As is often the case with rock musicians, the exact time and dates for a show are not as memorable as the vibe. Death Cab For Cutie front man Ben Gibbard recalls playing a place in Las Vegas some time ago.
“We played a theater in Las Vegas, it was like more of a punk-rock kind of theater,” Gibbard said during a phone chat Monday afternoon. “It was way off the Strip somewhere. We played with John Vanderslice and The Thermals. I think there were maybe 50 people at that show.”
Correct. We zeroed in on that performance, at Huntridge Theater in March 2003. Hella and The Velvet Teen also were on that bill.
Years later, having broken big with the 2005 platinum album “Plans” and eight Grammy nominations, Death Cab is back at 8 p.m. Wednesday, this time taking up the Chelsea at Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
Gibbard says he’s not so much a Vegas guy in the context of how we imagine tourists to the city. He doesn’t partake in gambling or late-night club frivolity.
“I’ve never been to Vegas for any reason other than us playing music,” Gibbard said. “I don’t mean any disrespect, but it’s just that I’m not a gambler. The spectacle of a casino experiences is a little overwhelming for me. So it’s never been something I’ve actively searched out. I kind of feel like it’s being on a safari, in a way, to a foreign land.”
But Gibbard is a passionate performer on familiar ground, a stage at a rock show.
“It’s been incredibly emotional for us,” Gibbard says of returning to live shows. “It’s been a year and a half since we were on a stage. I remember at some point, during the really deep throes of the pandemic — I should acknowledge that we are still in a pandemic — I remember what somebody in the band said, we are never going to complain about a show again. I think it’s given us all a perspective that we’re incredibly fortunate to do this for a living.”
Today, Gibbard is just about the average age of a Vegas tourist, 46.
“I think that the perception of Vegas has changed pretty dramatically over the last 20 years,” Gibbard said. “I don’t claim to know who is controlling this experience, who is the Oz behind this, but Vegas seems to have shifted its appeal to a younger demographic. It’s interesting to see and I like it.”
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.