The Postal Service took the stage at the Rose Garden Arena, starting the set with “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” the first song on their recently re-released and remastered album Give Up. Yes, it has been a decade since The Postal Service released their only album. As Ben Gibbard explained to a mixed crowd of just-out-of high-school kids, young families, and couples, the “pretend band” began as pieces of other projects.
Gibbard had met up with “intelligent dance music” artist Dntel (AKA Jimmy Tamborello; AKA “bleep, bloop” as he was introduced) and they experimented with tracks using discs like CD-RW (remember those?) and sent them back and forth through the old snail mail. Thus the name of the band, which caused a small tiff with the (actual) Postal Service (which was payed off in performance).
The talents of Rilo Kiley artist Jenny Lewis were also a part of the outfit, bringing clear feminine vocals, keys, and guitar, to temper the unrequited emotions of the songs. For this round of Give Up there is also the apparition of Mynabirds’s Laura Burhenn, who dings the xylophone and plays symphonic keys as well as providing supporting harmonies.
In their beginning, The Postal Service had only a small number of concerts, and Gibbard’s main focus became Death Cab for Cutie. This year marked a “let’s do it” attitude for Give Up, and they went all out to reunite and give fans a live version of their studio polished electronic elements. Their tour has included stops at the Coachella and Sasquatch festivals, and a revisit with Stephen Colbert made for another amusingly awkward interview between Colbert and Gibbard, and the band’s first televised performance.
The arena wasn’t packed and was relaxed, with only a few isolated pockets of dancing. The Postal Service’s stage presence was rounded, uniting to comfortably layer kicking electro-math beats with soft, acoustic pop poetry. Tamborello provides the low buzz backdrop, and the nerdy, still infectious arcade sounds of songs like “There’s Never Enough Time” translate well from the stage along with the sun and science light show. Ben Gibbard’s voice can sometimes start off a bit rattly on live performances, but this time he came on smooth, his voice a pitch of curious and saged. He likes to whip his mic cord and danced openly, including many swiveling “charleston” moves faced off with with front-girl (and somewhat New Girl) Lewis. Their covers included a fun rendition of Beat Connection’s “Our Secret”, and the more emotive version of Dntel’s “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan”, which began with eerie, muffled announcements.
The encore song of “Brand New Colony” opened up into Gibbard pounding the drums while Lewis walked across the stage anthem shredding and saluting each direction with her guitar. They ended quietly, coaxing the audience to harmonize acapella style with the lyrics “everything will change”.
Who knows if they will put out more new material together or in solo endeavors, but this was a reunion tour celebrating the not so distant past’s futuristic music.
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
A Tattered Line of String
Such Great Heights
(This Is) The Dream Of Evan And Chan (Dntel cover)
Brand New Colony
Words and Photos by Brandy Crowe