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Death Cab For Cutie
Paramount Theatre - Dec 7, 2006
review by lexicon

It all started with Leslie Feist's advice to "get your hearts ready" for Death Cab for Cutie. Judging by their unmistakable screams, the hundreds of teenage girls attending KFOG's Concert for Kids at the Paramount Theatre did just that. The girl to my left was experiencing her own form of Beatlemania, complete with involuntary (I can only hope) full-body spasms and piercing squealing. I had to opt for the lame hand-on-thigh clap as my left hand was relegated to the duty of saving my hearing.

But don't get me wrong. That was fine - I like people to be excited, and teens, despite all the angst, are still people. But the substantial number of teens forming the crowd, many with parents in tow, certainly changed the tenor of the show, and Death Cab, specifically front man Ben Gibbard, seemed to be having a hard time facing head-on the embodiment of the band's shift from beloved indie Seattle rock outfit to cornerstone of OC Mix #2.

This was my fourth Death Cab show, and the third touring behind their most recent release, Plans (which is their first release on Atlantic, just to add to the "little band goes big" scenario). The band's live act has always surprised me in both its showiness and in its sheer musical power. Madonna they are not, but they still consistently put on more of a powerhouse show than I ever expect.

Gibbard flails around in a fish-out-of-water-on-guitar, cool rocker sort of way, Chris Walla lilts about in his own incredibly lanky, goofy way, choreographed lights flash, and there is usually some stage decor. (Tonight's backdrop, in fact, was the most successful I have seen recently: Its hints at abstracted building facades atop silhouetted telephone poles, which slowly disappeared and reappeared, remained visually engaging throughout the show, as the intensity and color of the projected light subtly changed the imagery and the mood of the stage.)

But back to the music. Gibbard is possibly my second favorite male vocalist (behind Stars' and Memphis's Torquil Campbell), and his lyrics are clever and evocative, which is to say that I enjoy their music, live and recorded, very much, and am therefore predisposed to enjoying seeing them live. Most importantly though, Death Cab often employs a dramatic building song structure that tugs on heartstrings in a most cathartic way. These emotional crescendos gain even more strength when performed live (for example, "Different Names for the Same Thing," off of Plans, a song that was decidedly written to be played for an audience, not a set of controls), which is why I will always see Death Cab when they come to town.

In short, tonight's show was technically solid, but the youthful demographic, to which Death Cab seemed to be a 4-hit-song band, the awkward, seated theatre, and the fact that it was a benefit (for Children's Hospital Oakland) unattached to a larger tour, made it a tight show that, nevertheless, left little emotional impact.