Thursday, July 25, 2013

Revisitation, with Special Guests the Postal Service

You seem so out of context
In this gaudy apartment complex
A stranger with your door key
Explaining that I'm just visiting
And I am finally seeing
Why I was the one worth leaving

I was the one worth leaving 

If you aren't already singing along, get yourself hence.

Last night I went to see the Postal Service live at the Greek Theater. When I read on Wikipedia, of all places, that the Postal Service had mounted a tour for 2013, I bought a ticket almost immediately. I won't set forth the whole history of the band (a fairly interesting one) here, but I will say that virtually everyone I know who likes the Postal Service loves the Postal Service, me included. I actually wore out my original CD of Give Up, played it and played it and played it until it was too scratched to play anymore. When I told people this, they offered sympathetic moans that indicated not only that they could see how this would happen, but that it's quite a shame.

Every time I see live music, I'm faintly amazed that the people on stage are doing their jobs. That the job of musician and performer is one that you accomplish by standing on stage and doing what the Postal Service did last night. It's a weird job, and very difficult to get and keep, but performance is a career field like any other: there are people who are naturally good at it, and there are ways to get even better at it, skills you can learn to improve. Nevertheless, it's creation - a mysterious act - of music - a mysterious creature - before my very eyes. I get a real kick out of that.

And I wanted to see this show because it seemed possible that the opportunity would never come again. The Postal Service is a monolith of one-offing, collaboration that happens once and never again, and this tour seemed no exception. Like seeing Jimi Hendrix live, or Nirvana.

The thing is, I didn't really love the show. Ben Gibbard, fabulous talent that he is, is kind of a spaz. And there was very little in that performance that I haven't enjoyed just as much at home with headphones. Laura Burhenn of the Mynabirds, who released a miraculous first album and a thoroughly mediocre second one, was one-fourth of the performers, and Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley, who's been part of the band since Give Up and whom I know best as someone quite different


, was also there on stage. That was cool, and seeing these four people make something special happen before my eyes was cool. But I've been to live concerts that seared my skin off and seeped into my bones, and this just wasn't one of them.

Gibbard said one thing that interested me. More than halfway through, he said he was grateful to us for coming, for loving this music from so many years ago. He said that "means so much to us."

Not my picture; came from here, which opens with a nice sum of my feelings
about Give Up, albeit from someone a good deal younger than I

I really have no idea how I'd react if a project I did as a fluke with some of my friends and colleagues, meant to be a side effort away from my main career, turned out to be this thing that everyone adored. That was one of Sub Pop's biggest sellers ever. That journalists were always asking about. That influenced a gigantic swath of indie artists and assembled a subgenre out of almost nothing. That people pleaded with me for more of. I think after a while I might be tired of the whole thing, especially if people were still clamoring about it an entire decade later. It amazes me that the band decided to reunite for a tour at all, and the last thing I expected was that they would be grateful that people were still all into Give Up.

Matt pointed out that for them it ain't nuthin but a thang, since they made it and own it. I think his phrase was "eh, let's set up a tour, make some money, go home." I guess, but these songs are ten years old. I often wonder how the Rolling Stones can play "Satisfaction" ONE. MORE. TIME. without losing their damn minds, and surely this isn't that different. It's music that they made in 2003, that was finished then, from which they've since moved up and away.

No? I really don't know. Maybe Gibbard was lying for our sake. Maybe the band thinks of Give Up as a sweet pet that keeps on giving them treats rather than a random flare of genius that has become a stone around their necks.

I always love seeing evidence of artists who seem to be just as into their art as their most slavering fans are. But I thoroughly sympathize with artists who feel that once a piece of work is done, it's done, and they want to work on new challenges rather than revisiting old stuff (coughBillWattersoncough). I guess it just depends on your personality, and on the art.

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