Death Cab for Cutie

Seattle indie stalwarts fail to light up St George's Market

‘No Moshing. No Crowdsurfing. You will be ejected,’ threatens a sign pinned to the rafters of St George’s Market, but tonight mild mannered indie quartet Dead Cab for Cutie are more likely to inspire civil servants than civil disobedience.

The Market’s a brave choice of venue for a Belfast debut by a Seattle band that has failed to repeat their stateside success – where they’ve won Grammy awards and gone platinum - across the Atlantic. But the organisers are rewarded for their daring by a moderate sized crowd that, despite the biting cold, remains in high spirits throughout.

Having successfully passed a decade bemoaning unrequited love and the (obvious, no?) fate of doomed relationships, Death Cab’s plaid shirted, floppy haired lead singer Ben Gibbard is showing no signs of brightening up just yet. ‘So this is the New Year/And I don’t feel any different’, he laments on second track of the night, ‘New Year’.

Tonight’s set is evenly split between old and new material but, time and again, it's the former that wins out. Here songs from their latest album, Narrow Stairs, suffer from a lack of punch and all too often slip comfortably into middle-of-the-road balladry.

‘Soul Meets Body’ might have the disproportionately teenage audience in raptures, but it fails to wake up from its mid-tempo Coldplay-esque slumber, while ‘I Will Follow You Into the Dark’ is a naff lighters aloft, soft rock moment – Gillard alone on the stage with just his guitar in - yes, you’ve guessed it - the dark.

The Market has the size and ambience of an authentic spit and sawdust urban rock venue – all concrete floors and dark corners. But for that it needs a proper rock band and, unfortunately, Death Cab don’t quite fit the bill. Set closer 'Transatlanticism', all lights flashing and guitar thrashing as Gillard rushes around the stage like a man who has unexpectedly come up on some Class As, is the closest they come to full on pyrotechnics, but it all feels too forced and too late.

Death Cab have the ability to produce moments of great indie pop - the giddy gush of ‘The Sound of Settling’ stands out - but like the ‘paper cuts from turning pages’ Gillard complains of on ‘That’s Incentive’, they lack the energy necessary to leave a serious mark. 

Peter Geoghegan