Studious indie-rock, sweaty Memphis soul, icy Scottish synth-pop and a youthful Kansas City area rock band were featured in an eclectic concert at Providence Amphitheater on Thursday. The 18,000-capacity venue was about half full for the audaciously varied bill assembled by radio station 96.5 The Buzz.
The indie-rock institution Death Cab For Cutie headlined the show. The Seattle band is led by Ben Gibbard, one of the most astute lyricists in popular music. His best songs provide penetrating insights into the secret intricacies of relationships and the neuroses of life in the 21st century.
Gibbard was in the mood to rock on Thursday. A few compositions that seem overly fastidious in their recorded versions were transformed into cacophonous diatribes. A reading of “The New Year” was given a punk edge while a spiky arrangement of “Company Calls” indicated that Gibbard and his four band mates weren’t inclined to replicate the politeness that characterizes much of Death Cab’s catalog.
A devastating reading of “Your Heart Is an Empty Room” was a dramatic outlier in the 80-minute set. Accompanied only by a keyboardist, Gibbard made a strong case that his composition should be considered an indispensable modern day torch song.
While Death Cab For Cutie took brash liberties with its songs, Chvrches played it straight. The Scottish trio crammed 13 songs from its two albums into a fulfilling 60-minute outing.
Chvrches is a pop-oriented continuation of the pioneering work of the electronic group Kraftwerk. Iain Cook and Martin Doherty were stationed at lecterns much like the ones employed by Kraftwerk as vocalist Lauren Mayberry roamed the stage like an ecstatic dervish. The sugary rush of “Keep You On My Side” and the burly thump of “Gun” were among the tracks that transformed the venue into an outdoor disco.
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats opened its rapturous 55-minute set with the Otis Redding-style rave-up “I Need Never Get Old.” Rateliff repeatedly told the audience that he grew up in Hermann, Mo., but he and his six-piece band focused on reviving the soulful sound associated with 1960s-era Memphis.
A rowdy version of the unsanctified gospel spoof “S.O.B.” amused the audience, but the transcendently hypnotic groove the band achieved on the insinuating “Shake” was the highlight of the evening.
Introduced as “the best thing to ever come out of Blue Valley High School,” the Greeting Committee opened the show with 30 minutes of breezy rock that was imbued with childlike enthusiasm.