"There will be a couple of times during this set when yours truly will be sucking wind," Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard proclaimed early in his band's set. "Because as you know, this show is taking place on top of the moon. I love the moon. But it does take some adjusting to."
While Gibbard might have been a bit winded by the altitude, and even apologized to fans for the song "Long Division," which the band had just played, it didn't seem to get in the way of a first-rate set at Red Rocks, which was near-capacity last night. Opening with the chugging, bass-driven number "I Will Possess Your Heart," Gibbard and company followed that with a vibrant take on "Crooked Teeth" and a pair of songs from 2001's The Photo Album ("We Laugh Indoors" and "A Movie Script Ending"), which got the momentum going early on.
By the time Gibbard and company finished "Long Division," six songs into the set, you would never even have guessed that the altitude was affecting Gibbard at all. The band brought things down a bit during "Grapevine Fires," which Gibbard remarked was a song that takes place on the West Coast of the United States, "at sea level, where there's just a little more moisture in the air."
With a 24-song set that drew heavily from the band's last four albums, including nearly half of the excellent Codes and Keys, it was evident that the band is equally deft at motoring through exuberant rockers like "Company Calls" and more introspective cuts like "I Will Follow You Into the Dark," which proved to be one of the show's many highlights.
"We Looked Like Giants" was the tour de force of the night, with Gibbard opening the song on guitar and then switching to a drum kit that roadies set up early in the song. With Gibbard facing drummer Jason McGerr, the two absolutely killed it for a few minutes before Gibbard jumped back on guitar.
And pretty much anything the band threw out, the youthful Red Rocks crowd took in, singing along on a number of songs, like "Soul Meets Body," "Titles and Registration" and "The Sound of Settling," the last two of which Death Cab played during the encore. "Transatlanticism" was a superb way to close out the night, as the song kept building and gaining momentum, with Gibbard repeating the phrase "I need you so much closer."
Personal Bias: Although Death Cab has long outgrown mid-sized venues, the band somehow made the 9,500-seat amphitheatre feel quite intimate. Random Detail: I could be wrong, but it sounded like Ben Gibbard dedicated "Home Is a Fire" to Ft. Collins-based band Candy Claws. By The Way: Scotland's Frightened Rabbit opened the night with a thoroughly energetic and solid set.
Death Cab for Cutie Tuesday, August 23, 2011 Red Rocks - Morrison, CO
I Will Possess Your Heart Crooked Teeth We Laugh Indoors A Movie Script Ending Doors Unlocked and Open Long Division Grapevine Fires Codes and Keys What Sarah Said I Will Follow You Into the Dark Little Bribes You Are A Tourist The New Year Photobooth Company Calls Soul Meets Body Stay Young, Go Dancing - love song Cath... We Looked Like Giants Marching Bands of Manhattan
Home is a Fire Title and Registration The Sound of Settling Transatlanticism