Back in the Nation’s Capital in support of their new LP, Asphalt Meadows, Death Cab For Cutie recently packed The Anthem!
Asphalt Meadows, their 10th album released in mid-September, is full of hook-laden songs that demand repeat listens. As any good Death Cab album, it’s the human connection that’s front and center with Ben Gibbard’s clear-as-a-bell vocals laying out the stories. But this time maybe due to the Covid-19 pandemic or trying out something new, the songs on Asphalt Meadows have a resonance that ranks up there with their best work.
As the refrain from J Dilla’s “Workin’ On It” rang through the speakers on Sept. 27, the band took The Anthem stage and started off with the opener of the new album, “I Don’t Know How I Survive,” a measured song that launches into the chorus “these nights, I don’t know how I survive,” that ranks among the best of Death Cab’s catalog. A short but sweet start to what became an unforgettable night.
After the single, “Roman Candles,” the band played an old favorite, “The New Year” from the album that, for many, put the band on their radars with Transatlanticism.
Watch the official music video for “Roman Candles” by Death Cab for Cutie on YouTube:
Running from one end of the stage to the next, playing off the energy of Nick Harmer (bass) and drummer, Jason McGerr on one end to reciprocate that energy on the opposite side from Dave Depper (guitar) and Zac Rae (keys), Gibbard seemed to revel in the cheers being offered up from this capacity crowd.
“This next song goes out to our friend Brendan Canty. His band taught us how to do this.” And as Canty, drummer of DC greats Fugazi, who was in the audience, looked on Death Cab played “Rand McNally,” a seeming ode to the road with those lines Don’t let the light fade / I won’t let the light fade / Chasing these roads into dawns / I won’t let the light fade.
“This is a very polite bunch… except for that guy,” Gibbard said, pointing out across the venue to laughs from the crowd. And in a surprising moment, as the rest of the band exited the stage, Ben stood there alone in the middle of the stage, with blue lights providing the backdrop as he began “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” accompanied by close to 6,000 back up singers from the audience.
At one part he paused singing and said, “Don’t you guys hate it when the band finally plays that song you’ve been waiting all night to hear and the singer, like a fuckin’ asshole, turns the mic around and says, ‘SING IT!’ I didn’t pay my money to hear myself sing it. Having said all that, I was thinkin’ that you guys might want to take a chorus and, in turn, as a self-indulgent thing I would sing another chorus. So, even Steven.” And we did a pretty good job! If I don’t say so myself.
Watch the official music video for “I Will Follow You into the Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie on YouTube:
As the band returned to join Ben on stage, the atmospheric notes of “Your Heart Is An Empty Room” blew through The Anthem as he began singing Burn it down, till the embers smoke on the ground /
And start new when your heart is an empty room. All of this to the brilliant backdrop of one of the best light shows I’ve witnessed in some time, as rows of manic patterns exploded around the room.
Hitting all the right chords to keep this crowd moving, Death Cab For Cutie went on to play fan favorites “I Will Possess Your Heart” and “Soul Meets Body,” which Ben dedicated to opener Thao Nguyen. As the band contined through one incredible encore, it was hard not to keep a smile on my face.
The setlist included:
I Don’t Know How I Survive
The New Year
A Movie Script Ending
Here to Forever
I Miss Strangers
I Will Follow You Into the Dark
Your Heart Is an Empty Room
You Are a Tourist
The Ghosts of Beverly Drive
I Will Possess Your Heart
Soul Meets Body (Dedicated to Thao)
Foxglove Through the Clearcut
I’ll Never Give Up on You
Bixby Canyon Bridge
Here are more photos of Death Cab For Cutie performing at The Anthem on Sept. 27, 2022. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.