There’s an unrestrained swag about Ben Gibbard when he performs with the Postal Service. The looseness in his hips. The way he jerks his arms. The bounce in his step as he leans into Jenny Lewis’ guitar. It’s something you won’t see come Labor Day weekend, when Gibbard returns as the front man for Death Cab For Cutie.
Photography by Amber Zbitnoff
In some respects, it’s a little goofy. He’s a little too quirky, but still a little too stiff. But for another reason it works. Gibbard’s never been the type of suave front man you’d expect to see on stage, the guy with the pompadour hair and ass-kicking boots belting into the mike; that’s never been his thing. With Gibbard, it’s about the feelings and the lyrics and the precise way he delivers them: in a swell of emotion treading lightly over guitar strums and throbbing percussion.
That’s why seeing him play with Lewis, Laura Burhenn and Postal Service co-founder Jimmy Tamborello last night at Key Arena was such a treat. As mentioned in our cover story earlier this month, Postal Service introduced the idea of electronic beeps and indie rock working together to create a cohesive piece of awesomeness. It’s energetic and punchy and powerful, while remaining heartfelt. It’s a blend that many have tried to replicate in the ten years since the band’s only release, Give Up, was first released on Sub Pop Records. None have succeeded.
On stage last night, Gibbard was that pop superstar you’d never expect him to be — taking control of the stage with the mike in hand. It likely had to do with the fact that, for the first time in a long time, he seemed to be having fun.
Sure, his delivery is endearing in whatever project he fronts, but over Tamborello’s percolating electronic production there seems to be more life, more spontaneity, more vibrancy in the way he connects with these songs. Like its performance at the Sasquatch! Music Festival in the spring, the Postal Service’s performance at Key Arena was a nostalgia-fest for those who imbibe the Word of Gibbard, a friendly reminder of all those old feelings in the rawest form.
You couldn’t ignore the smile slapped across Gibbard’s face, the confidence in which he delivered each line of your favorite track — the playful way he jumped in the crowd toward the end of the set. You saw it again in his animated telling of “Clark Gable” and the sassy way he sparred with guest Jen Woods on “Nothing Better.” This is a different, more comfortable, much happier Gibbard than the one that last sang those Death Cab songs.
The culmination of it all is best described by the girl sobbing uncontrollably at the end of the show. She’s the one that so quickly fell in love with Give Up 10 years ago. And let the songs slowly shape her adolescent angst. More than that, let them define the way she loved and lost (with her whole, sappy heart). She’s crying because she said it’s over; she’ll never experience that perfectly happy music moment with the next boy she loves. She doesn’t know when she’ll see her favorite band perform these songs again. For all she knows, it could be another 10 years. Even scarier, it could be never again.
The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
We Will Become Silhouettes
Be Still My Heart
Our Secret – Beat Happening cover
This Place Is A Prison
There’s Never Enough Time
Tattered Line of String
Such Great Heights
(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan
Brand New Colony