14 Jun 2013: Barclays Center New York
Consider the Postal Service’s album Give Up as a game of telephone. Since its debut, the original statement made by Give Up had been getting diluted with the passing years. The synthpop album inspired imitators like Owl City, Hellogoodbye and others, some of which may have been more commercial but none as equally adored by the indie crowd though they were close in sound (I frequently thought Owl City’s “Fireflies” was by The Postal Service). For a band that had gone on only one tour and had not made any overtures of producing a follow-up album, it could have resulted in the Postal Service becoming a relic of a bygone era like say… well I’ll let you figure that analogy out. But, the band was never forgotten, they continued to be adored and their small indie album grew into a commercial success, selling over one million copies. And to negate any dissolution of the message, Give Up was recently reissued in an expanded ten year anniversary set. In support of that re-release, Jimmy Tamborello (Dntel) and Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) committed to a new Postal Service arena-size tour with Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley) and Laura Burhenn (the Mynabirds) tagging along to flesh out the band.
The first night of the two New York shows at the Barclays Center, with openers Mates of State, was sold out. Gibbard recognized the irony that adhered to the band becoming large-arena caliber when he shared this tip for other artists, “Let this be a lesson to all you musicians out there. You make a record. You don’t do anything for ten years. You end up playing at Barclays. It’s really simple.” The four piece band performed on what appeared to be an abbreviated Barclays stage, by design, adorned with eight-bit light bars and beads. Tamborello remaining set back behind his mixing board and computers for the most part and Burhenn was more often on the edges, while Gibbard and Lewis led the show over the 70-plus-minute performance.
The set began slowly with “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”—as Tamborello built up the layers of atmosphere and Gibbard’s lyrical voice grew more confident, the guitar enters to propel things forward. Though a lot of people remained glued in their seats, if they had one, the best known anthems got them up on their feet and the second song “We Will Become Silhouettes” was one of those. The latter half of the main set felt more rock oriented than the first, though the entire set favored dancing rather than headbanging as the Give Up material relies on synths. The Postal Service included a cover of Beat Happening’s “Our Secret”, but for the most part performed their material relatively straightforwardly. Immediately recognizable sonic squelches, filling the arena as an ambulance siren would, kicked off “Clark Gable”, to much applause. Though it was the most “commercial” hit, “Such Great Heights”, having been featured in prime time TV shows, that received the biggest applause. As the percussive hits receded, the air opened up for Tamborello to build the sonicscape of “Natural Anthem” and Gibbard thanked the audience and the openers. It was too soon to end the evening though and the band came back to perform the Dntel track “This Is the Dream of Evan and Chan”, the song that essentially birthed the band as it was the first collaboration between the two. With the crowd still up on their feet from applauding, dancing continued, though the evening was over for real not long after. The only way the Postal Service can interpret that message is that their fans are yearning for something new.
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
Brand New Colony
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