The Institute Birmingham
DCFC have kind of crept up on me over the last twenty years – as a band who are massive in the States but with a much lower profile in the UK can. After liking a few tracks, then acknowledging the fact that Transatlanticism is a great album, struggling with the ‘are they just the American Coldplay?’ thesis, here I am at the Institute on a Tuesday night. Their songs likewise, are unlikely to blow you away on first listen, but over time they creep into your subconscious.
Stage right is stocky bearded bassist Nick Harmer, stage left recent arrival guitarist Dave Depper and Jason McGerr on second beard and drums. Touring keyboardist Zac Rae is set well back. Because this is really the Ben Gibbard show. He writes the songs (mostly), he sings the songs and he plays the frontman in a passionate and engaging manner.
They have a new album to tour and there’s a healthy slug of songs from Asphalt Meadows – Rand McNally, Roman Candles, here to Forever (probably the best track and simply stunning live) and I Miss Strangers – scattered over the first half of the set. An acoustic I Will Follow You Into the Dark, perhaps their most emo song, pivots the set towards classics. I Will Possess Your Heart runs for its eight minutes of bass-driven brood. The Sound of Settling is contrastingly brief but similarly mighty.
Onto the encores and after another newby we have Soul Meets Body and titanic set closer Transatlanticism with its tale of an apocalyptic flood separating Gibbard from his love. Out we go into the night with ‘I need you so much closer’ ringing in our ears.
The band were tight and well-mixed, the near two-hour set well paced and perhaps the only downer was they didn’t play Marching Bands of Manhatten, my entry point to the Cuties and with Transatlanticism my favourite of theirs.
All ages, quite a few couples. We can’t agree on arranging the sock drawer but we can both buy into the Cabs. It’s about 75% full, enough to create a great vibe but also to move around easily. Downer: a pint of Shipyard is £7.20. Thievery.
It made me think..
There’s a very affecting song on the new album not played tonight, Fragments from A Decade, in which Gibbard goes on a roadtrip with a friend who talks about how frightened he was when his child was ill. Gibbard’s character relates how as a childless man he couldn’t really understand the depth of this feeling. Though of course lyrics are not autobiography it struck me at the gig that Gibbard, still looking a boyish 30 though 45, is perhaps asking himself after over twenty years of DCFC whether this is it.