Down in the Ocean of Sound

Here’s the thing: on Monday, Elvis Costello and the Imposters were four musicians, while Death Cab for Cutie last night at the Kmplex 457 in Zurich were a band. It’s a surprise to me that the newcomers were the better act than one of my favourite musical artists.

I’ve learned from the net that people tend to avoid the Komplex for its bad acoustics, and I see their point, but Death Cab were so good that this didn’t bother me at all.

They were there for the music. Ben Gibbard barely uttered a dozen words between songs other than his almost shy thank yous. They played almost flawlessly. Some very few effects that give some of their songs their distinctive flavor came from a sampler (like the percussion bits from “Transatlanticism” or the nervous drum from “St Peter’s Cathedral”), but the rest was live craftsmanship, and very atmospheric. It helped that there were no seats, and maybe that’s what stopped Costello from performing better.

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They knew what they were doing. The intro to “I Will Possess Your Heart” had the right mixture of sneak and speed; there was “Doors Unlocked and Open” letting you dangle, but pushing your forward at the same time; and I’ll be damned if “Soul Meets Body” wasn’t a perfect piece of pop – maybe it’s the rhythm, not too fast, not too slow, but just right. The song sounds careless, but it has such a warm tone that I can’t name one other song with that same warmth.

It looked like they didn’t really feel comfortable being on stage, and especially Gibbard keeps slinking around with his back to the audience, but they were there to play their stuff, so they threw everything they had into the sound. It worked really well. No extravagant show necessary.

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