Music / Feature

What we learned watching Death Cab For Cutie live

The band are set to return to the UK in January 2019.

Having revealed details of their forthcoming new album, Thank You For Today, due for release on the 17 August 2018, veteran melancholic indie-rockers Death Cab For Cutie mark their return to UK stages with two sold out nights in the capital. The first takes them to London’s iconic Royal Festival Hall, and the second to the intimate Scala. Both represent a full journey through the band’s iconic catalogue of music, much to the delight of the receptive crowds.

With the reinvigorated band gearing up for the release of their ninth studio album, here are our take aways from watching their performance at London’s Scala.


The new album is shaping up very nicely

Death Cab For Cutie unveiled lead single Gold Rush earlier in the month, a track that carries their quintessential sound yet throws in some welcome heaviness and grit in its driving rhythm. This translates brilliantly in a live environment, as does Summer Years, the other new track on display this evening. The latter is built around the band’s more ethereal sound, and both tracks harness the complex blend of sunkissed melancholy. Judging by these two live tracks, Thank You For Today is shaping up to be yet another brilliant full-length by Death Cab For Cutie.

Ben Gibbard’s voice is on point

Even after two decades as a band, frontman Ben Gibbard retains the high quality of his distinctive vocal tones. Tonight’s setlist glides through heavy and light, from the comparably dense President Of What? and upbeat fan favourite The Sound Of Settling through to stripped back versions of the stunning Black Sun and I Will Follow You Into The Dark. All the while Gibbard remains note perfect; gentle and pained at once.

It’s full of feeling

Fans react to Death Cab For Cutie with an outcry and emotion, clearly invested in each and every lyric across the band’s twenty strong setlist. The crowd erupts for opening bars from their highly influential Plans and Transatlanticism albums, the title-track for the latter rounding off proceedings with an equally heartwarming and gutwrenching atmosphere. Audiences have grown up with the words of Gibbard and his Death Cab For Cutie bandmates, and it shows. Far from a simple singalong, the fans mean every word as much as the band.

They embody The OC generation

It may be a stretch to define a generation around a single TV show, but few young adults at the turn of the century would have not been engrossed in the tales of the wealthy west coasters. Underneath its glossy veneer and turbulent plot twists lay an iconic soundtrack, one that ultimately defined the show more than its melodramatic characters. The sun-soaked setting, and the often unexpected dark turns, are still perfectly represented by Death Cab For Cutie’s bittersweet tones. For those of us (like me) who found their evenings intertwined in the lives of these characters, Death Cab For Cutie carry the power to transport back to a different time, as well as bringing that sound and feeling into the present day.

Their broad, distinctive sound

It’s not just about nostalgia. Throughout their career, Death Cab For Cutie have succeeded in reinvention without letting go of their defining style. Each incarnation and album demonstrates subtle tweaks and developments, yet with it carries the juxtaposition of carefree and claustrophobic. They remain meaningful and powerful, their sound equally retrospective and innovative. They celebrate the beauty in the breakdown, and through it drive forward with ease.


Death Cab For Cutie are set to return to the UK in January 2019. Find tickets through Ticketmaster.co.uk.

Cover photo by Eliot Lee Hazel

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