At first, it was unusual to see a veteran band such as Built to Spill opening in an arena setting; but we later found out the connection was chronological and fitting when Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard gave recognition to the influence of their headliner. The two shared Berkeley’s Greek Theatre stage Saturday night.
Boise-based Built to Spill opened with a short set that included the popular “You Were Right” (Keep it Like a Secret, 1999) and a few songs off Untethered Moon (2015). A few individuals could be seen singing along to Built to Spill’s more melodic tracks, but the majority of the outdoor theatre was in anticipation for the headlining act.
Between acts, crowd members remained in their coveted spaces towards the front of the stage as Death Cab’s gear replaced that of the previous band. Fans shared their stories of devotion to the group with us — there was one fan at the front who had seen the band a total of thirty-three times.
Suspenseful music and shrill applause accompanied Death Cab’s arrival. A jagged super-graphic taken from the cover their latest release Kintsugi (2015) dismembered streams of projected light, casting a long shadow on the stage and visually parting the massive crowd surrounding.
Death Cab for Cutie played a surprising range of material, starting with “No Room in Frame,” promoting their latest album while giving fans the satisfaction of hearing older hits “You are a Tourist” and “Soul Meets Body.” Death Cab also treated the crowd with “President of What?” off early demo You Can Play These Songs with Chords (1997). Several fans shouted ‘Postal Service!’ but their requests were unfulfilled.
During “The New Year” (Tranatlanticism, 2003), the backing projections broke and rebuilt with Gibbard’s lyrics, reminding us of the style of Japanese pottery for which their latest album is named. For the most part, the visuals were managed not to distract from the more delicate-tendencies of songs while catering to a stadium-size population; however, some live moments suffered visually the same overproduction as did sonically the studio version of Kintsugi. It was easy for more sentimental moments to be obstructed by the glaring sheen of arena lighting.
If you missed their show at the Greek Theatre this Saturday, don’t despair: post-encore Gibbard teased “see you soon” to the crowd as the band left the stage.
Article and photos by Penelope Leggett