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A solid hour of indie rock on overdrive

Death Cab for Cutie
"Soundstage" Studio
Chicago, IL
April 16, 2009
Death Cab For Cutie Death Cab For Cutie Death Cab For Cutie

Story by Andy Argyrakis
File photos by Phil Bonyata

For those who think PBS' "Soundstage" is only a platform for heritage acts, the program's latest taping proves its just as plugged in with the modern rock scene as it is the living legends. Sure the series is best known for hosting the lauded likes of Robert Plant, Steve Winwood, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Stevie Nicks and B.B. King, but its current production calendar also includes red hot pop/punkers Fall Out Boy and enduring indie rockers Death Cab For Cutie.

The latter were on display in the intimate and acoustically flawless studio, which based upon the up close and personal feel, recalled the band's early days of playing clubs as opposed to massive theatres, arenas and festival. Outside of giving fans an incredibly rare opportunity to get right down in front, the foursome also seemed quite at home and were definitely in full-tilt performance mode across a mostly solid, though just a shy too short 65-minutes.

While the band's been blasted by indie purists for selling out to the major label system, the group can still connect on stage, ironically, pulling a major chunk of its 14-song set from 2003's Barsuk breakthrough Transatlanticism. Granted, that was long before the band had radio hits, but the early insertion of "The New Year" found Death Cab recalling a creative peak and seamlessly blending its momentum building alternative appeal with shoegazing simplicity.

The brand new track "My Mirror Speaks" (off the Atlantic EP The Open Door) was one of the few current tracks to recall that classic synthesis, finding front man Ben Gibbard teetering the ledge between pensive and powerful. On album, last year's "I Will Possess Your Heart" suffered from sterile production and a lackluster presentation, but in concert, it exploded like an entirely different entity, thanks in part to a several minute psychedelic build-up anchored by bassist Nick Harmer.

That type of tension also flanked the grand finale "Transatlanticism," with percussion player Jason McGerr displaying the most intensity of the evening as he carried out the celebrated track's towering crescendo. However, its predecessor "The Sound of Settling" was truly the night's highlight, showcasing Gibbard and guitarist Chris Walla's melodic interplay and the audience's playful participation. Fans of all fervency levels will have a chance to judge the career spanning show for themselves when it airs nationally on July 9, with additional details on the entire "Soundstage" season available at

Related articles:

Death Cab for Cutie - Concert review - Milwaukee, WI - December 2009
Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs album review - July 2008
Death Cab for Cutie - Concert review - Milwaukee, WI - November 2006
Death Cab for Cutie - Lollapalooza Festival review - Chicago, IL - August 2006
Death Cab for Cutie - Plans album review - October 2005
Death Cab for Cutie - Summerfest Festival review - Milwaukee, WI - July 2005
Jack's Mannequin concert review - New York, NY - November 2008
Jack's Mannequin - SxSW Music Festival review - Austin, TX - March 2007
Jack's Mannequin - Voodoo Music Experience 2006 Festival review - New Orleans, LA - October 2006

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