One thing you will quickly while seeing Death Cab For Cutie perform in 2022 is that you are not seeing a band reliving the past, even if a good portion of the audience may be there primarily to hear their favorite songs from Plans. On stage, it is a band who has not only been making music consistently for over two decades now, but is also proud and eager to share songs from all of those eras. Of course, you’ll get to hear “Crooked Teeth” and “Soul Meets Body,” but a Death Cab For Cutie show in 2022 is truly about so much more than that.

In many ways, a similar thing could be said about Real Estate, who opened the show on a cool, golden evening at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens. Real Estate have been steadily putting out a new record every two or three years since 2018, and their short, nine song set ran through moments of each. While they closed with “Talking Backwards,” the bright-eyed, hometown crowd got to hear a bit of each of Real Estate’s five studio efforts.

Death Cab For Cutie took the stage promptly at 7:30, ready to squeeze as much music as they could into their performance before a 10:00 p.m. venue curfew. If the career-spanning setlist idea wasn’t made fully clear yet, the first four songs of the evening provide a great example. In a matter of minutes, Death Cab had taken us back to 2003’s Transatlanticism with “The New Year,” showed off two new track’s from “I Don’t Know How I Survive” and “Roman Candles” from Asphalt Meadows, and of course played a fan-favorite from 2008’s Narrow Stairs with “Cath.”

The rest of the night proceeded similarly — about half of Asphalt Meadows was performed (it was the Asphalt Meadows Tour after all), but there was also a beautiful mix of flashbacks to an earlier era of Death Cab before the radio hits, T.V. star wives and festival headlining sets. The crowd, thousands of voices, joined together for a singalong during “I Will Follow You into the Dark” and Ben Gibbard shared several stories about the band’s first show in New York over twenty years ago at The Mercury Lounge.

The true capstone was a transformation of “Bixby Canyon Bridge” into a progressive rock anthem, complete with a climax where it would not have been a surprise to see at least one guitar left on the stage smashed at the end. It was part of a four song encore, almost a mini-set, that also featured “Pepper” and “I’ll Never Give Up on You” from the new album, and 2000’s “405.” All in all, songs from nine different Death Cab albums made the setlist.

While Gibbard did spend a few minutes solo on stage for a pared version of “Soul Meets Body” that he dedicated to Real Estate, it mostly was a night of five guys who seem to really enjoy making music together up on a stage making music together. It is a cliche to say that a performer looks like they are having a good time, but Ben Gibbard truly did seem to happy singing songs that he has certainly sung thousands of times. And, if everything goes his way, he’ll probably get to sing them a thousand more.


Brian Benton

Brian Benton is a writer and photographer based in Los Angeles.