Death Cab for Cutie at the Riverside
It was after 9 p.m. by the time the Magik*Magik Orchestra got started with some soothing strings and Death Cab frontman Ben Gibbard joined for “Passenger Seat.” Between songs, Gibbard acknowledged that he was grateful an audience showed up on a Sunday, and during a mis-step the scruffy-faced man acknowledged the exhausting existence that is the end of a weekend.
It is only the fourth show of a new 2012 tour that includes the San Francisco-based music collective led by Minna Choi who collaborated on some tracks for Death Cab’s 2011 album, Codes and Keys. At times, they were a background influence as the growl of a guitar or cymbals overpowered the young octet. At other times, they were a vital element of the music that gave Gibbard a reason to smile from ear to ear.
The sound was necessary for songs like “Movie Script Ending” and brought a greater voice to “Death of an Interior Decorator.” Gibbard and lead guitarist Nick Harmer (well, instrumentalist since he and the frontman played at times on four different musical instruments) took great pains to make this night an aural piece of perfection, often turning to tweak a piece of equipment or motion off-stage to production people.
The playlist for the night was well-rounded, reflecting an even keel of the 15 years the band has been together. It’s been nearly a year since the release of their last album, which was recorded with great experiment through four different studios. The middle of the show lagged a bit as many of the songs and pacing fell into a kind of dreamy “Strawberry Fields” territory, but after an obvious ending (after one hour) leading to a 45-minute encore that included three brusker street-style set-ups and a final full piece blowout with “Tiny Vessels,” Gibbard appeared to be committing emotional hari-kari with his guitar across the pit of his stomach. In the grandest of rock traditions, he left his musical guts out on the floor.
It would be hard to believe that the band had received a grander standing-O after that, as Harmer lined up everyone on the stage in a row to look out into the heights of theater. They looked positively giddy. Perhaps it was more relaxing on a Sunday night. On Tuesday night, Death Cab for Cutie and the Magik*Magik Orchestra play the Chicago Theater, streaming live to the world via Fuse. Good luck, ladies and gentlemen.