After a three-year break in touring, Death Cab for Cutie returned to Melbourne on Sunday, playing the first of three Splendour In The Grass sideshows at 170 Russell.
Opening the night was ‘Say Hi’, the moniker of Seattle Indie-Rock artist Eric Elbogen whom surprised unknowing audience members when he appeared, dressed like the PC guy on Apple’s Mac advertisements.
Opening with ‘One, Two….One’, watching Elbogen was kind of like seeing your accountant doing karaoke, but the thing was, he was actually highly enjoyable, Dad-dancing and all.
“I want you to shake your hands in the air like an old person! Come on Australia!” Elbogen said before launching into ‘Take Ya Dancing’, which had a similar vibe to older tunes from The Strokes, matched with his vocals which are similar to LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and Arcade Fire’s Win Butler.
‘Does anyone have an questions at this point in time?’ Elbogen asked halfway through his set, to which an audience member requested a song.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I have one Australian fan! More to come with time!” he joked.
Elbogen’s banter between songs was highly amusing; with jokes about how the venue looked like the car from “Night Rider” and how he toured the States with “big sweethearts”, Big Scary last year.
“I’m gonna play that song for you, Australian fan, even though you kind of got the title wrong… this is a song about girls”, Elbogen said, launching into the set’s highlight, “Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh” before finishing the surprisingly fun performance with ‘Let’s talk about Spaceships’.
With the venue now at full capacity, Death Cab For Cutie took to the stage to a roaring applause, opening their 23-song set with ‘No Room In Frame’ from their 2015 album Kitsungi.
The night’s set list had a perfect mixture of new songs and fan favourites, such as ‘Crooked Teeth’ from 2005’s Plans and ‘Photobooth’ from their 2000 EP The Forbidden Love which kicked the night off well. ‘Doors Unlocked and Open’ had the night in full swing though, with Ben Gibbard’s distinctive voice echoing throughout the room and the musicianship of the Seattle trio and their new tour members, Dave Depper and Zac Rae on full display.
Unfortunately, the flow was interrupted after this, as technical issues with the sampler in Jason McGerr’s drum machine, created an awkward silence amongst the crowd.
“In no way are we standing up here like assholes… I hope there’s people from the music press here to talk about our awesome return…” Gibbard half joked, visibly frustrated with the issue.
The crowd instantly recognised and warmly welcomed the piano intro of ‘What Sarah Said’. The hauntingly sad song about standing in a hospital’s waiting room whilst your loved one is dying was a definite highlight of the night, with Gibbards’ piano, McGerrs’ funeral-march-like drum beat and the repeated line “Who’s going to watch you die?” resulting in many of the audience members visibly emotional.
“You’re so quiet!” Gibbard commented.
To which a fan replied, “It’s because we’re crying!”
If tears weren’t already flowing, they certainly were during Gibbard’s beautiful solo acoustic rendition of the goose bump inducing ‘I Will Follow You Into The Dark’.
Thankfully however, follow-up tunes such as ‘You Are A Tourist’ and ‘I Will Possess Your Heart’ livened up the venue once again. Nick Harmer’s bass line in the latter was a particular standout during the brilliant six-minute jam session, resulting in the song being a perfect way to leave the audience wanting more.
As the sold-out room whispered along to the line “I need you so much closer” in during the intense sets’ closer, ‘Transatlanticism’, it was evident that Death Cab For Cutie’s polite and passionate Melbourne fans were glad that the band have finally returned to Australian shores.