Though they headlined an Austin show a little over six months ago, that didn’t stop Seattle indie rockers Death Cab for Cutie from selling out Friday night’s stop at ACL Live at the Moody Theater. With an evening that boasted accompaniment by the Magik*Magik Orchestra, fans expecting an out of the ordinary DCFC show definitely got what they bargained for.
After a startlingly quiet opening set from Youth Lagoon (seriously, you could hear a pin drop in the at-capacity theater), Ben Gibbard, Chris Walla, and co took to the stage after a lovely instrumental intro, to open their set with “Passenger Seat,” from their timeless album Transatlanticism. No time was wasted in between songs, as “Different Names for the Same Thing” kicked up immediately, even more emotionally charged than usual due to the string accompaniment.
The evening continued with a solid mix of the band’s repertoire, including several songs from Narrow Stairs, a few from Codes and Keys (which orchestra leader Minna Choi helped to arrange), and a heavy dose of Transantlanticism. A highlight came with the one-two punch of “Cath” into “What Sarah Said,” (a standout on the 2005 release Plans.)
After a few more songs, Gibbard joked “thanks for coming to our recital, everyone!” before leaving the stage for a brief moment, returning sans orchestra for the lesser-known “405” from 2003’s We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes. Though feedback issues persisted, that didn’t stop the music, as the orchestra materialized back on-stage for “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” and “Monday Morning,” both of which had audiences belting each and every word. The moment that every fan had been waiting for came in the final moments of the show, however, when the band performed their heartbreak anthem “Transantlanticism” with the full force of the Magik*Magik orchestra behind them. It was a transcendent moment for every room, and there were certainly more than a few misty eyes in the crowd.
Was this a show for everyone? No. The varied set was full of some obscurities not known to those more familiar with the band for their radio hits. But this was a fan’s show, through and through. And for this fan, it was a stellar evening.