Reviews of shows I've been to (and maybe you have too!)

The Postal Service @ Merriweather Post Pavilion (6/18/13)

How do you qualify as a “band”? Do you need to produce a steady stream of recordings, a musical legacy that will last throughout the ages? How about engaging in constant touring, establishing a fan base in cities around the world? At the most minimal level, you should at least be required to have publicity shots, right? I ask because, given the standard definitions, I’m not sure that The Postal Service actually meet the requirements. So what was I watching at Merriweather Post Pavilion on a soggy night in June? And if I enjoyed it, how do I express my interest as a fan?

Postal Service ticketTouring on the 10 year anniversary of their lone album, “Give Up,” the group affected a seamless interplay that made it seem like they had played together for years, rather than being created in the studio. The energy in the arena was palpable, thanks in large part to Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard, who spent the night jumping between singing, dueling guitars with Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis, and manning the drum kit. His frenetic movement was offset by the cool demeanor of computer wiz Jimmy Tambarello, manning the controls, Daft-Punk style, from the rear of the stage. Musically, the multi-instrumental setup allowed for amazingly faithful recreations of the album’s carefully crafted songs. Every opening note was met with a loud cheer; every song was performed with impeccably synchrony, as Lewis, Gibbard and additional musician Jen Wood harmonized to perfection. The only mis-step was a weak cover of Sub Pop label-mate Beat Happening’s “Our Secret” (Gibbard’s high-pitched emo voice is a poor substitute for Calvin Johnson’s earthy baritone). For me, the highlight of the night was the pleasant surprise of finally discovering the identity of the song “Such Great Heights,” whose infectious groove had implanted itself in my brain years ago, without a trace of its author.

Necessarily limited by their scant catalogue, the brisk show nevertheless caused an amazing outpouring of devotion from the crowd, satisfying years of longing while also leaving everyone wishing for more. Perhaps it is this limited quantity that places The Postal Service in such high regard. Would a subsequent recording be able to recreate the magic of the first album? Will the rapturous response from the crowd inspire future collaborations? Maybe. For now, it’s enough to just enjoy The Postal Service for what they are. Whatever that is.

PS- I would be remiss to leave out mention of opening act Ra Ra Riot, who got the crowd going with a blistering set. Their unique setup, featuring cello, violin, and a drummer who mouths his own drumbeats, made for a great start to the show. Sure to follow up. They at least have a current group photo on their website.

Setlist:

  1. The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
  2. We Will Become Silhouettes
  3. Sleeping In
  4. Turn Around
  5. Nothing Better
  6. Recycled Air
  7. Be Still My Heart
  8. Clark Gable
  9. Our Secret (Beat Happening cover)
  10. This Place Is a Prison
  11. There’s Never Enough Time
  12. A Tattered Line of String
  13. Such Great Heights
  14. Natural Anthem

Encore:

  1. (This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan (Dntel cover)
  2. Brand New Colony
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