Spending some time with the Cutie.

Event: Death Cab for Cutie concert
Date: August 12, 2008 (Tuesday)
Venue: Esplanade Concert Hall, Singapore

It could not have gotten any better with the concert seats we had. Front row seats with the stage merely one step away, with nothing obscuring my lacked of height’s view but the flattened wires and speakers in front of me. And when Ben Gibbard came out and decided to stand at the microphone just right in front of us, we went down on our knees and thanked the good Lord of Indie-hood for our fortune. It was worth every fucking penny we forked out.

The lights dimmed and the crowd went absolutely bonkers. Ben appeared on stage sporting new sideburns with no glasses, followed by Nicholas Harmer and Chris Walla with their guitars, as Jason McGerr slid to his seat at the percussion. Without wasting any time, they dove into the familiar intro of Bixby Canyon Bridge – which I realised some days ago that it sounded like Marching Bands of Manhattan’s – and the entire concert hall just lost it. Fuck the comfy seats, practically the entire crowd was standing with their hands in the air. When Jason came in with his heavy beats that seemed to guide the heartbeats of every fan in the room, I just know my legs would have to fall off first before I stop tapping along to their contagious thumps. From then onwards, Ben Gibbard and company were Gods, and we were their worshippers.

They performed songs from all of their albums. Touching the three older albums, in case there were fans out there who were familiar with their older stuffs. And indeed, there were. Playing the new ones from Narrow Stairs for the new fans hopping on the death cab. Not forgetting Plans, but still biasedly leaning a hell lot to Transatlanticism. This, my friend, is a bittersweet thing for me, but I shall get into it later.

When Ben exchanged his electronic for his acoustic guitar, we knew something good was about to happen. After finishing Soul Meets Body, the lights went an oceanic blue and he introduced the next number to be a “love song”. As if already memorised the Death Cab Bible from back to front, the crowd cheered as Ben went into the opening chords for I Will Follow You Into The Dark.

The fans can sing along all they want, but my attention was all for Ben only then. My eyes could not leave his drenched form, and my ears heeded every single syllable coming out of his lips, words I have heard too often to sing me to sleep. When it came the time for the most brilliant line of lyrics in the song, my eyes started to water: “You and me have seen everything to see / From Bangkok to Calgary / And the soles of your shoes…” If I were to drop dead then, I would have died a happily comforted and loved girl.

Followed close behind was the song that brought Death Cab back on track with Narrow Stairs, I Will Possess Your Heart. Judging from the lengthy opening for the song from the album, one would expect something phenomenon on the brink of happening when they performed live. How one by one, every instrument joined in and slowly built up a memento for Ben’s first verse: “How I wish you could see the potential / The potential of you and me / It’s like a book elegantly bound but / In a language you just can’t read”. Hearing it on the album was like an appetiser. Hearing it live was like a fucking gastronomic main course.

They did a faux exit, just like every band performing live would, after The Sound of Settling. While the fans screamed for an encore, I sat in my seat calling for the Gods of Indie Rock once again to please, please, please, have What Sarah Said on their encore set. Time was already running out, but my favourite song had yet to grace the blessed mouth of Ben Gibbard. Every time he – or Chris – headed towards the keyboard by Jason’s percussion set, my breath would pause only to let go in disappointment when they started off on something else. And this also did not happen often, as they preferred strings to keys. I have gotten so desperate that whenever Ben approached the microphone, I screamed out “Ben, play Sarah!” Alas, he did not even look up or acknowledge my call of despair.

Death Cab For Cutie came back onstage with their oldest number for the night: Your Bruise, from their first studio album, Something About Airplanes. I admit, I have only gotten on the bandwagon completely when I heard Plans, and before that they were merely name drops for me. So, yes, I did feel bored when they hit on tracks I have not heard before like Live Here, Company Calls, Title Track and this. Heck, I even decided to head to the ladies’ when they performed Expo ’86. But, I would have to say, this is probably the better one that night from their older numbers. And that is saying a lot, because I have yet to find a common ground with their old sound just yet.

Then, came Title and Registration, a song I have learned to adore with the lovable line of “The glove compartment is inaccurately named” alongside side the cheeky melody of the song. After No Sunlight, followed Tiny Vessels. As Ben’s heart aching lyrics went “She is beautiful but she doesn’t mean a thing to me” alongside the lonely strums of the guitar, I held my face in my hands like I would cradle my heart. And when the opening of Transatlanticism so gracefully followed suit, I knew Ben would not be telling us who was going to watch him die that night.

