Last night at the Midland, the Postal Service proved that there's more to a reunion tour than nostalgia - even if that's what's filling up the seats. Ten years after the release of the band's first and only album, the now-platinum Give Up
, synth-pop brainiacs Jimmy Tamborello and Ben Gibbard have lost none of their enthusiasm. Neither have their fans. The Postal Service's second of two sold-out nights at the Midland saw the adoring audience matching Gibbard lyric for lyric.
Gibbard was a joyous leading man, often putting down his guitar to dance in place - or with honorary Postal carrier Jenny Lewis. In fact, the entire Postal Service crew (Tamborello, Lewis, and the Mynabirds' Laura Burhenn on percussion) was like a pack of grown-up children that had just woken up from a long nap and immediately gorged themselves on candy and juice, such were the shared smiles and bouncy energy that were contained (and sometimes not contained) to the stage.
Gibbard might have been leading the show, but Tamborello was ultimately the evening's conductor. He was situated center stage on a raised platform that seemed to act, at times, as an electro-pop throne. There wasn't a single track on last night's set list that wasn't expertly guided by Tamborello's quiet genius: His signature "bleeps," deftly interwoven with a bass-heavy synth framework, are part of what make crowd-favorite tracks like "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight" and "Such Great Heights" precious, personal experiences. Even when that experience is being shared with more than 3,500 other people.
And then there was Lewis, looking like a perfect electro-pop princess as she shared guitar and synth duties. It was hard to keep track of all the weird toys that Lewis used for vocal distortion, but it was always fun to watch her make them work. Lewis might not be singing lead, but there is no one else who could give Gibbard's pop songs such shimmering, addictive sounds. When she jumped behind the drum kit for a cover of the Beat Happening's "Our Secret," it was like the huge crush that everyone was pretending not to have on her suddenly became super-obvious.
The entire set lasted just around the 75-minute mark - admittedly a little short, but what are you going to do when it's been 10 years and you've got only one album to tour on? Delightfully, the few new songs the band has recently released - the bedroom-y "Tattered Line of String"; "Turn Around" - added some girth to the show. Plus, the expensive-looking stage setup provided ample sensory stimuli, with the kind of light show you want drugs for.
In any case, there was no occasion for the audience to feel cheated of a full live experience in any way. As the set-closing "Natural Anthem" boomed heavily off the walls of the Midland, Gibbard jumped off the stage and into the photo pit, getting as close as possible to the thronging fans reaching eagerly for a real-life touch of the glorious, bygone '00s. Gibbard's promise that "everything will change" in the encore-closing "Brand New Colony" proved a bittersweet half-truth: Certainly a lot has changed since Give Up, but the Postal Service's music and fans have stayed true.
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