Death Cab for Cutie have been around since the very late 90’s and have earned themselves a loyal fanbase with their incredibly touching, honest, sometimes witty tunes that have the ability to really speak to people.

In no uncertain terms this band has been my soundtrack to this year. Being very kindly given 2005’s ‘Plans’ at Christmas, I have gradually worked my way through the Seattle band's back catalogue, becoming increasingly frustrated with myself at how long it’s taken for me to discover them. I did find myself saying "Have they written any bad songs ?" when listening to their earlier work and with their latest album ‘Narrow Stairs’ they have done nothing to persuade me otherwise.

They open their set with the song that starts off that said album, ‘Bixby Canyon Bridge’, which works just as well live and begins sounding very understated then builds and builds until everything kicks in. From this they go to one of their best known and most life affirming songs, ‘New Year’, which gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.

The first thing that strikes me within the first two songs is how pitch perfect guitarist/pianist/vocalist/genius Ben Gibbard's voice is. Sounding as clean and stunning as on record the polite yet understated frontman offers plenty of “Great to be here in Manchester” talk throughout, but for the most part lets the music do all the talking.

The majority of the material in the set comes from the last three albums, 'Transatlanticism', 'Plans' and 'Narrow Stairs', but there are a few of the older songs thrown in for good measure including the anti-LA anthem ‘Why You’d Want to Live Here’ which arrives pretty early in the set much to the crowd's pleasure.

A few more songs on and the lights dim further and we’re treated to a spotlight Gibbard playing a solo rendition of ‘I Will Follow You into the Dark’ which receives a fantastic reception and hushed sing-a-long from the crowd all of whom are mouthing every word along with him.

This is followed superbly with the slow burning first single from ‘Narrow Stairs’ – ‘I Will Possess Your Heart’. This is yet another of many highlights. As with many of the songs they leave enough of a gap between songs with an odd sound ringing out so people are figuring out what is coming next before the songs properly start. As soon as the unmistakable bass line, however, kicks in the room is up. For an 8 minute song it has a great knack of not becoming boring at any stage as it builds and builds, another testament to how tight musically this band really are.

They don’t drop a note or make a sound out of place through the whole set yet manage to convey the songs with enough energy so you don’t feel like you may as well have stayed at home and just listened to the album.

A very brief break for an encore follows the superb ‘Sound of Settling’ which is one of the band's most commercially successful sounds. To wrap up the set they play two of the favourites from ‘Transatlanticism’, Tiny Vessels’ which leads through into the title track from the album as it also does on record. This beautiful song of longing seems in some ways a strange way to end such a glorious set as it’s not the cheeriest of songs, but this is far out weighed by how moving the song is which again builds and builds. It is the perfect way to end the show.

At so many points throughout this gig I found myself smiling at a moment that would forever remind me of this period of my life. For me there is something magical about this band and the songs they make and I’m sure the vast majority of others in attendance would tell you something similar.

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Commenting On: Apollo, Manchester, 16/7/2008 - Death Cab for Cutie

ie London, England

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