Death Cab for Cutie performed a sensational set of new and older songs in front of a packed crowd last Saturday night at the Santa Barbara Bowl. The Bellingham, Washington-based four-piece is touring in support of their latest album, Codes and Keys.
The band started with a bass-heavy, throbbing rendition of “I Will Possess Your Heart” and plowed through an hour and a half of kinetic tracks from more than 10 years’ worth of albums, including older numbers like “Photobooth” and newer songs like “Codes and Keys.” One of the band’s most commercially successful hits, “The Sound of Settling,” from 2003’s Transatlanticism, had the audience on their feet — bouncing, swaying, and clapping along to the prerecorded version of the song’s hand-clap noises. Lead singer Ben Gibbard egged the crowd on, clapping in unison and appearing giddy with the post-adolescent nostalgia the songs invoked.
The bubblegum pop sounds of “Photobooth” were starkly contrasted with haunting renditions of “What Sarah Said” and “You Are a Tourist.” The show closed with “Transatlanticism,” which had audience members waving their arms back and forth in the air, holding up lighters and illuminated cell phone screens in a trance-like state.
Critics have described Death Cab’s genre as “alternative rock,” “emo,” and “indie” — but judging from the smiling, eager, and enthusiastic faces of Saturday night’s crowd, there is plenty of room for all labels when it comes to this band’s multifaceted repertoire.