| Article By Cindy James on Jul 24, 2003 |
Something For Kate/Death Cab For Cutie
The Metro Theatre Sydney
By Scott Gallen
The awe of the Fugazi film ‘Instrument’, kept me from arriving on time to view the opening act, Starboard. But from all reports, the crowd that had assembled early enjoyed their set.
Death Cab For Cutie is a band from Seattle, who I assume popped up after the grunge revolution took a backward seat to commercial punk rock. I suspect some of the crowd, who looked like extra’s from the 1996 Seattle music scene documentary, ‘Hype’ were expecting something closer to Kurt Cobain then what they got.
Not having ever heard of Death Cab For Cutie before this tour, the slate was clear. While I will not be rushing out to buy their albums, those in the know quite enjoyed their set.
When one knows nothing about a band, it is best to gauge the reaction of those who do. While such an observation may lead to accusations of bands infallibility among its audience, the fans of Death Cab were greeted the end of each song with rapturous applause, and treated the performance as something more then ‘just another fucking gig’ (Bette Davis). On stage, the band were in good humour, and actually looked pleased to be here. Upon completion of their set, the act received an elongated applause. Apparently, their solo show at the Annandale the following night sold out, so obviously they made an impression. Selling out the Annandale is an achievement for a well known band, so for a virtually unknown act to do it means they must have hit the right nerves.
In a winter of discontent, Something For Kate has arrived to play. I will begin by announcing that I have always believed Paul Dempsey to be the most influential songwriter in this country. Dempsey transcends all labels and tags. But, this was not the best SFK gig I have seen. While they have gotten over their ‘live schizophrenia’ (Sometimes they are brilliant, sometimes they have been downright shocking), tonight was a gig which demonstrated a band ‘in transition’. The last time we saw them in full band mode was on the Livid festival, where they played a ‘best of set’. Tonight, SFK aired many of the new tunes, which will make up their fourth release, ‘Fiction Media’. Something For Kate judging by the new songs (and we must remember, this is a tour to road test the new songs, more so then a hits and memories parade) have stepped ‘away from the edge’ both metaphorically and physically.
One of the criticisms ‘mainstream radio’ (bleeeuuugghhh) have always had of the group is that their songs are difficult (a reason why some of us adore them). The new songs are finely crafted. The new songs are indeed, not as difficult to digest. While this saddens me a little, the old world is behind us, and clearly Dempsey is not running for it, seeking a new direction in an era of retro rock. Also, the lyrics, as anyone who saw Dempsey perform in the little acoustic space at Homebake 02 will testify to, address many issues of the state of our contemporary planet. (Dempsey actually spoke at length about what some of the new songs are about at the Homebake gig). Perhaps he has realised that the most important act he can contribute now as a writer is to get these issues into the public conscience, and by stripping out the ‘difficult’ element of the music, he has a better chance of achieving this objective.
Performance wise, Stephanie, Pip and Clint have become a more effective rhythm section (Clint has to be a drumming machine in the mode of Keith Moon). Dempsey was in fine voice. Of course, when watching Something For Kate, we are not getting windmill guitar playing and leaps off amp stacks, we get a brooding set highlighted more by what you the audience doesn’t get but what it senses through the painful emotion of the songs.
The set was peppered with old favourites such as ‘Seasick’, ‘The Astronaut’, ‘Anarchitect’ (Which received a rapturous applause) and ‘Say Something’. The set also included a short solo acoustic spot, where Paul treated the audience to a wonderful cover, ‘Truly’ (Which any SFK fan will label the highlight of all their shows if the song is performed)
Overall, while this was not the greatest gig of all time. Something For Kate have demonstrated they will ‘maintain the rage’. As the group grows more comfortable with performing the new songs live, the next tour will be better.
One thing before I close, for all long term SFK fans at the gig, how annoying is it to have to stand next to some Supre reject in Ugh boots, who at the end of every tune mutters “Oh, I hope they play Monsters next”. I had such a ‘pleasure’ at this show.