Growing up in Washington State in the early aughts, Death Cab for Cutie was an indie darling. Along with The Postal Service, Death Cab dominated college dorm rooms and every pair of lonely high schooler’s headphones. After personally embracing their latest album Thank You For Today, I wanted to see for myself if Death Cab still held that same relevance at their recent Red Rocks show.
MITSKI kicked off the night as direct support. Her avant-garde pop was a bold choice for an opener with the lineup. Dancing on top of a white table and chair with knee pads, she made a statement that could have been sponsored by IKEA. Her onstage aesthetics aside, this will be an artist to continue to watch. She definitely defied the indie-loving audience’s expectations.
Death Cab for Cutie began with many songs from their latest effort, showcasing their writing for the first time without the support of their longtime bandmate and producer, Chris Walla. Their single “Summer Years” especially harkens back to older efforts like “The Photo Album.” This is a band where it’s easy to forget that their catalog spans over twenty years. Weaving deftly through their discography at Red Rocks, a song or record stood for every era of fan.
Frontman Ben Gibbard has shown real growth in his ability to blend musical prowess with lyrical poignancy; this shone ever-brightly in their live performance. On “Thank You,” he integrated his repertoire, including his career-defining album Give Up with The Postal Service. Gibbard spent years moving away from the personal toward the craft indie classics. He mines from his greatest strengths as a songwriter from the deeper part of Death Cab’s collection, while also embracing what feels fresh. The addition of two full-time band members, Dave Depper and Zac Rae, fleshed out the band’s sound on guitar and keys respectively, creating the ability for expansiveness in the band’s live elements.
The band appears to be at peace in regard to where they fit in the current musical landscape. Gibbard verbalized so many times how grateful they were for the crowd, and for the opportunity to play Red Rocks. Their two-hour set ended on a blissfully melancholy quartet of songs, including “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” “When We Drive,” “Tiny Vessels.” and ''Transatlanticism.” The latter was moving; a rare treat to hear live. And “I Will Follow You” was a side note that reminded you Death Cab still gets played on adult contemporary radio twenty times a day.
If there was a question on their relevance, Death Cab for Cutie sold-out a Tuesday night show at Red Rocks. One need only look at the massive crowd swinging to every word of Gibbard’s bobbling sway for proof. Death Cab hit their mark by being a band that once charged $5 a show, to filling the world’s most iconic arenas. They did all of this without sacrificing what made them great. They presented themselves as the elder statesmen of indie, which is exactly what they have become.
All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artist featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.