The Postal Service at Red Rocks, 5/30/13
"We had to cancel last night because I lost my voice, but I've got it back, kinda sorta," Ben Gibbard told a packed house last night at Red Rocks, referring to scrapping the previous night's gig in Salt Lake City. "And by kinda sorta I mean this will be kind of a like Tom Waits does Postal Service kind of night."
Of course even if he had swallowed a sheet of forty-grit sandpaper, a nugget of coal and some rusty nails, he'd still be hard to pressed to get anywhere near the gravel of Waits, but the sentiment from the Postal Service frontman was funny and duly noted, and as it turned out, Gibbard actually sounded pretty good for the most part.
Maybe it was the constant sips of tea between songs, but Gibbard seemed to have no problem running through a good part of the hour-and-twenty-minute set, which included Give Up in its entirety plus a few new songs included on the tenth anniversary edition of the disc, which was released last month, along with a few covers.
Gibbard sounded especially good early in the set on the opener, "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight," and "We Will Become Silhouettes," which had Gibbard switching from guitar to drum kit near the end of the cut, and then he reeled it in a bit on "Sleeping In." Manning two laptops, Jimmy Tamborello laid down the meat of the programmed songs, while Jenny Lewis added some gorgeous vocals to the mix.
She sounded great on "Be Still My Heart" and "Nothing Better," where she traded off verses with Gibbard. Throughout the set, Lewis also played electric and acoustic guitars and the occasional electronic drum. Mynabirds' Laura Burhenn, who joined the group for this tenth anniversary tour of Give Up, also proved to be an integral part of the set on keyboard, vibraphone and background vocals.
Just as Gibbard commanded the stage with Death Cab for Cutie at Red Rocks in recent years, the frontman turned in an equally compelling set with the Postal Service; his voice works notably well in both contexts. On "A Tattered Line of String," one of the newer cuts, Gibbard sounded surprisingly similar to the Pet Shop Boys' singer Neil Tennant, especially on the choruses.
Gibbard, meanwhile, had another bygone band on his mind. "This is the greatest band that ever lived," he said, before launching into Beat Happening's "Our Secret." With Lewis playing a tom-heavy beat and Tamborello adding laptop flourishes, the tune sounded somewhere between Velvet Underground and New Order, while still paying homage to the lo-fi original.
While the crowd ate up the band's hit "Such Great Heights" near the end of the set, "Natural Anthem," with its frenetic drums, packed much more of a visceral punch. Just before going into the Dntel cover of "(This is) The Dream of Evan and Chan," Gibbard thanked a doctor in Salt Lake City for getting his voice treatment started and our own William "Buzz" Reifman in Denver for taking him over the finish line, and he dedicated the song to both of them.
The band closed out the night with "Brand New Colony," which Gibbard played drums on about halfway through the tune. Near the end of song, Lewis, Gibbard and Burhenn sang a cappella, "Everything will change, ooh, ooh" (save for a lone synth line) along with the crowd. As Gibbard thanked the audience once more before leaving the stage, his voice indeed sounded a bit scratchier than when he started, but it was still nowhere near Tom Waits.
Personal Bias: Kudos to Gibbard for motoring through the set although his voice might not have been top form.
Random Detail: Strangely enough, there were a few tie-dye shirts that seemed out of place among a sea of thick-framed glasses.
By the Way: New York's Ra Ra Riot, playing its first gig with the Postal Service, delivered an energetic and buoyant set culled from its last three albums.
The Postal Service
Red Rocks Amphitheatre - 5/30/13
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
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