by Joseph Sutton-Holcomb
“Ladies and gentleman, we are back from the dead.” That was the only introduction Ben Gibbard gave Monday night after The Postal Service played, “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight,” the first song of the last set of the festival.
Those nine words captured the sentiment of the evening perfectly. For longtime fans like me, the concert provided much-needed closure. 2013 was the 10-year anniversary of the band’s first and only album “Give Up,” and after nearly a decade of hiatus and unsubstantiated rumors about a second album that never materialized, I had given up hope of ever seeing them perform. That album meant everything to me during my teenage years, but I always thought of The Postal Service as an abandoned side project, and relegated it to the past.
But Gibbard and his band breathed new life into every track, helping me remember that sometimes the music you obsess over as a kid doesn’t always suck in retrospect.
Most impressive was how the band revamped their sound to suit the contemporary electronica-soaked music culture. The bass was spectacularly rich on every song, much more so than the album versions and they added interesting new synth lines to almost every track. The result was crisp and substantial, eschewing the chiptune vibe that defined the recorded sound.
Jenny Lewis, who sang the female backing vocals that gave several of the cuts on ”Give Up” a country-style duet quality, also performed. Hearing her and Gibbard trade verses on ”Nothing Better” was immensely satisfying. Great musical chemistry there.
After seeing Gibbard’s other band, Death Cab For Cutie, perform at festivals a handful of times, I never thought the word intense would describe any of his musical endeavors. But the band brought so much energy to cuts like ”This Place is a Prison” and the finale, “Brand New Colony,” that I couldn’t keep my head from bobbing. Definitely the most effort I’ve seen Gibbard give to a show.
The lights were the cherry on top, and probably the best stage production of the weekend, rivaled only by Sigur Ros the night before. A set of LED columns behind the band bathed the stage, the pit, and the hillside in vivid red, blue, green and purple strobing.
I walked over to the stage that night expecting a pleasant trip into the past. What I got was a forward-thinking show that made me long for another Postal Service Album all over again.