Death Cab for Cutie and Franz Ferdinand

Nothing in common
By CARLY CARIOLI  |  April 15, 2006

SOFT INDIE ROCK Death Cab's collection of pleasant songs performed competently made for a passable evening's entertainment.Anyone expecting even a hint of rivalry would have been disappointed. You hoped for some barely perceptible slight, some strategic taping-off of the soundboard, something to spark a cross-Atlantic rivalry between “co-headlining” tour mates Franz Ferdinand and Death Cab for Cutie, who otherwise have little in common — save whatever you’d call the college-rock equivalent of ticking biological clocks. But last Thursday at Agganis Arena, Death Cab, second among equals, politely saluted “the dancing, prancing Franz Ferdinand,” as Ben Gibbard called them. Franz’s leering sideshow barker of a frontman, Alex Kapranos, later dedicated a song to “those beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful men in Death Cab for Cutie.” So much for a story line.

Refugees from the heady days of 2003, when it seemed indie rock might have a future on the bricks-and-mortar pop charts, Franz and Death Cab are currently sharing space on a concert poster featuring an emo-like Band-Aid heart and a MySpace logo. The tour appears designed to be the ultimate first-date concert, and to judge by the turnout — a sold-out audience of almost exclusively college students — they’ve succeeded. As a collection of pleasant songs performed competently, it made for a passable evening’s entertainment. Gibbard’s biggest hit, at least in Boston, is the Postal Service’s glitch-pop anthem “Such Great Heights.” Death Cab’s set drew heavily from their Atlantic debut, Plans, which doesn’t have anything that soaring. Live, the band delivered the disc’s down-tempo ambiance with a stiff upper lip, or at least a martial-snare backbone. But the defining traits were rounded-smooth corners, muted piano, and Gibbard’s impeccably enunciated bedtime tenor. By design, it’s the “melody softly soaring” celebrated in their single “Soul Meets Body”; it is also indie rock without the jostle and scrape, and at times I found myself wondering what Bruce Hornsby is up to these days.

I’m still not convinced anyone really loves Franz Ferdinand’s second album, but their fans have not yet gotten over the first one. Stamping their pegged-trouser’d legs in time, tattooing the beat into the stage, Kapranos and his guitar-scraping foil, Nicholas McCarthy, shouted out T.T.’s and — wait for the bit torrent — debuted “Lindsey Wells” for the first time in the US. Between deep-throated come-ons, Alex invited the kids down front for what must surely have been the mildest stage rush in history; the reverse back up the aisles came shortly after a better-than-obligatory run through “Take Me Out,” well before the curtain fell.
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