BERKELEY — If you asked Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard, it was about time the Bellingham, Washington band toured with Cold War Kids. The two Northwest and SoCal bands played the Greek Theatre on Thursday, solidifying the milestone of their decade-long friendship through equally emotive sets.
Gibbard, bassist Nick Harmer, drummer Jason McGerr and keyboardist-guitarists Dave Depper and Zac Rae walked in a single file line, illuminated by a projection that read “THANK YOU FOR TODAY,” the title of the group’s 2018 album.
Death Cab for Cutie opened with new cuts “I Dreamt We Spoke Again” and “Summer Years,” both of which mix fast-paced pop embellishments with its classic broody tones. While keeping a steady pace, the band also revisited “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive,” off 2015’s Kintsugi, and “Long Division,” off 2008’s Narrow Stairs.
Between songs, Gibbard expressed the band’s love for the Greek.
“It feels so good to be back in your loving arms,” he said, lightheartedly.
The first portion of Death Cab for Cutie’s performance continued with many tracks off Thank You For Today, such as “Gold Rush,” “Your Hurricane” and “When We Drive.” Gibbard dedicated the show to the South Bay’s Christine Blasey Ford, who testified earlier in the day at Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual assault allegation hearing in Washington, D.C.
Digging into older gems, Death Cab for Cutie hit rewind to the early 2000s. Some of those throwbacks included “Company Calls,” from 2000’s We Have The Facts And We’re Voting Yes and “What Sarah Said,” off 2004’s Plans. For the latter, Gibbard hopped on the keyboard to play the desolate refrain that accompanies the song’s morbid introspection. It marked a poignant shift to the band’s moodier tracks.
“I Will Possess Your Heart,” the nearly nine-minute track, sounded even more ominous live. Of course, the lengthy intro featured its memorably heavy-duty bass line. But with amplified guitar distortions by Depper, in addition to Gibbard switching to a keyboard, the band stirred up sonic madness.
“I don’t know what it is, but whenever we play [“I Will Possess Your Heart”] across the country, that’s the part of the show where we all get a contact high,” Gibbard joked afterward. “I think the bass line just hits and we all feel it, and I’m all for it.”
Gibbard frequently shared his humorous side with fans. After playing “Cath…,” he addressed the first few rows: “You guys had a nice head-banging things going on, like, full waist. The kind of thing you can’t do at our age.”
Other highlights included dynamic sing-alongs to fan favorites like “The Sound of Settling” and encore opener “I Will Follow You Into the Dark.” The former, a track off 2003’s Transatlanticism, had many threw their arms. The latter induced a soft singalong, as if Gibbard and fans had drawn a collective hum.
During the encore, Death Cab for Cutie dedicated “A Movie Script Ending” to its original drummer, Nathan Good, who was in the audience. Following an energized rearrangement of “Crooked Teeth,” the band closed with “Transatlanticism,” delicately unravelling its melancholic melody.
“Be good to each other,” Gibbard uttered as the group said goodnight.
Cold War Kids dove headfirst into their bluesy sound earlier in the evening. The Los Angeles group opened with “All This Could Be Yours” from 2014 album Hold My Home, and then transitioned to “Miracle Mile,” off 2013’s Dear Miss Lonelyhearts. Frontman Nathan Willett flowed across the stage like cursive, switching between the tambourine, maraca, keyboard and guitar. On top of all the instrument changes, Willett often leaned over the lip of the stage to speak with fans up front.
The band demonstrated a natural synergy. During breakdowns, Willett, bassist Matt Maust and guitarist David Quon took turns leaning into each other while playing. They’d later switch things up and play alongside keyboardist Matthew Schwartz and drummer Joe Plummer.
Willett introduced their original hit, “Hang Me Up To Dry,” as an “old one.” Fans cheered as they recognized the jangly melody. Shimmering guitar riffs and pensive piano chords, accompanied the heart-swelling narrative of “First,” a song Willet said was about hitting rock bottom. The cut underscored Cold War Kids’ knack for telling barefaced stories through intriguing imagery. The group then closed with the headstrong “Something Is Not Right With Me.”