Death Cab for Cutie, Dappled Cities @ Enmore Theatre, Sydney (24/02/2012)

It’s been a long time since the Seth Cohen Starter Pack introduced Death Cab for Cutie to mainstream audiences and added to their already healthy fanbase. And while that springboard is long gone, some strong albums and solid touring have kept their following quite nicely. In fact, their position is somewhat like fellow Seattle band Pearl Jam, only on a smaller scale – dedicated fans, long, career spanning sets, and a fanboy-friendly setlist variation from night to night.

It’s been some time since the last record from Dappled Cities, who continue to be Sydney staples, despite the increasingly slow pace that they seem to take. Tonight their opening set was split between new songs and old faves, almost all from their second record Granddance. And while some of the new songs impressed, particularly the striking and now oft-performed closer, it was tracks like Holy Chord and Vision Bell that stuck out and got a response from the crowd.

After opening with a surprise airing of very early track Army Corps of Architects (which left the crowd muted, but would’ve absolutely thrilled diehards), Death Cab For Cutie launched into their set full-blooded, racing through material from all over their career, including faves like Photobooth and Crooked Teeth. It was good, but seemed a bit off – singer Ben Gibbard in particular seemed jittery, and the songs didn’t quite get enough breathing space. Many of Death Cab’s songs need a gentle touch, but they felt rushed through.

Eventually they settled down though, with the long, unusually jammy I Will Posess Your Heart seeing them finally lock into a groove. And from there they were on a roll – from quiet, heart-on-sleeve singalong staple I Will Follow You Into The Dark, to the celebratory The New Year, to a huge We Looked Like Giants – surely the show highlight.

And it’s here where the band really shine – heavily road-tested, they ploughed through crowd-pleasers, again at a frenetic pace but this time matched by their audience’s enthusiasm. And when the encore’s closing duo of mid-career faves A Movie Script Ending and Transatlanticism ended the show on a high, it became easy to understand just how, fifteen years into their career, Death Cab For Cutie maintain such a dedicated following.