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DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE Perth Festival Gardens Saturday, February 18, 2012

Death Cab For Cutie (Photo: Daniel Grant)

1926 film Faust, a handful of dancers we were later told were only recruited locally that day, minimal props and costumes, and a live soundscape both cacophonous and haunting, the event (or perhaps called “thinning the herd” - that occurred on the better described as a ritual or a working) punched right through the forebrain of the audience to grab balmy Valentine’s night when Silver Alert (aka hold of the primal beast that nestles in the back of Sclavunos and Peter Mavrogeorgis) teamed up the skull, and stir it up with movement, sound, and with experimental choreographer Micki Pellarano fury. to present their reworking of the venerable Faust It’s clear that, in stripping away Murnau’s legend, the work certainly attained that rarefied problematic “Christ conquers all” ending, they’ve label. drawn the theme back to the value of gnosis, and The exact meaning? That’s harder to the sacrifices necessary to attain such a thing. pin down. Utilising a brisk re-edit of F.W. Murnau’s While there’s nothing too high-handed

FAUSTIAN PACT Perth Festival Gardens Tuesday, February 14, 2012 There’s a school of thought that states, more or less, that “real art” is incapable of pleasing everyone – basically that in the act of saying something of real value, you’re bound to ruffle someone’s feathers. Judging by the 40 or so walk-outs - a phenomenon Jim Sclavunos later

CASS MCCOMBS Perth Festival Gardens Monday, February 20, 2012 Over the last few years California-born singersongwriter Cass McCombs has built a goodsize following by holding back: his voice is a well-worn croak; his folky arrangements are unabashedly old-fashioned; his songs usually build toward nothing stronger than a shrug. And on Monday night he filled up the Perth Festival Gardens: not only with the usual selfeffacing indie rockers, but also with some more vociferous fans (proof, perhaps, that his appeal extends beyond the indie subculture). One concertgoer was even overheard loudly describing McCombs as “phenomenal!” The thing about McCombs’s shy charm is that sometimes his music shyly declines to thrill, and sometimes his musical nostalgia seems a bit shopworn. Still, the best McCombs songs positively glow – as was the case with his warm live versions of Robin Egg Blue (plucked from

From those humble days in Bellingham, even the members of Death Cab For Cutie would never have expected that they would one day be regarded as one of the most consistent live bands going around. The band clearly take their live show seriously as they recreate their records with ease from their alcohol free stage where they ensure that as a punter, you always know what you are going to get. The givens of a Death Cab For Cutie show are that Nick Harmer will be dressed in black jeans and polo shirt as he gyrates with his bass guitar, Jason McGerr will bring his rare combination of precision and personality from behind his drum kit, Ben Gibbard will put on a clinic of how pop songs should be sung and Chris Walla will change instruments and maintain a perfect tone. The detail of the set list may change from show to show but you can pretty much guarantee that The New Year will get an early running and the majority of the crowd will sing along loudly and out of tune to I Will Follow You Into The Dark. Since their last tour, Ben Gibbard has moved to the centre of the stage to take up the more traditional role for a front person, cut his hair to resemble an indie-rock page boy and discarded his spectacles. As this was the second

offering in a two night stay, Gibbard indicated that they would be varying up the set list a little. He was true to his word when Death Cab For Cutie opened with the slow burn of the rarely heard No Joy In Mudville and throughout delved into the The Open Door EP for Little Bribes. The hits would come out later in the set, but it was hard to go past the cracking take on Long Division with McGerr effortlessly rolling out a chunk of stylish fills. For a band with such pop smarts it is the slower more spacious tunes where they make their biggest splash and again this was the case when Gibbard moved to the keyboard for Codes And Keys and Different Name For The Same Place. Th e c r owd s t a r t e d t o s h ow t h e i r increasing appreciation when the pulsating bass line signalled the beginning of an epic version of I Will Possess Your Heart. In a similar vein, new favourite You Are A Tourist has a stadium filling feel to it, before a sizeable portion of somewhat throw away radio friendly tunes were mixed in with Movie Script Ending and Blacking Out The Friction. Having learnt their lesson from omitting both tunes on their last tour to Perth, Death Cab For Cutie went to the album that made them major label players and featured on T V with Tiny Vessels and Transatlanticism being a fitting ending. Death Cab For Cutie gave another quality, polished performance of the standard that we have come to expect from a group that leave very little to chance. _CHRIS HAVERCROFT about that, it’s pretty plain to see that it was the medium, not the message, that sent the bourgeoisie scuttling. Perhaps they weren’t used to watching naked, masked bodies writhe against a background of alchemical symbols while the waterphone drones and the horns trumpet, or perhaps engaging on a visceral rather than intellectual level can be too intimidating for some. Whatever, it’s their loss; everyone with the wherewithal to plug into the experience had a blast, and we can only hope that this first performance of the piece is not the last. _TRAVIS JOHNSON

last year’s critically acclaimed Humour Risk) and Dreams Comes True Girl (from 2009’s Catacombs). The live setting, McCombs band kick back with a looser, rockier feel than previously, yet his dusty, wistful voice still inhabits an age all of its own. There’s also a feeling the talented troubadour is pushing at the fabric of his music, trying to expand and progress. But the same cinematic mist hovers, the same old, old intimacy fans know well. An arguable highlight of tonight ’s set was luring lullaby County Line, a song so Dylanesque you might almost mistake it for a cover (One of his many submissions to the fake Dylan couplet contest: “I feel so blind, I can’t make out the passing road signs.”). McComb’s subject is, in part, the distance between the thing you are and the thing you love, and he’s obsessed with the weird, floaty feeling of being adrift in someone else’s decade. Yet while his tracks have this Western, homely revivalism – a need to recall the simplistic life before the chaos of emotion and the complexities of modernity – his strum-andpick guitar style and his not-quite-hoarse voice make their own little place in the world, happily out of time. _JENNIFER PETERSON-WARD

Cass McCombs (Photo: Callum Ponton)


X-Press Magazine #1306  

Wednesday 22nd February, 2012