Concert Reviews

Last Night: Ben Gibbard Interviewed by Blonde-Highlights McTeeth @ The Filmore

Ben Gibbard at MGD's "The Craft" September 10, 2007 Better Than: Not seeing Ben Gibbard play at all, but just barely.

Like the smell of freshly laid carpet. Or the pungent odor of melting polyvinyl chloride mixed with smugfuckness. That’s what my mouth tasted like after tonight’s Ben Gibbard show at the Fillmore Auditorium, a show entitled The Craft, presented by Miller Genuine Draft and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This toxic taste wasn’t just to blame on the three-plus cold-filtered Miller Genuine Drafts that the two- or-three-hundred invite-only fans in attendance were treated to (read: forced to), but mostly because of Warren Zanes, the long-winded blowhard (and Vice President of Education at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum) who interviewed one of indie rock’s most prolific singer-songwriters. Why was Blonde-Highlights McTeeth so terrible? Because he broke the cardinal rule of rock journalism, over and over and over and over and over, again: Don’t talk about yourself. Also: Do some fucking research, which means don’t ask questions like, “Is Elliot Smith someone who was important to you,” and “So what’s [Death Cab for Cutie’s] process – you, like, sitting with an acoustic guitar and everyone else sitting around you?”

Jesus. Christ.

Over the course of ninety painful minutes (during which none of the twelve-to-fifteen friends who accompanied me hesitated to use the bathroom, grab a smoke, or just leave early), Gibbard somehow (read: miraculously) managed to play SIX songs (set list below) between Zanes’ idiotic questioning and self-righteous pontificating. Sure, Gibbard squeezed in a few explanations and musical extrapolations, edge-wise, but fifteen minutes (maybe less) of acoustic performing out of ninety? Really? Good luck, MGD, with your future sales of “Host Warren Zanes Talks About Himself For Ninety Minutes While Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie!!! and the Postal Service!!!) Watches!

What’s so tragic about all this, is that I actually, honestly, truly, deeply wanted to be here, to watch one of my favorite songwriters (since I was seventeen) perform and talk shop. And while Gibbard deftly attempted to make amends at the end of the show by playing three straight to close out the night, something still smelled rotten.

Maybe it was the Meet-&-Greet passes that I scored from an MGD girl while smoking (and bitching) during the tail end of Zanes’s interview of himself. Meet and greet Ben? Gibbard? OK, MGD girl, we’ll play along with your last-minute bribe. But not when it means a ten-second receiving line reminiscent of an over-invited wedding reception — one in which Gibbard refuses to give hugs and clearly forges his own signature. Oh hi, Ben! Goodbye, Ben! “Now leave,” says the MGD rep.

Fuck you MGD.

Fuck you Warren Zanes.

I’m sorry, Ben. That you were brought to Denver for this. That you were so nervous, even though it turned out Zanes did all the talking. I thought it was funny when you referred to the new Postal Service record as the “inde-rock Chinese Democracy, and when you blamed growing up on the Cure for why you don’t write anthemic choruses – “I always thought you write a verse, you write a verse, you write a verse, you write a change and you’re done.” I wish you could have said more.

And I would have given just about anything to hear you play “Carolina” from the Home, Vol. 5 split with Andrew Kenny or “Styrofoam Cups” from The Photo Album. Maybe next time. -- Drew Bixby

Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: I’m feeling so crushed, I think, because I really did come of age with Ben Gibbard’s music — first as a high-schooler, then a college student and finally a young adult — and part of me just felt betrayed. Random Detail: At one point during the set, I was scolded by two hipsters in front of me for vocalizing my frustration. “You’re just being rude,” they snarled at me, “while Ben’s pouring his heart out.” No, ladies. That’s not what was happening. By the Way: The line “You can deck out a lie in a suit, I won’t buy it” from “Styrofoam Plates” (my favorite DCFC song) seems to really sum up my feelings for Zanes (who wore a gaudy red-and-black suit) and the night in general.

Set List: 1.“Brand New Colony” The Postal Service 2.“Title and Registration” Death Cab for Cutie 3.“You Remind Me of Home” Solo Split with Andrew Kenny 4.“Photobooth” Death Cab for Cutie 5.“405” Death Cab for Cutie 6.“I Will Follow You Into the Dark” Death Cab for Cutie 7.“The Sound of Settling” Death Cab for Cutie 8.“Silver Lining” Cover of Rilo Kiley 9.“We Will Become Silhouettes” The Postal Service

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Sean Cronin