One really canâ€™t lose with a bill such as the one which D.A.R. boasted on Tuesday night. â€“Death Cab for Cutie, Franz Ferdinand, and The Cribsâ€“ since the odds are strong that the majority of the crowd will leave with, at best, a new favorite band and, at worst, newfound respect for a known quantity. You take three bands, each of whom are critically acclaimed, and each of whom have their own fanbase (to greater and lesser extents, as evidenced by band t-shirts in the crowd; both of the homemade and manufactured variety), package them together on a tour and presto, youâ€™ve got one of the hottest tickets of the year. So, having secured a ticket to the see-and-be-seen-at event of the concert season, all one needs is for the bands to come through on their end of the deal and rock the house.
Iâ€™m happy to report that Tuesday nightâ€™s show evidenced the rock â€˜nâ€™ roll equivalent of a hat trick, as not one, not two, but all three bands did indeed rock the house with authority. If an audience is truly lucky with a bill such as this, each band will inspire the other(s) to greater heights, feeding off the energy their respective sets and thus, egging each other on. On Tuesday night, the crowd was very lucky indeed, as each band brought their own power and majesty to the proceedings, playing as if their very careers depended on the strength of their performances (or at least their backstage bragging rights as to who went over the biggest with the crowd). And what more can you ask for from a night of live rock â€˜nâ€™ roll, really?
Seattleâ€™s Death Cab for Cutie, who closed out the night, played like a band possessed, bearing very little resemblance to the band of the same name who, while playing a very fine show at the 9:30 Club last fall, would not have been mistaken by many in the house that night to have been a rock band, or â€“with perhaps one and a half exceptionsâ€“ even a band that rocked live. Such was not the case on Tuesday night, which saw their fifteen song set open quietly, with a gentle yet impassioned â€œPassenger Seatâ€ (performed by just Ben Gibbard on keyboards and Chris Walla on electric guitar) but which, by the end of their fourth song, â€œWe Laugh Indoors,â€ had already seen the band pump up the volume and rock out more than in the entirety of their show last fall.
Alas, Death Cabâ€™s set did feature one surprisingly ill-conceived misstep when, during â€œWe Looked Like Giants,â€ a second full drum kit was set up at center-stage, and at which Gibbard spent the middle section of the song in what can only be described as a cringe-worthy jam band moment. Thankfully, they recovered by following up with a rousing â€œThis Is the Sound of Settlingâ€ to end the set, prior to a two-song encore. Better still, by encoreâ€™s end all was forgiven, as the encore included the always lovely, solo acoustic â€œI Will Follow You Into the Dark,â€ and â€œTransatlanticism,â€ which begins as a slow burn, but builds to a furiously explosive finale.
Franz Ferdinand, who played in the middle slot, was the big surprise of the night for this reviewer. Owning only their first album, and only loving one song on that album (no, not their calling card of a hit single), I wasnâ€™t expecting a great deal from these Scottish lads. Turns out I was dead wrong to think that, as they are not only damned engaging entertainers who have got the moves, the looks, and the hooks, but on top of all that they are an incredibly tight live band. Clearly, while touring the world behind their first two albums, Franz have developed the chops of a band to be reckoned with onstage. Oh, and that comment about the song from their first album which I love? Pleased as I was to hear â€œCome on Homeâ€ as the second song of their set, it turns out it fairly pales in comparison to â€œWalk Away,â€ an instant-classic from their second album which was not only the highlight of their set, but was on par with the best songs played all night by their esteemed tourmates.
As for The Cribs … well, what can I say that I havenâ€™t already said in my SXSW roundup about these ridiculously talented lads from Wakefield, U.K.? Well, I could say that, despite the shoddy sound (and mix) they were afforded in their opening slot, they stole the show. That would be the truth, but you might not believe me, as Iâ€™m clearly â€“and admittedlyâ€“ biased when it comes to The Cribs. I could tell you that in their nine song set, they evidenced the strongest hit-to-miss ratio of every set played on Tuesday night. That would also be the truth, but you may still doubt me. I could go on to tell you that, by the time they concluded their final number, â€œThe Wrong Way to Be,â€ having built the song to itâ€™s apocalyptic squall of a conclusion, they set the bar for the night so high that it would not be touched by either of the co-headliners on the bill, but you would likely find this near impossible to believe (despite the validity of the claim), given the not inconsiderable talents of both Franz Ferdinand and Death Cab for Cutie.
Your presumed penchant for disbelief notwithstanding, perhaps youâ€™ll be more inclined to believe that everything I have just said about The Cribs and their performance is true were I to also tell you that Ben Gibbard, prior to dedicating â€œWhat Sarah Saidâ€ to them, had this to say about the new fellas, with perhaps a trace of jealousy in his gracious tone: â€œThe band of the evening tonight really is The Cribs. They are rock gods: Theyâ€™re attractive and theyâ€™ve got great songs.â€
So, take it from me if youâ€™re willing, or take it from Death Cabâ€™s frontman if you require a more authoritative voice, but whatever you do, do yourself a favor and check out the Cribs at your earliest opportunity. Rock gods donâ€™t just spring forth fully formed every day, you know?