The word "hipster" was tossed around like a discarded hoodie too many times when I mentioned to anyone in my real or cyber life that I was excited about the Death Cab For Cutie concert that sold out tonight at the Riverside Theatre.
I promise not to use the h-word again in this review. After all, it seems to discredit the band and the music which clearly moves a lot of different people. Tonight's crowd was extremely diverse. Well, in age and personal style, anyway.
Death Cab is on tour with the San Francisco-based Majik*Majik Orchestra, which recorded with them for their latest studio album.
"We had such a good time working with them in that environment, we thought we should take them into this environment for something even more awesome," said lead singer Ben Gibbard.
Death Cab’s music is melancholy and melodic. It’s introspective, romantic, hopeful. Maybe they sold out or maybe they surpassed themselves to such great heights – but the fact remains that they have become a pop staple with heart. This was made clear tonight: the show was often a sing-a-long. There was arm waving, hugging, crying. Not kidding.
The beautiful Riverside Theatre was oddly hazy from smoke machines, even prior to the show, but the sound was impeccable. Gibbard's signature voice was in top shape – although once he admitted to forgetting lyrics.
The set list was a solid sampling of songs from the past and present. The show opened with a solo Gibbard on "Passenger Seat," followed by an almost non-stop delivery of energetic, heartfelt tunes including "Different Names For The Same Thing," "Title And Registration," "Grapevine Fires," "Alive," "Little Fury Bugs," "Death of an Interior Decorator," "You Are A Tourist," "Bend To Square," "Cath..." and "Soul Meets Body."
The inevitable encore featured an acoustic version of the band and the most dramatic ending, thanks to the Majik*Majik orchestra who rejoined the group for the final number of "Transatlanticism."
If there is one word for Gibbard it’s charisma.
Gibbard made a joke that he promised to reference local sports teams later in the show and, just as promised, asked, "How ‘bout those Braves?" His understanding of cliche musician etiquette was apparent, but at the same time, he wasn’t positioning himself as any better because he went on to talk about Braves’ players like Hank Aaron, proving that he, too, does his research about sports teams prior to shows.
The band wore black dress shirts, but despite their formal-ish attire, they were relaxed in delivery.
Death Cab, formed in Washington in 1997, features Gibbard (vocal, piano, guitar), Chris Walla (guitar, production, keyboards), Nick Harmer (bass) and Jason McGerr (drums). The band has released seven studio albums, five EPs and one demo, including the most recent, "Codes and Keys," which came out last May.
Death Cab started out as Gibbard’s solo project. He later added Walla and Harmer. The band consistently picked up momentum for the first five years of its existence, and the 2003 release "Transatlanticism" brought the band more mainstream success when songs appeared in the soundtracks for "The O.C.," "Six Feet Under" (the final scene in the final episode of the series features the title song and is absolutely stunning, quite possibly the best final six minutes of a show ever), "Californication," "The Wedding Crashers" and more.
"There’s no rest for Death Cab for Cutie," said Gibbard.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.