Death Cab For Cutie


Ben Gibbard is modest with his ‘between-song’ banter tonight, but at one point the Death Cab frontman tells Manchester that this is their favourite city to play, adding that if that sounds like it’s made up, in this case it really isn’t. I believe him. I would believe him if he told me he wanted to marry me and have my babies which is, thinking about it, what I promised the Live Reviews editor of Silent Radio [that’s our business, Simon – ed.]… to get hold of a ticket for tonight’s sold-out gig.

Death Cab For Cutie… where have you been all my life? I have pretty elastic and eclectic music tastes covering everything from techno through to rock and out the other side, but I have come to realise I had a big blind spot in my musical knowledge, and it was Death Cab For Cutie-shaped. Last year’s album Thank You For Today was their ninth long player, in a career that dates back to 1997 and let’s face it… that’s a whole different millennium. Catching up with their considerable output, I was able to grab that one last on vinyl, and used the wonders of Spotify to digitally infill their back catalogue, particular favourites being We Have The Facts And We’re Voting Yes (2000), Plans (2005) and especially the perennially gorgeous Transatlanticism (2003). Listen to the title track of that album, with the lights down low, and it will melt your face.

So, to the Albert Hall. It’s looking lovingly faded, deliciously frayed around the edges and the perfect setting for a band like Death Cab, their kooky name from a Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah song (naturally). The place is packed tonight, and I take up a perfect position, perched on the balcony, near the back bar, close to both my date for the evening, and local Manchester musical characters who emerge and reveal themselves as Death Cab fans as though from the hidden crevices of the venue. We nod ‘ah… you too’s at one another at the bar, then return to the throng, the winter night held out by the grand stained glass windows of the hall, the band taking to the stage beneath the almost industrial pipes of the dormant organ.

The set begins, just like Thank You For Today, with the lush, swooning opening track ‘I Dreamt We Spoke Again’. For reasons both commercial and temporal, most of the tracks from that album, in fact, are peppered throughout the set. Indeed the next song is also the next track from the album, ‘Summer Years’, and ‘Gold Rush’, ‘Autumn Love’, ‘Northern Lights’, and ’60 & Punk’ all feature. This is a band in rude, cute health and Thank You For Today is as good as anything they’ve done before… an opinion perhaps reinforced by the fact that ‘When We Drive’, from that album, makes it straight into the encore, along with the track I – and perhaps all of us – were waiting for, ‘Transatlanticism’ – that concludes proceedings. Gibbard’s voice is light and lithe, and yet smooth and strong. The way he sings the lines “The rhythm of my footsteps crossing flatlands to your door / Have been silenced forevermore / The distance is quite simply much too far for me to row / It seems farther than ever before” is just beautiful. Utterly enchanting, the room pulled together, the balcony a cuddle of people.

The set is over, but not the night. Cutie hails a cab and we cross the flatlands… to another door.

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Simon is a writer, broadcaster and countercultural investigator. Over the last 15 years he has written for everyone from The Guardian to Loaded magazine, presented television for Rapture TV and hosted radio programs for the likes of Galaxy. He has also found time to earn a Masters Degree in Novel Writing and write three books (a collection of journalism, a guidebook to Ibiza and one on financial planning for young people – the most varied publishing career it’s possible to have) and establish and run a PR company, Pad Communications, looking after a range of leisure and lifestyle clients.He currently splits his time between researching his PhD at Leeds University, looking into various countercultural movements; consulting freelance for PR clients; writing for the likes of Marie Claire in Australia, The Big Issue and the Manchester Evening News, where he reviews concerts, theatre and is their Pub & Bar Editor. He is also broadcaster, appearing regularly on Tony Livesey’s late night 5Live show for the BBC, and also for BBC Radio Manchester Gourmet Night food and drink show.Simon’s main focus has been music and travel. His career has included editing Ministry of Sound’s magazine in Ibiza for two summers and also writing two long-running columns for DJmagazine – ”Around The World in 80 Clubs” (which took him everywhere from Beijing to Brazil, Moscow to Marrakech) and “Dispatches From The Wrong Side”. A collection of the latter was published in the UK and US as the book Discombobulated, including tales as varied as gatecrashing Kylie Minogue’s birthday party, getting deported from Russia, having a gun held to his head by celebrity gangster Dave Courtney and going raving in Ibiza with Judith Chalmers. He has recently written for the likes of Red magazine, Hotline, Clash, Tilllate, Shortlist and the Manchester Evening News. Pad Communications has recently consulted for clients as varied as Manchester nightclubs and New Zealand toy companies.On a personal note, Simon is a Londoner who left the capital at the age of 18 and never looked back. He sees himself as a citizen of the global dancefloor having lived in Sydney, Los Angeles, Ibiza and Amsterdam. However his life is now rather more sedentary. After all his adventures he bumped into and subsequently married his highschool sweetheart from their North London Grammar. They now live in Stockport with their four children and four chickens, trying to live the good life. Simon recently turned 40 and is steadfastly refusing to have a midlife crisis – as in, growing a ponytail and buying a shiny red sports car.OK, maybe he’ll buy the sports car…