But I guess I could not totally hate them just yet, because Transatlanticism was also a favourite of mine. I could be downhearted and disappointed all I want, but the moment Ben sang “The distance is quite simply much too far for me to row / It seems farther then ever before”, my heart melted and I found myself on the brink of tears again. The lights bathed him again in the hues of the Atlantic, the crowd quieted down to listen to the powerful words of “I need you so much closer”. Till this day, it is still a mystery to me how these six simple words could be so gripping just by repeating themselves again and again. Hands raised above heads as eyes closed to dip bodies in the ocean, and the melody built up one last time to a powerful climax, to a powerful finale. I could not find a better ending to a Death Cab concert, if it were not the prolonged buzzing semi breve of this song.

All in all, I cannot say it was the best concert I have been to. (Sorry Ben, but Damien is still holding the top spot). But I would say it was still a nice experience. All concerts I have been were great experiences. None really sucked just yet. But for this, it would have been a better one if they communicated more with the fans, and make the concert more interactive. The only times they ever spoke to the crowd was just to say hey, or ask if we were doing OK. Well, no, Ben, I was not doing OK. You literally brushed me off when I was certain you could hear me loud and clear when I asked for What Sarah Said. Heh. And yes, the concert would have been a couple of notches better if he had somehow fitted Sarah in the list.

But still, it was a mission accomplished for me. Since l heard Plans, I have been wanting to see them live, envious very much of the fans getting to attend their gigs almost every day in the States. Although they decided to stop by Singapore instead of Malaysia, it was still worth it. Like I said in the beginning, try to top my concert seat, because it ain’t getting any better than that.

Note: More pictures will be up soon.


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13 Responses to “Spending some time with the Cutie.”

  1. Will Says:

    You saw Damien Rice in concert?! I hope you can smell the jealousy from all the way over there in Malaysia!

    And yes, it wasn’t the best concert for me personally. The best goes to Broken Social Scene earlier this year in Singapore. I think it’s going to be hard to top that one. But hey, it was still pretty awesome to see them live. Musical orgasm, that was.

  2. Celeste Says:

    heh. but he went to singapore too in 2006. i was lucky enough to catch his gig in australia a year later, since i was devastated i wasn’t around singapore to go to the 2006 one.

  3. Will Says:

    I found out one day after the actual concert that he actually came, can you believe that? He came on the 31st of March or something, and I remember finding out on the 1st of April – April Fools’ day. It was almost like a joke, but it was a joke too real for comfort.

    He came and went, I missed it, and I blamed the lack of publicity. I swore never to miss anymore concerts after that. I did miss the Nouvelle Vague one in Singapore but, that one didn’t hurt half as much as the Damien Rice gig. And, since Lisa Hannigan left Damien Rice, it’s never going to be the same again even if I get to see him tomorrow.


  4. Celeste Says:

    awww. well, actually, damien was the only person at the singapore gig. the others did not follow him, not even lisa.
    but hey, who knows, with damien, we’re bound to be surprised.

  5. Audrey Says:

    Nice post, reading your vivid descriptions was like reliving the entire night again. 🙂

  6. mrs. jeff buckley Says:

    great review! =) amazing last song transatlanticism to wrap it up. superb performance.

  7. Luq Says:

    Hey, you write really well.

    Apt description of the gig, i should know, i was right in front as well. You should like consider writing for a major publication or smth, sans vulgarities of course. =)

    Long Division was AWESOME!

    Great review by the way.

  8. Celeste Says:

    audrey and mrs jeff buckley: thanks. glad you had fun during the concert too.

    luq: lol. hmm, maybe i already am. 😉 but thanks for the compliment. were you on the right side of the stage? that side looked quite crammed!

  9. Yans Says:

    Hey, I share your pain of not having “what sarah said” being played. I love that song too! SIGH. and i agree with the others, best review of deathcab i’ve read so far. awesome job! ah, and standing in front of ben – you are SO lucky!!! you go girl!! 🙂

  10. Wilfred Says:

    Nice one, cool bitch. I screamed my voice off Sarah but still, sarah kept quiet the whole fucking night! I guess sarah’s fans were awesomefully depressed because we need to hear sarah live!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What happened to the Gods of Indierockkkkkkk! HAHAHAH.

  11. Luq Says:

    Yeah, right side was ridiculously crammed. I kinda moved from the right side to middle, right after Long Division.

    The people in the middle were kinda static to be honest, so my friend and i injected a little head bobbing, arm thrusting in the air and a little clapping. Haha.

    Camera Obscura in Singapore!

  12. Celeste Says:

    yans: yes. it was worth every penny and time coming down to singapore just to see them live. and thanks for reading. glad that you liked it. :]

    wilfred: whoa, didn’t know there’s another fan out there as desperate as i to hear them play sarah. kudos.

    luq: heh, i take it you’re going to see camera obscura. hope you have a nice time there. :]
    haha. i kinda liked it that the people were not pushing around at the concert.
    next time we happen to be in the same concert again, do come by to say hey.

  13. Onward the Prospekt’s March. « Small Time Traveller Says:

    […] am sorry Ben Gibbard. This is Death Cab’s performance on top spot of my life. This is Coldplay giving a good kick on their behinds […]

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