Ten years ago two individuals released an album that seemed to define a generation. One of those albums that is released at the right time, that made sense to everyone that heard it. That album was called Give Up. Created by Jimmy Tamborello (Dntel) and Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie) with the help of Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley) under the moniker The Postal Service, the album grabbed the attention of every teenager/young adult just entering high school or college and, despite it’s downward title, gave them something hopeful during those awkward adolescent/young adulthood years. The tricky thing about that album though, is that it’s only ever been the one. The Postal Service never toured for it and never made another album, leaving Give Up high above on the highest pedestal. Fast forward ten years and I’m standing on the railing smack dab in front of Jenny Lewis watching The Postal Service perform these incredible songs right before my very eyes.
Celebrating the 10th anniversary of Give Up, The Postal Service finally decided that it was time to take the show on the road performing the album from start to finish as well as some classic B-Sides, covers, and even a few “new” (made in 2006, but new to the public) tracks. Most reunion shows are immediate cash grabs from musicians who are well past their primes, in need of a quick buck, and still holding onto their one successful project. You can always tell when those bands don’t really actually want to be up their performing (cough cough Omar from At The Drive-In cough cough) but immediately it’s visible tell that everyone in The Postal Service is truly having a blast playing these shows.
The tour, which has been working it’s way across America since April, finally made not one, but two stops this week in Kansas City at the beautiful Midland Theater after the initial announced show sold out within minutes. The theater was packed to the rafters by the time Ben, Jimmy, Jenny, and additional live member Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds hit the stage to rapturous applause. This wasn’t just applause from people excited to see the current one hit wonder, this was the sound of a few thousand people finally catching a glimpse at something they’ve been waiting a decade to see.
After opening with “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”, the band threw everyone a curve-ball by following up with one of their biggest and best tracks “We Will Become Silhouettes”. Certainly one of the danciest off of Give Up, seeing it live was a whole new revelation. During the final minutes of the song, Gibbard traded his guitar for a drum-kit, laying down real beats over Tamborello’s electronic ones, something that Gibbard would do several more times during the show. When not drumming, Ben Gibbard could often be spotted quickly shuffling his feet and snapping his fingers to the song or bouncing around on stage duetting with the impossibly adorable Jenny Lewis.
Although she only provided backup vocals for a few tracks on Give Up, Jenny Lewis is as important to The Postal Service’s success as Jimmy and Ben are. Seeing her command the crowd while bopping around on stage was really fun to see. It never felt like she was just another live member to help flesh out the sound. She became the third Postal Service member. Plus, she even pointed a drum-stick and waved and winked at me during “Such Great Heights”, reducing me to a blushing nervous mess.
The show only lasted a short 75 minutes, which when you’re touring off of one album that is a decade old, is actually quite impressive. During those 75 minutes, Ben Gibbard told some jokes (“What’s the last thing you want to hear at a show you’ve been waiting to see for ten years? ‘Here’s a new song!'”), told some stories, and generally performed in a manner that I’ve never seen the singer give during a Death Cab performance. At the height of the frantic album closer “Natural Anthem”, Gibbard hopped off stage and performed the second half of the song on the railing right next to me, practically crowd surfing the first few rows of people. Not only was it super awesome, but it was one of those moments where you realize in your head “the guy who made this super important album for me is inches away from my face, singing one of those songs”. It’s the type of stuff that you’ll never forget.
Although it was incredible seeing these songs finally performed live, truly one of the greatest performances of the night came from the crowd. Every single person in the Midland sang every single word to every single song off of Give Up. During “Such Great Heights”, the group’s most well known song, it was hard to even hear Ben and Jenny as 3,500 people all loudly singing in unison proved the ability to topple any PA system. Though the most powerful moment came at the end of the set as Ben Gibbard stood on the edge of the stage urging the sold out crowd to sing the refrain from “Brand New Colony”. No music, no instruments, no microphones, just one vocalist conducting a theater full of people. Being the third to last Postal Service show ever, tears could be seen forming in the members eyes as they waved goodbye and took their bows while every soul in The Midland sang the three words “Everything Will Change”.
Everything has and will continue to change during the next ten years until Give Up‘s 20th anniversary. Despite that, Give Up will always remain the same: a staple of my generation’s youth, and an album that holds a different meaning to every listener who hears it. Seeing The Postal Service live just serves as one more special memory to add to an already special album.
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
Article and Photos By Richard Pepper