Okay, I’ll be honest. When I got the message I’d been called up to review Death Cab For Cutie’s Manchester gig at Academy 1 at four hours’ notice, I could only have told you the name of one of their songs and probably hummed you the chorus if I tried. Having been in this situation before, I’m determined to try and do my research properly this time- I download the five Death Cab For Cutie albums my brother owns onto my iPod, call up all my friends who are fans hoping one of them will be free tonight to guide me through the gig, and even resolve, in the interests of professional journalism, to read their Wikipedia page.

Four hours later on the train, I’m on my own, I’ve forgotten the earphones for my iPod and realise I completely forgot about Wikipedia. By now professional journalism is clearly out of the window, so I decide I’ll take a different approach- come at the concert as a complete newcomer to the music of Death Cab for Cutie and try and create my own unbiased opinion of their music – if I get there on time.

Luckily when I arrive at the Academy, I spot two friendly faces, both of whom are massive fans of the band. To quote one of them, “If I don’t know the first song they play, I will be sick on your face.” I’m worried their enthusiasm (and my dislike of vomit) might affect my ‘unbiased view’ plan. Nonetheless, I’m going to try to be objective.

Support band ‘The Head and the Heart’ walk on stage with shakers, acoustic guitars, a fiddle and more than one sizable folk beard. Their huge Fleet Foxes style four-part harmonies and indie country sound fill the room. Violinist and singer Charity Thielen has an amazing energy, looking almost like she can barely keep her arms under control long enough to play the violin. Lots of instrument swapping and passing vocals between the whole band make for a brilliant performance.

Finally it’s time for Death Cab For Cutie to take to the stage (I couldn’t have missed it – one of my friends has been dutifully telling me exactly how many minutes before they come on every passing minute up to this point) and the lights dim to a wall of bass noise. Luckily my friend recognises first song, ‘The New Year’, and doesn’t vomit on my face- I am however instantly grabbed by the music. After a few songs I’m getting into the feel of things.

I’m slightly surprised by the crowd’s reaction, there’s barely a ripple throughout them, even across the front of the stage. It seems the two friends I found by chance are in fact the most enthusiastic Death Cab For Cutie fans here and are throwing themselves into the music. Actually forget that, the most enthusiastic people here must be the gang trying to start a mosh pit behind us. There are only three of them, so it doesn’t quite work. Nonetheless they keep trying. ‘This crowd is fucking boring!’ one of them shouts. They get irate looks from everyone around and quiet down a bit – it’s clearly not that kind of gig.

The crowd liven up for ‘Long Division’, singing along to the main riff and even jumping up and down a bit. With the effects guitarist, synth player and vocalist Chris Walla has on all the instruments he plays, it’s hard to tell exactly which one is producing the riff, especially when he seems to be playing all his instruments at the same time. Front man Ben Gibbard has the crowd completely in his grasp as he whips his guitar neck steadily back and forth like a metronome through the air. The rest of the band leave the stage midway through the set, leaving him to sing the one song I know, ‘I Will Follow You Into the Dark’, with the whole crowd singing along (except me, although I try and join in on the chorus) – some of them literally put their lighters in the air.

After an emotional few minutes the rest of the band re-take the stage to finish the two-hour set with more atmospheric rock. By the end of it, I’m completely exhausted, but I come out a Death Cab For Cutie fan.