Death Cab for Cutie Play the Santa Barbara Bowl

Best Coast Joins in Support

Death Cab For Cutie plays the Santa Barbara Bowl. (Sept. 26, 2015)
Paul Wellman

This Saturday, September 26, renowned alternative indie-rock group Death Cab for Cutie played a two-hour, 23-song set at the Santa Barbara Bowl to an enormous crowd of die-hard fans. Death Cab for Cutie is touring with fellow indie band Best Coast to promote the release of their eighth studio album, Kintsugi, which dropped earlier this year.

Best Coast started the show off. The duo’s beach pop vibes resonated with the crowd, which continued to groove as fans poured into the Bowl. At only half an hour long, the group’s set felt brief, but the duo delivered several crowd-pleasing classics like “The Only Place” and “Boyfriend” alongside newer hits such as “Feeling Okay” from their newest album California Nights.

At 8:00, Death Cab was ready to go. While blue lights pulsed across the stage, a booming voice mused about the tragedy of man — a bit melodramatic, but fitting for the headlining act’s image. When the stage lights switched on, Death Cab for Cutie was in place and ready to rock.

The five-piece band got to a slow but strong start with “No Room in Frame,” off Kintsugi. Lead singer Benjamin Gibbard’s clear, crooning vocals were a foolproof reproduction of those recorded on the album. Despite the slow pace of the track, Gibbard’s performance was energetic as he bounced back and forth while singing and playing guitar, thus livening up an otherwise leisurely start. From there, the band jumped straight into their beloved song “Crooked Teeth,” and the crowd sang along loudly to every word.

This was a trend throughout the night — it seemed every member of the audience was familiar not only with Death Cab’s newest singles, “Black Sun,” and “Ghost of Beverley Drive,” but with even the more obscure tracks like “Photograph,” from their 15-year-old EP Forbidden Love.

To lighten the mood after particularly gloomy songs (which were often the band’s most popular), the singer paused between performances to crack jokes to the audience and his band members. The climax of the night was Gibbard’s heart-wrenching acoustic solo performance of “I Will Follow You into the Dark.” As if the heavens heard Gibbard’s cry, halfway through the song a brilliant crimson shooting star passed directly overhead, causing the crowd to cheer in delight. Gibbard sang a few grace notes, either in recognition of the passing star or the crowd’s apparent enthusiasm for the end of the song’s last verse.

The band finished off their set with three brilliant performances, “Cath,” “Soul Meets Body,” and “Bixby Canyon Bridge.” The absence of any tracks from their famed (and notable fan-favorite) album Transatlanticism, however, was clearly felt, as none of the fans in the crowd moved once the stage lights dimmed. Sure enough, the band returned momentarily, and after much goading from the audience, to perform classics like “Passenger Seat,” “Marching Bands of Manhattan,” and, to my personal delight, “Transatlanticism” itself.

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