Ben Gibbard is a stud now. The famously bookish Death Cab For Cutie frontman known for crooning heartfelt indie-pop lyrics jumped around onstage Tuesday night at the Tower Theatre in Philadelphia, swiveling his hips seductively in time with his guitar. These are moves he clearly honed since the last time I saw the group four years ago. Death Cab played a healthy mix of old and new: tracks off The Open Door EP (due April 14 on Barsuk) alongside mellow, acoustic palate-cleansers such as “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” and classics like 1998’s “President Of What?”
However, Gibbard and the gang could have taken the night off and left the rest to a guy sitting next to me named Steve. Steve’s air guitar, air drums and air bass rivaled the band itself. He screamed requests during every brief interlude. His font of knowledge about each track was impressive. With sweaty enthusiasm, Steve detailed to those around him the backstory of every third song: “This one is about those fires in California. So sad!” Also, his Death Cab lyrical proficiency was in the 99th percentile.
Ben Gibbard: “Oh crap, I forgot the second verse of ‘Title And Registration.’ Where is Steve?!”
Back onstage, the smoke machines fused with Gibbard’s nostalgia-steeped vocals to carry us all back to freshman year of high school. Murky high-beam lights and trippy strobes united with guitar crescendos and rolling drums. You almost had to close your eyes in order to take it all in (and block out Steve’s flailing).
“Title And Registration” (download):