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Death Cab For Cutie's Energetic Show at the Wiltern

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The alt-rock phenoms Death Cab For Cutie played to a full house last night at the Wiltern. With five albums of material at their disposal, the band selected an eclectic mix of new and old. All the big crowd pleasers were included, like "The Sound of Settling," "The New Year," "Soul Meets Body," and "Marching Bands of Manhattan." They saved the gems, "Transaltanticism" and "I Will Follow You Into The Dark" for the encore. The latter was the strongest song of the evening. The lights were dimmed - leaving only Ben Gibbard, armed with his guitar, romantic lyrics, and vulnerable vocals.

It's a credit to Gibbard and company that the set wasn't filled with "safe bets." A few songs were off the less-popular (pre-OC) "We Have the Facts And We're Voting Yes" album. They even sprinkled in one of their early demos.

Though you might expect a concert from this band to include one tear-jerking song after another, that couldn't be farther from the truth. They are surprisingly animated live. All the songs take on an entirely different energy than their album counterparts. In fact, if LAist has any criticism of the show, it's that Death Cab tried to speed up and amplify their songs [just a smidgen] too much. "Title and Registration," while amazing live, felt hurried. Likewise Gibbard's confessional vocals were occasionally drowned out by the clamor of the band. But the group is still finding their pace with the new "Plans" material. Perhaps the kinks will work themselves out.

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The Montreal-based Stars opened for Death Cab. Their music was unapologetically honest, especially "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead." Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell's remarkably compatible vocals lend a slight ethereal edge to the music. Our main criticism is the band's shy stage presence... at times they were playing more to one another than the crowd.

The concert, as a whole, is very much worth the ticket price. Both bands will play the Wiltern again tonight at 8 PM.