‘Give Up’ a Decade Later

photo by Joshua Peter Grafstein - JPGphotography.ca

The Postal Service came into being seemingly in response to a need. Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie fame) lent his vocals to a DNTEL track, which in turn spawned an EP of remixes supplied by some serious musical talent.

With the success of the remix EP, Gibbard and DNTEL’s Jimmy Tamborello found a hungry market, and 2003’s Give Up of the newly formed Postal Service would feed that market. Postal Service would see their fame grow, and bring a new form of electronic music into the mainstream – electronic music that felt organic. It was honest, it was heartfelt, and it was a masterpiece. The Postal Service even won the rights to keep their name in a U.S. court of law after the United States Postal Service sent a cease and desist order to Sub Pop for infringement. For another album to reach “such great heights” at Sub Pop (*snicker*), you’d have to go back to Nirvana’s debut Bleach. And what proved true as a game changer for rock’n roll, served true as a game changer for electronic music in the pop world.

The lyrics of Give Up seem relatable during any part of a person’s life. To some, it was a point of light in a dark time. To others, it was companion to an epic summer. I’m a completely different person than I was ten years ago when I first got my copy of the album. What hasn’t changed is my level of appreciation for what this album accomplished. The last ten years has seen the release of more made-up genres of music than ever, and now is a time in our society where things don’t seem to last. From products ranging from electronics to cars, to fads, trends and famous people – very little of what is new these days will endure. Postal Service hasn’t toured in ten years, but for one night last week in Vancouver – they were here. Not in the capacity of a washed up band breaking from obscurity for a low budget tour, but as a band who was never gone. Never faded away in a string of lousy releases. A band as strong and relevant today as on the day of their release. Huzzah for The Postal Service!

For ten years I’ve envied secondhand stories of witnesses to the original Postal Service tour. Ten years is a long time to build something up, but during that time, Postal Service has only grown in popularity – based almost entirely on the strength of a single album released a decade ago. There have been many other releases by everyone involved in Postal Service, but the love of Give Up brought fans of them all together for one heck of a good time.

And so, ten years later, Postal Service is in Vancouver. The show was booked first to play GM place, but switched late to Queen Elizabeth Theatre which was undoubtedly a good move for everyone (except maybe the ticket sellers?); instead of the stadium show, concertgoers scored an intimacy no stadium can match. Better sound and better views make for better concerts.

Something special happens when an artist does an album tour. The Postal Service weren’t promoting a new album, but celebrating their work and sharing it in a new way. Excitingly, there were new songs played, mixed in with what we all knew and loved from Give Up. The best concerts change your perception of songs you already know. They make them better. They renew your love for the band, and bring new memories to be awoken by the music. A great live show can send people off feeling new, alive, and vibrant.

photo by Joshua Peter Grafstein - JPGphotography.ca

Hearing the new stuff was amazing. Hearing the original songs was fantastic! They cranked up the tempo to give us an energetic dance party and live show, leaving the audience smitten.

Due to the nature of making a Postal Service song happen live, there was a lot of running around onstage. Jenny Lewis, who plays with the band on stage with Laura Burhenn, offered vocals and mouth guitar (she played guitar with her mouth for the finale/pre-encore). The stage presence of Gibbard and Lewis was magical – singing at each other while running about on stage playing an assortment of instruments from the stringed to the keyed, to the pre-programmed to the stretched tight. We were all swept up in the band’s energy and enthusiasm. The musicians’ love of the music they play was more than infectious, and served as linchpin to making a huge crowd of strangers feel like a group of close friends. I’d be astonished to hear that anyone left the Theatre disappointed that night.

They encored with “Brand New Colony”, which ended with an a cappella singalong which pimpled our flesh like that of a goose, affecting everyone from the many screaming fans (and they were screaming) to the event staff.

Leaving the Theatre, everyone was smiling. There were were none of the familiar bodies walking out looking unimpressed. No one complaining that they weren’t as good as ten years ago. A flood of people walked back out onto the streets of Vancouver as friends having shared an experience that comes only once in a lifetime.