Death Cab for Cutie and Jenny Lewis Gave Portland the Sweetest Sense of Nostalgia


Even though June 11th started with pouring rain, by the time 6 pm rolled around, it was beautifully sunny. Certainly sunny enough for the great migration of Thompson’s Point to occur: hundreds of people carrying lawn chairs and blankets and backpacks, pushing through the gates to attend the second outdoor concert of the summer season. The night was set up to be a special one, as residents of Portland, Maine were getting the privilege of watching renowned indie band Death Cab for Cutie play on their biggest stage.

Opener Jenny Lewis started off the night strong. She emerged onto the stage in the most beautiful sparkling pink dress with shining spectacles to match. The lighting was simple – no dramatic nighttime effects yet – allowing both her presence and her voice to shine. The entire set was lovely, Jenny Lewis captivating the ever growing crowd with both covers and original songs, but two in particular stood out to me: the cover of Rilo Kiley’s “Silver Lining” and her own “Just One of the Guys.” On both these songs, it felt like the whole crowd was singing along. Those that knew the songs were belting out the lyrics with confidence, and those that didn’t were able to pick up on the words and join in by the end. She ended the set with “On The Line,” the second to last song on her newest album. A mix of sad and happy, annoyed and resigned, it set up the melancholy feel for the next set perfectly.

Approximately thirty minutes after the last note of “On The Line” rang out, Death Cab for Cutie took stage. It didn’t begin with dramatic lighting, nor did it start with thundering sounds. Instead, four men in black (and one in gray) took the stage and moved quickly into a song from their newest album. “I Dreamt We Spoke Again” set the same tone as Jenny Lewis’ last song did – sad but sweet, longing with a sense of finality, the tune captured the feeling of wishing for something long gone. This embedded sense of nostalgia spoke greatly to the crowd of mixed ages, many of whom listened to Death Cab for Cutie as they were growing up.

Death Cab for Cutie skipped around their discography with ease, evoking the right emotions at the right time. The slowly building, bass heavy “I Will Possess Your Heart” from 2008 was followed by the sadder and more dreamlike “You Moved Away” from 2019. The heart hurting “Cath…” from 2008 preceeded the lovingly transcendent “Soul Meets Body” from 2005, which preceded set ending “The Sound of Settling” from 2003. This upbeat tune left the crowd wanting more, and thus began the cheers for the encore.

I was fortunate to be with friends for the majority of the concert, and so I got to witness first hand the effect of the songs on people I knew. Sometimes stoic faces morphed into gleeful ones at the first notes of every song they knew, and often calm bodies were dancing with delight, even during the songs you wouldn’t expect. This was clearest at the beginning of the three song encore. The lead singer took the stage alone. Guitar in hand and spotlights shining, he began “I Will Follow You Into The Dark.” From the crowd’s response, you would have thought he’d started a classic rock song. Massive amounts of cheering rose, even as the song continued in its somber tone. If you knew Death Cab For Cutie, you knew this tune, and there were certainly people who had been waiting for this moment all night. The cheering started anew once the song finished, and the crowd happily took in the remaining numbers that included the full band.

First came The Postal Service cover “Nothing Better,” for which Jenny Lewis came back onto the stage. Lastly, slow and steady song “Transatlanticism” played. It was a bold move to leave the crowd with something sad, but it felt right. So often these songs had been there for us in our youth, and while we appreciate the joy in the upbeat tunes, it was often these songs meant for swaying that truly captivated us. When the song ended, the crowd stood still for a few seconds, as if they couldn’t believe it was truly over. When people did move, it was a slow shuffle, like no one wanted to leave. The repeating refrain of “I need you so much closer” was more than just a lyric – it was a vocal desire to bridge the gap with the people around us, and when people left, they left with the desire to connect with the world around them one song at a time.


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