I was at the very last show Anberlin ever had (until they get back together in their 50’s for “The Money Tour,” I called it here, post-dated in the element notes). The show was spectacular aside from the fact that the venue clearly broke fire codes. I have been to sold-out shows at the House of Blues. You could have been pressurized to death that evening.
The band closed with “Fin,” appropriately so, and it solidified the song as the de-facto epic of their career. Cities is an album of sugary saccharine pop jams, some surprisingly aggressive guitar licks given their overall aesthetic and career, and some of the best all-around songwriting the band has ever put to tape. But, it is the final two tracks that really seal the deal here. The record culminates in “Dismantle.Repair, which is an almost whimsically eerie penultimate tune on a record that felt like a lead up to it. Yet, it is the staggering scale of “Fin” that elevates Cities from being a solid alternative rock album to a borderline classic in a movement of music they never particularly belonged to anyway. Add in “The Unwinding Cable Car,” and it is no surprise fans still herald Cities as the band’s crowning achievement. It is also their latest blatant stab at “normal” music (if you forgive New Surrender) where the band tinkered with their sound in experimental avenues for the remainder of their career.
The last show sparked a tear in my eye. It was the death of something, weirdly enough, and has stuck with me for years following. Anberlin managed to do something nearly unheard of. They got out on their own terms, and they stared at some kind of musical form of death and embraced it. By doing so, they took away a modicum of fear from it all.