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Death Cab for Cutie cover every era of their career in 2 nights at the Palace

Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie getting emo at the Palace on Friday.

Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie getting emo at the Palace on Friday. Lucy Hawthorne

Death Cab for Cutie kicked off both of their two shows at the Palace Theatre this weekend with the hazy “I Dreamt We Spoke Again” and the melancholic “Summer Years,” the opening tracks from their recently released ninth album, Thank You for Today. But it wasn’t until later in the set that the Washington five-piece showed why the latest LP is the indie rock elder statesmen’s best in over a decade.

Frontman Ben Gibbard stood vulnerably at the lip of the stage for “60 & Punk,” singing to an anonymous drunken rock star over a plaintive piano line played by new member Zac Rae. The upbeat, harmonious “Gold Rush,” meanwhile, found the 42-year-old lamenting the rapid gentrification of Seattle. This “requiem for a skyline” rang especially true in an area where, as in Thank You’s first single, record stores keep giving way to luxury condos.

“When we come to the Twin Cities, we feel feel very welcome,” Gibbard told the crowd on Friday, joking about the similarities between his hometown and ours. “Even the style of dress is very similar, although people in the Twin Cities dress a little bit nicer and we’re more lumberjack-chic.”

Thank You marks the debut of Rae and guitarist Dave Depper as full-time members of the band. (They toured with Death Cab for years before tag-teaming the replacement of founding guitarist Chris Walla, who left the band in 2014). But that didn’t stop the group—rounded out by original bassist Nick Harmer and longtime drummer Jason McGerr—from digging deep into their back catalog. Cheers of excitement greeted the opening notes of Plans standout “What Sarah Said” each night, while Friday’s rendition of “A Movie Script Ending” and Saturday’s “Pictures in an Exhibition” whet the appetites of fans from the band’s Barsuk Records years.

On the first night, Gibbard introduced “Title Track” (from 2000’s We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes) by saying, “This is an old song, like Foxfire and 7th St. Entry old,” referencing two Minneapolis venues (one, sadly, defunct) that fit far less than the 4,500 people they played to this weekend. “Older!” one member of the crowd yelled afterwards. (Gibbard granted that request the next night with 1998’s “Pictures.”)

Death Cab’s other “Title” song, Transatlanticism’s “Title and Registration,” was a highlight of both shows, with Depper shining on its acoustic guitar line. That 2003 record, 2005’s Plans and 2008’s Narrow Stairs made up exactly half of each 24-song set. Both “Soul Meets Body” and “I Will Possess Your Heart” received huge applauses, while “The Sound of Settling” and “Marching Bands of Manhattan” made for thrilling finales to the main set.

Gibbard opened the encore accompanied only by his own guitar, duetting with the crowd on his greatest contribution to the romantic mixtape canon, “I Will Follow You into the Dark.” Despite the scattered shh’s that echoed throughout the hall on both occasions, the acoustic ditty facilitated an intimate moment between artist and audience that made the Palace feel more like the Entry of the Foxfire. The band squeezed in one more Thank You cut into each encore, playing “Your Hurricane” Friday and “When We Drive” Saturday. Both encores rightly concluded with “Transatlanticism,” an atmospheric anthem that, over the course of eight minutes, built to its fist-pump-worthy climax.

In all, Gibbard and company played 29 different songs during their two-night stand at the Palace, highlighting each era of their career and, most importantly, showing off the strength of their new tunes. They’ve been on the road for over 20 years, but these shows prove there is plenty of life left in this Death Cab.

Click here to see photos of Death Cab emotionally rocking the Palace

Critic’s bias: Death Cab is one of the few holdovers from my high school Discman’s rotation, and their music continues to mean as much to me today as it did at 16. Out of the 13 times I’ve seen them, Friday’s show is my new favorite.

The opener: Buzzy Brooklyn four-piece Charly Bliss packed nine energetic songs into 30 minutes each night, providing an initial spark to the proceedings with songs like “Percolator” and “Westermarck” from last year’s critically-acclaimed Guppy. They solicited for tips to pay for a trip to Disney World before leaving the stage each night, and judging by the dollar bills stuffed into a box at their merch table Saturday, made more than a few new fans.

Friday setlist

I Dreamt We Spoke Again
Summer Years
The Ghosts of Beverly Drive
Long Division
Title and Registration
Gold Rush
A Movie Script Ending
No Sunlight
What Sarah Said
60 & Punk
I Will Possess Your Heart
Title Track
Autumn Love
Northern Lights
Black Sun
Expo '86
Doors Unlocked and Open
Cath...
Soul Meets Body
The Sound of Settling

Encore
I Will Follow You Into the Dark
Your Hurricane
Crooked Teeth
Transatlanticism

Saturday setlist

I Dreamt We Spoke Again
Summer Years
The Ghosts of Beverly Drive
Long Division
Title and Registration
Gold Rush
Pictures in an Exhibition
Company Calls
No Sunlight
What Sarah Said
60 & Punk
I Will Possess Your Heart
Little Wanderer
Northern Lights
Black Sun
Expo '86
Doors Unlocked and Open
Cath...
Soul Meets Body
Marching Bands of Manhattan

Encore
I Will Follow You Into the Dark
When We Drive
Crooked Teeth
Transatlanticism