REVIEW: Death Cab for Cutie @ Birmingham Ballroom 18/11/11

Words by Ceri Black

Washington’s Death Cab for Cutie are veterans of the indie-pop scene, having released their first album – ‘Something About Airplanes’ in 1998 and reaching the US number one spot with ‘Narrow Stairs’ in 2008.

Tonight the Birmingham Ballroom was their host. After being rebranded and unveiled earlier this year, the BBallroom appears to have kept some of the original features from the Academy days; sticky floors, toilets that flood, terrible bar service, and the rough, dirty charm it has always had.

Whilst standing in the sea of Ben Gibbard look-a-likes, awaiting the band to come on, I couldn’t help but think Death Cab belonged in a more refined venue. Their lyrics are too delicate, too sensitive for such a cavernous room and I wondered how Gibbard would fill it.

I was, however, proved wrong almost immediately. Opening with the track ‘Bend to Squares’ the crowd were eased into what would be one of the most luminous, even emotional sets I have had the pleasure of experiencing.

Lead singer Ben Gibbard is beyond talented. He has a voice that hypnotised everyone in the room and demands to be listened to. Combined with some fairly odd behaviour on stage, all eyes were on Gibbard for the full hour and a half set. I felt a range of emotions, ranging from a little bored during tracks off their new album, ‘Codes and Keys’, to complete emotional breakdown. The later happened twice. Once during an extended version of ‘We Looked Like Giants’, which had Gibbard take to the drums in an almost indescribably atmospheric ten minutes.

The second was during the final song of the night. ‘Transatlanticism’ has always been one of my favourite Death Cab tracks, so maybe I’m being a little biased, but the band gave it everything; beautiful guitar riffs, mighty drum solos, and complete, heartfelt vocals to make this an overwhelming performance. When the lights came up I turned to the person next to me and simply said, “amazing”.

Death Cab for Cutie have earned their place in Indie hierarchy, and with their almost shy, definitely geeky front man, they seem to set to continue for a long time coming.

Codes and Keys is available now, for more info on Death Cab for Cutie visit

For further info on the Birmingham Ballroom visit