Local Current Blog

Nostalgia and novelty: Death Cab for Cutie deliver both at Northrop

Photos by Emmet Kowler for MPR

When my classmates heard Death Cab for Cutie (DCFC) would be in town for a show last night, their reactions ranged from, “I loved that band in high school” to “They’re still making music?” Indeed they are, having just released Kintsugi on March 31 (reviewed on our site by Stephen Thompson and Mac Wilson). The new album features quintessentially “Death Cab for Cutie” songs including “Black Sun,” “No Room In Frame,” and “Little Wanderer.” Just like the album, Saturday’s show provided DCFC fans just what they were looking for.

Northrop filled with concertgoers last night, many of them 20-somethings looking to relive high school days. Massive burgundy curtains set the mood for a poised, sweeping show, with towering instrumentation to spare.

DCFC kicked off a nearly two-hour show with “No Room In Frame,” from Kintsugi; Jason McGerr’s drumming powered the song even more than in the studio version, and Ben Gibbard sang the lilting, sad melody. He danced from behind a guitar throughout the show, bouncing from one foot to another while his hair flopped back and forth. His chemistry and affection for the other band members shone through during short guitar-on-guitar solos and the warm introductions he gave to each musician.

It was the band’s second time at Northrop, noted Gibbard—the first in nine years, he thought. “It looks very different now. I feel like we’re playing a recital—a Death Cab for Cutie recital.” To the audience’s delight, he added, “If we do a good job, we get ice cream afterward.”

The next four songs came from different albums from the extensive DCFC catalog before coming back to three Kintsugi tracks. During this trio, the recital feeling melted away, becoming more of a concert experience; a few crowd members started singing along, and tentative nods became full-body sways.

Every band member except McGerr switched instruments multiple times, displaying skillful versatility, especially during extended jams. “I Will Possess Your Heart” (performed in the Current’s studios in 2008) grew even longer than the eight-and-a-half-minute studio version. At the end of a lovely performance of “Black Sun,” guitarist Dave Depper lifted his hand on stage left, signaling the final note like a satisfied conductor.

1997’s “President of What?” went out to “the basement of the 7th Street Entry,” according to Gibbard. He also dedicated “Soul Meets Body” to opening act the Antlers and told a Casey Kasem joke that flew over young concertgoers’ heads. The loudest laughter actually roared during “I Will Follow You Into The Dark,” when a few fans tried keeping time during the sweet, sad song. Gibbard cut the guitar for a moment and put his hand up. He was smirking but earnest: “Please don’t clap. It doesn’t work.”

After reaffirming the Postal Service’s disbandment on a Reddit Ask Me Anything two days ago, Gibbard is choosing to focus on Kintsugi and DCFC. Transitions, of course, are on the band’s minds. Gibbard and Zooey Deschanel divorced before the new album was written; more recently, guitarist/producer Chris Walla decided to leave the band. His departure is the talk of the DCFC fanbase, but the band managed to overcome any awkwardness that could have caused, pulling off a cohesive, enjoyable show.

Before Death Cab for Cutie, the Antlers opened up the night with a coursing six-song set. All throughout their 35-minute show, lovely high notes and crashing chords mingled. The band from Brooklyn played under red-purple lighting; their layered instrumentation gave way a couple times to quiet vocals, which brought on the feeling of fingertips brushing a forearm. Most audience members didn’t arrive early enough to catch the set highlight—the band’s song “Kettering” played like a wave, a musical journey from build-up and crash to falsetto foam.


No Room In Frame (Kintsugi, 2015)
Crooked Teeth (Plans, 2005)
Why’d You Want To Live Here (The Photo Album, 2001)
Grapevine Fires (Narrow Stairs, 2008)
Doors Unlocked And Open (Codes and Keys, 2011)
The Ghosts Of Beverly Drive (Kintsugi, 2015)
Black Sun (Kintsugi, 2015)
Little Wanderer (Kintsugi, 2015)
Photobooth (We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes, 2000)
President Of What? (You Can Play These Songs With Chords, 1997)
You’ve Haunted Me All My Life (Kintsugi, 2015)
I Will Follow You Into The Dark (Plans, 2005)
What Sarah Said (Plans, 2005)
You Are A Tourist (Codes and Keys, 2011)
The New Year (Transatlanticism, 2003)
Cath… (Narrow Stairs, 2008)
Soul Meets Body (Plans, 2005)
I Will Possess Your Heart (Narrow Stairs, 2008)


Passenger Seat (Transatlanticism, 2003)
El Dorado (Kintsugi, 2015)
Everything’s A Ceiling (Kintsugi, 2015)
Transatlanticism (Transatlanticism, 2003)

Writer Cecilia Johnson is studying English and Spanish at Hamline University. Her favorite things include Community, linguistics, and the key of D minor. Photographer Emmet Kowler is a student at the University of Minnesota—Morris.