Phoenix/WFNX Best Music Poll 2008

Passion Pit, Eli "Paperboy" Reed, Bob Mould, Amanda Palmer, the Presidents of the United States of America, and Death Cab for Cutie at Bank of America Pavilion, May 10
By DANIEL BROCKMAN  |  May 14, 2008

“You guys are troupers!” mused Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard Saturday as he bounded onto the stage to kick off their headlining set. And he wasn’t under any illusions about doing a USO gig — it was freaking cold.

The festivities had begun hours earlier, with energetic odes from local creative anachronists Passion Pit and Eli “Paperboy” Reed to, respectively, the ’80s and the ’50s. This was followed by ex–Hüsker Dü/Sugar frontman Bob Mould, who bashed through a set of mostly new tunes as though he were backed by a really killer backing band. Which he wasn’t, since this was a solo electric gig.

Amanda Palmer serenaded us with a ukulele version of Radiohead’s “Creep,” really emphasizing the lines “What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here.” As if! Her adoring fans live for this kind of drama, and once she sat down at her trusty Kurzweil, she had the audience in her palm while introducing tunes from her not-yet-released solo debut. Fellow Dresden Doll Brian Viglione leaped on stage to play guitar on the set’s closer, an ecstatic rendering of the Neutral Milk Hotel classic “Two-Headed Boy.”

The Presidents of the United States of America elicited the first legitimate audience-thrown devil horns of the day — which makes sense because they’ve been transmogrifying ’70s hard-rock conventions into Nerf-ball child’s play since the mid ’90s. Lead dude Chris Ballew channeled an Adrian-Belew-hosting-Blue’s-Clues vibe, and much pogoing did ensue.

Death Cab came on at the magic hour and were intense and epic: their ambiguously anthemic drive notched up the drama without taking the cheap way out, and Ben Gibbard was a blur of motion and energy. I never realized how much he evokes, at his top-dollar best, the well-mannered prep-school romanticism of Mission of Burma’s Clint Conley–sung tunes. “I need you so much closer” indeed: the mantra-like repetition of the set closer, “Transatlanticism,” was taken to heart as the crowd shuffled out into the night, everybody huddling together for warmth.

Related: Death Cab for Cutie and Franz Ferdinand, Interview: Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit, Gorillaz in the midst, More more >
  Topics: Live Reviews , Radiohead, Mission of Burma, Clint Conley,  More more >
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