Story and Photos: Spencer Fleming
Legendary alternative rock band Death Cab for Cutie played a sold out show at The Admiral last night (6/7) and boy was it a scorcher! Not only in terms of temperature, but the band's performance was nothing short of incredible.
I've been a fan of Death Cab for a long time but this was my first chance to finally catch them live. In 2002, my friend Justin gave me a copy of Death Cab's second album We Have The Facts And We're Voting Yes for my birthday. I had never heard of Death Cab for Cutie, but this was no surprise. Justin introduced me to a lot of great stuff, like Q and not U, Drive Like Jehu, And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, the list goes on. A few years later my wife Virginia got me Transatlanticism which really cemented my love for Death Cab. I remember taking road trips and listening to that album over and over.
Death Cab is currently on tour in support of their tenth studio album Asphalt Meadows. Released in September of 2022, the album has garnered a lot of attention, receiving an 82 Metacritic score and producing three singles. The album's second single "Here To Forever" became the band's seventh career #1 hit on Billboard's Adult Alternative Airplay chart. The follow-up "Pepper" became their eighth #1 hit in March of 2023. I was excited to hear the new songs played live, but was secretly hoping for a few deep cuts.
While I waited for the show to begin I met Matt and his daughter Peyton. They came all the way from Iowa City to catch the show! We connected on a lot of the same bands like AFI, and Coheed & Cambria. Matt and I were at the same AFI show in Minneapolis a couple years back. Matt and Peyton are making their way back to the Admiral for Coheed in September, a show I'm most definitely looking forward to. One of the greatest parts of my "job" is connecting with other fans and hearing their stories. Peyton and Matt go to shows together as often as possible, it's a beautiful thing. Later in the night I ran into Doug who goes to shows all over the place, like Shakey Knees fest to catch Muse. He said he's seen Death Cab six times. Cheers to you Doug!
Before Death Cab melted our faces off, the crowd was treated to an opening set from singer-songwriter Lomelda. Hanna Read goes by the stage name Lomelda, which according to the internet, is a made up word meaning "echo of the stars". Her set started soft and slow, just Hannah and a bass player facing each other across some keyboards. The gentle harmonies swayed the already sweaty crowd like a soft lullaby. I really enjoyed Lomelda's set, my only issue was it sounded really quiet. Maybe I'm just going deaf? No, that can't be, haha. Lomelda spoke to the crowd a few times, but I couldn't make out anything she was saying. Being over by the hustle and bustle of the bar didn't help, but I think the vocals may have been mixed down a bit. No matter, I know the crowd enjoyed her set as I saw several copies of her album floating around throughout the night.
As the clock struck 9:00 it was time for the legendary Death Cab for Cutie! Ben Gibbard and crew arrived to thunderous applause as they kicked into "I Don't Know How To Survive", the opening track from their latest album Asphalt Meadows. With the band now in their mid-40s I expected a lot of still shots, but they brought the juice, moving all over the stage. With strobing lights and a bouncy set of musicians it was quite a challenging photo session! After two cuts from Asphalt Meadows the band brought it back to 2003's Transatlanticsm with "The New Year", another great opening track from one of my favorite albums. After exiting the photo pit I made my way to the balcony for a few overhead shots.
As I made my way up the stairs I could feel the heat getting even stronger. The Admiral is an awesome venue, but even with their remodeled air conditioning, a sold out show on a 90 degree Omaha night is a hot box!
Ben Gibbard addressed the crowd and told everyone how the band would be playing all night. "That's clearly an exaggeration, but you get it, we're gonna have a fun time!"
His prediction surely came true. For almost two hours Death Cab dished out #1 singles, a few deeper cuts, and hauntingly beautiful walls of sound. With that much set time the band had the opportunity to play eight of the 11 tracks off their new album Asphalt Meadows and I'd say they went over pretty well. There were moments of loud sing-alongs and not just for the radio singles. Death Cab clearly has staying power in the indie-rock/alternative world with Asphalt Meadows proving to be one of their best albums to date.
As the evening was coming to a close the crowd was treated to an encore of "Blacking Out The Friction", "Pepper", and arguably the band's biggest hit "Soul Meets Body" from their breakout fourth album Plans. I held out hope for "The Sound Of Settling", but Death Cab closed with the title track to Transatlanticsm, and it was more glorious than I could've ever imagined. The song builds and builds into a massive wall of sound with Ben singing "I need you so much closer" over and over. As the audience loudly sang back the lyrics the hair on my neck stood up and I felt a wave of joy wash over me. Despite the sweltering heat, this was one of the best shows of the year so far, and I'm immensely grateful I had the opportunity to capture it.
Death Cab is on the road for the better part of the year touring the Asphalt Meadows album before doing a run of 20 year anniversary shows for Transatlanticsm and The Postal Service's legendary album Give Up. If you were lucky enough to score tickets for that tour I'm supremely jealous, it should be an amazing experience!
Death Cab's new album Asphalt Meadows is available now wherever you stream music. A huge thanks to Atlantic Records for photo access. This show was a dream.
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Death Cab for Cutie