Death Cab for Cutie
Academy 1, Manchester
Monday July 4th, 2011
Ben Gibbard describes tonight’s venue as being like a microwave. He’s talking about the heat, but the unimaginatively dull void that is the Academy 1 is about as appealing as being in a microwave. I guess it might smell worse, but at least the sound is better.
He’s in Manchester with Death Cab for Cutie because they’re touring the lacking-something, awkward-to-get-into-but-kicks-in-at-track-five new record Codes and Keys. Tonight some of those harder-to-crack tracks such as the insipid ‘Doors Unlocked and Open’ and the title track itself sound much improved given the live treatment. However, the Washington four-piece’s breakthrough long-player Transatlanticism still casts an enormous shadow over everything they do, with opener ‘The New Year’ and the title track book ending tonight’s performance. New material is delayed for sometime after the set begins, with fan favourites (‘Crooked Teeth’) and oldies (‘Why You’d Want to Live Here’, ‘Photobooth’, ‘Company Calls’) being aired. However, killers tunes such as ‘Some Boys’, ‘Underneath the Sycamore’ and the infectious single ‘You Are a Tourist’ still prove that they can cut it.
Predictably everyone goes crazy for ‘I Will Follow You Into The Dark’. Personally, I go crazy for ‘A Movie Script Ending’, ‘Cath…’ and a fantastic encore performance of ‘Marching Bands of Manhattan’. This is the finest show I’ve seen them give and they play a near-perfect set. Married life offers happier, brighter moments in ‘Stay Young, Go Dancing’, but Ben Gibbard’s edges haven’t been too softened – he still has plenty of grit and resolve when singing lines like "# Now we all know the words were true in the sappiest songs #".
Gibbard has the annoyingly-good knack of communicating meaning in a well-written way that avoids being clichéd or too abstract. They are a fine band with the ability to craft fine pop melodies in a simplistic way that others try so hard to do, and Death Cab for Cutie are firing on all cylinders tonight.
words: Ste Grindrod