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Death Cab for Cutie have proven themselves to be more than merely musicians–they are centerpieces in the ever cliched genre of emo and a band that has managed to amass countless legions of heartbroken listeners. Despite frontman Ben Gibbard’s newfound sobriety and fairy tale ending with indie darling Zooey Deschanel, Death Cab’s heartwrenching (and obviously sold out) show at the Paradise showed us that he can still despairingly caterwaul with the best of them.
A major shout out is on order for openers The Lonely Forest. They managed to keep a frustrated audience at bay who missed half of their set because of the stipulation that purchased tickets could only be picked up via will call at the Paradise the night of the show as an effort to prevent scalping. While the reasons for this were well and good, the execution of it–unfortunately–was piss poor. Arriving at the venue over an hour before the show was supposed to start turned into me waiting in line for an hour and a half–which in fact is not conducive to enjoyable concert going. Also, since this was an all ages show so performers were forced to stick to their set times regardless of the success surrounding procedures for entering the building. The Washington natives did manage to hold their own, though, will a quirky and refreshingly modern sound that aligned perfectly with Death Cab’s devoted fanbase. Singer John Van Deusen’s voice is just as poignant live as it is on their recorded tracks, and his demeanor was a mix of genuine friendliness with fearlessness, which in itself spoke volumes.
The Lonely Forest kept the standard ‘goodbye and thanks for coming out’ to a minimal as the crowd welcomed Death Cab for Cutie with open arms. What I expected was utter perfection (since this my 4th time seeing them)–and that is exactly what I got. Gibbard’s transformed fit frame never sat well with me–I used to equate his thinness to unabashed optimism and was terrified this sentiment would pour over into lyrics. And some of it has, as evidenced by their latest record Codes and Keys released just last week. But to my surprise, that record wasn’t the sole focus of the evening. Instead it was about incorporating the entire Death Cab catalogue (which meant going back to their Barsuk days) into a nicely packaged setlist, starting with the painful beauty of Something About Airplanes’ “Your Bruise.” Throughout their performance, they dished out a stealthy dose of jadedness (“The New Year,” “The Sound of Settling”), disallusioned romance (“Cath,” “Title Track”), and downright depression (“I Will Follow You Into The Dark”). There were some upbeat tunes, too (“Crooked Teeth,” “You Are A Tourist” and “Soul Meets Body”), but rounding out the evening with the haunting and timeless “Transatlanticism” made one thing clear to me regarding DCFC’s artistic evolution: the more they change, the more they stay the same.