in hand. They would have a lot of energy to keep up with throughout the night.
For a band that many associate with slowed down, emo-pop downers, Death Cab for Cutie were just the opposite on Saturday night. They rarely paused their set, and often times began the next song just as the previous one finished reverberating through the amplifiers. Gibbard took a minute to say that he loved the lakefront, and quipped that he had never heard the phrase “Mom’s drunk” so much in his life when he walked around earlier in the day. Naturally, the Milwaukee crowd applauded with approval.
The first half of Death Cab’s set was very much for the album listener; many of the tracks were non-singles, both from the band’s most recent album, “Kintsugi”, as well as lesser known tracks from “Plans” and it’s follow up “Narrow Stairs”. An interesting moment was when a track from the latter, “Grapevine Fires”, which was released as a single, albeit not one of the band’s most popular, received the singalong treatment from the Oasis crowd. Clearly, this was a crowd of album listeners, and not just “that band they play on FM 1021 and 88Nine” to most.
While the opening half of the set was mostly album cuts, the singles came in a flurry of five out of six songs in a row. Gibbard led things with “Plans” ballad “I Will Follow You Into The Dark”, which was followed by the extended album version of “I Will Possess Your Heart”, and later “You Are A Tourist”, “Cath”, and “Soul Meets Body”. If you only knew Death Cab for their singles, that was your moment. However, for the most part, nobody left after that string of hits, and the band continued on with what would end up being close to an 80-minute set.
The band didn’t appear the slightest bit tired, as most of the songs were played slightly more up-tempo than their recorded versions. Gibbard, sweating through his shirt, didn’t leave the stage for the majority of the night, though the band would occasionally dip out to the sides while he remained to play acoustic songs. To close out the night, Gibbard took to the piano for the title track from “Transatlanticism”, a somber song that builds up to a powerful, rocking finish. It was a punctuation mark on the night’s set, and a fitting send off for the night. The crowd roared, but the band did not return for an encore, possibly due to time restrictions as it neared the festival’s midnight closing time. They didn’t need to, however, as they had already left the Miller Lite Oasis with an amazing display, and nearly an hour and a half of great music.