I can’t think of many bands who’ve caused such a stir from just one record. The La’s perhaps, and Death From Above 1979, both these bands you’d expect would sell out a tour pretty quickly on the strength of one LP and critical acclaim. You can throw The Postal Service into that mix too, and their 2003 record Give Up, which surpassed the component bands of the supergroup – Death Cab For Cutie, Dntel, Rilo Kiley – in terms of sales, although critical acclaim was about the same.
10 years down the line it seems unlikely we’ll ever get a new Postal Service record, but, there is a reissue, replete with remixes, cover versions and a new track, and the band are touring together, selling out two nights at Brixton Academy in a matter of minutes, a testament to the longevity of the record.
And indeed, with that being the case, the whole gig felt much like a greatest hits set, like we were seeing this band trawl through their back catalogue to play a slew of fan favourites. Cheers greeted every opening bar, each of Ben Gibbard’s beautifully poetic and ostentatious lyrics was sung with gusto, there was a feeling of relief amongst the crowd, all of whom you’d imagine never really thought they’d get the chance to see these songs played live.
It was incredibly refreshing to see not only how much energy the band were putting in to doing the record justice, but also how much fun they seemed to be having. Ben Gibbard is a terrific frontman, his ungainly dancing, sporadic handclapping and soaring vocal driving the songs forward and doing his very best to whip the crowd into a frenzy – not the easiest of tasks when all the boys look too awkward to dance (but definitely really want to) and all the girls look as if they’re carrying Lush tote bags (seriously, Brixton Academy has never smelt so good). Seeing him carry the microphone and move around the stage it’s easy to see the kind of influence he’s had on, say, Alex Ebert from Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes in terms of stage craft. His guitar sounded beautiful too, the tone coming off it was perfect and though his playing isn’t nearly as flamboyant as his lyrics, it really adds to the textures and soundscapes created by Jimmy Tamborello, who stood atop a glowing throne for the entire gig, laptops, Vocoders and melodicas set before him.
Partnering Gibbard front and centre was Jenny Lewis, frontwoman of the sensational Rilo Kiley and fantastic singer/songwriter in her own right. Their chemistry was excellent; she shimmied, shook and commanded the audience. On Nothing Better, which Jen Wood sings on the record, they played out the story brilliantly. I have a feeling if she’d have stopped the music and told all the men in the room to walk into the Thames we’d have all gladly formed a queue.
I’ve definitely been to more energetic shows, to livelier shows, to shows where the music has moved me more and I’ve been more annoyed when the house lights have gone up, but this felt like a brand new experience. I, like the majority of people in that room I think, grew up with that record. When other kids my age were getting their angst out to My Chemical Romance, I was doing it to Death Cab and Bright Eyes and Give Up (not that the two are mutually exclusive of course). Perhaps it’s good they didn’t do anything else, and that they won’t, because it crystallises that era and those formative moments all the more. So thanks Postal Service, for not giving up, for remembering all the lyrics and for proving that even if you do make angsty music for sensitive teenagers, you can still perform it like you’re having a great time. See you in another 10 years.