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I'll Never Give Up On You

Started: 2022-10-25 20:17:58

Submitted: 2022-10-25 22:25:20

Visibility: World-readable

A new album from indie rock darling Death Cab for Cutie with a small West Coast tour

Last week I learned about Death Cab for Cutie's new album Asphalt Meadows, and their shows in Oakland, via a San Francisco Chronicle article introducing the show and its cover photo looking out on The Mission from Bernal Heights in the fog.

Death Cab for Cutie is in my second tier of bands I listen to (the tier where I have to think about buying their new album and going to their shows); I previewed the album on iTunes and bought it and listened to it twice before deciding that I really didn't actually have anything better to do on Sunday evening so I might as well go to Oakland so see their show. (I was probably a good thing I didn't wait any longer to buy my ticket; the show sold out sometime on Friday.)

I drove to the Warm Spring/South Fremont BART Station (now the third-to-last station on the southern end of the East Bay trunk line), then caught the train north from there to Oakland. I arrived in the middle of the afternoon, with enough time to drop by the Oakland Museum of California to look at its collection of art, including one work by Wayne Thiebaud, Urban Square; he painted fascinating stylized cityscapes that stretch and distort the city's geometric shapes. I had just enough time to walk through the California history exhibit before the museum closed at 17:00.

I ate supper at a vegan Vietnamese restaurant in downtown Oakland, then made my way to the Fox Theater in time for the show at 19:30.

Fox Theater in Oakland
Fox Theater in Oakland

By the time I bought my ticket the week before the show, all of the floor seats were sold out, leaving only a couple of seats in the balcony. (There were more tickets available for Monday night's show, I didn't want to try to get all the way to Oakland and back on a Monday night.) I sat in row T on the upper section of the balcony, with a good view of the stage except for the heads of the people right in front of me. From my seat the stage took up about 30°, as much as my TV when I sit on my couch, enough that I could keep the whole stage in my field of view at the same time.

The last time I was at the Fox Theater in Oakland was for a Welcome to Nightvale show in 2017.

The opening band was Yo La Tengo; they played an energetic set but I wasn't familiar with their music, and from the balcony the mix seemed like it wasn't prioritizing the vocals enough that I could really understand the songs.

Death Cab for Cutie at the Fox Theater
Death Cab for Cutie at the Fox Theater

Frontman Ben Gibbard took the stage with his band after intermission and launched into an energetic set filled with songs from the new album. I have a big gap in my Death Cab for Cutie listening history; I missed three of the last four studio albums, but their set list drew heavily from the new album, and also from the older albums I recognized. Only 30% of the songs were others I didn't recognize. If I'm not careful I think of their 2008 album Narrow Stairs as their "new album", at least compared to their other albums I've listened to, 2005's Plans (and 2003's Transatlanticism).

Death Cab for Cutie at the Fox Theater in Oakland
Death Cab for Cutie at the Fox Theater in Oakland

I was impressed by the lighting design: each song had its own lighting choreography, matching the tempo and mood of the music. (The band opened their set with the opening song from their new album, "I Don't Know How I Survive", and in the first verse the off-beat eighth-note hand-clap sounds were accompanied by the upward-facing floor can lights turning on and off.)

Ben Gibbard played "I Will Follow You into the Dark" solo on acoustic guitar near the end of the set, lit from above by a spotlight with the rest of the stage dark. In the middle of the song he stopped to talk about growing up Catholic and now he feels a tiny bit weird playing a show on Sunday. Then he said, "And let us all turn to our hymnals and sing — the indie rock hymnals — and sing the chorus," and he stepped back from the mic and we sang:

But if heaven and hell decide that they both are satisfied
And illuminate the "no"s on their vacancy signs
If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark
Death Cab for Cutie in Oakland
Death Cab for Cutie in Oakland

The band wrapped up their main set and returned for a three-song encore. (I don't remember for sure if they played "I'll Never Give Up On You" in the encore, but I'd like to think that they wrapped up their show with the same song that wraps up their new album, while the lights danced around the stage, occasionally shining into the audience. I didn't even try to keep track of the set list; the band played for about ninety minutes straight (an impressive feat of endurance) so there's no real way I could have remembered the whole list.)

The house lights came up and I followed the crowd down the stairs and out of the theater onto the sidewalk, then made my way to the 19th Street BART station for my train to South Fremont. (On weekends BART only runs two trains per hour down the length of the East Bay trunk line, and I got lucky and made it down to the lower platform two minutes before the train arrived.) I drove the rest of the way home, listening to the new album again, after a great live show with a great indie rock band.