Postal Service - Bowery Ballroom, April 19th 2003 Death Cab + Dntel + Rilo Kiley = Great Show, Lame Subtitle
Ben Gibbard sounds like he would be a real depressing schlep to hang out with.
Over five years and five releases, Death Cab for Cutie has composed some of the best mellow-downer-guitar-driven indie-rock in all of Portland (which is the equivalent in controversy as naming the best all-time New York Yankee). With brilliantly solemn and introspective lyrics, one would think Gibbard to be along the lines of Conor Oberst, a quasi-tortured genius - just a high-emotion, low-energy and fidgety taciturn.
In collaboration with Dntel’s Jimmy Tamborello, Gibbard’s demeanor and narrative in the Postal Service is just the opposite. Driven by ambient synthsounds, electronic beats, and Gibbard’s whimsical vocals and guitar work, the two-piece molded a nearly perfect albumsworth of material, both pop and interesting (terms that are usually mutually exclusive) – and one of the main reasons that the Sub Pop label is experiencing a renaissance.
Joined on stage by Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley, the Postal Service’s early show at Bowery Ballroom had all the emotion of a late night concert and all the giddy looseness of an afternoon gathering. Opening with an additional two unreleased tracks, the threepiece fed the very young audience (16 and over? at Bowery?) the majority of their debut album backed by a colorful projection screen and occasional fits of dancing by Gibbard and Lewis.
There was something very 1980s about their performance. Maybe it was because I was shocked about how non-depressing the music and the performance were that it seemed all the more upbeat. Gibbard often put his guitar down in favor of pounding out additional beats on a full drum kit during a few of the tunes. In moment of truly abstract comedy, the Postal Service encored with Phil Collins’ Against All Odds while showing clips of the movie on the backdrop. I was totally wrong about this guy.
Although I am sure the late show got to see a little more stage time, the Postal Service put on an incredibly impressive show – making pop and electronic beats cool again to the indie-world. It would be crime to leave this only as a side project, and if Rilo Kiley wouldn’t mind donating Jenny Lewis to the band on a full-time basis, the Postal Service could end up being the reason those three finally get their due.