Photos: Postal Service at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado - Reverb

Postal Service at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 5-30-13 (photos, review)

As the bleeps of Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” slowly began to pan between the walls of Red Rocks, Ben Gibbard took a rare moment to spend his strained voice talking to the sold out crowd. “It means even more that you guys still care about this record even 10 years later,” he said.

In 2003, two guys, Gibbard and electronic musician Jimmy Tamborello, released “Give Up,” toured the album to small clubs and left the 45 minutes of music to ferment for a decade. Now, Postal Service has reunited, and with it, the excitement from fans who have obsessed over 10 tracks for as many years.

And that was the general feeling in Red Rocks before the show: the crowd knew exactly what songs they would hear — the entire album, with maybe some new tracks or B-Sides thrown in — and they’d been waiting quite a long time for it. But few knew how this music would sound outside their own bedroom.

The intentions of this tour are obvious: it’s for these fans who managed to connect with a band that started as — and remains — a side project. But “Give Up” was made by Tamborello sending tracks through the mail to Gibbard, who would then provide vocals. It’s hardly material made to be performed live, let alone in a nearly 10,000 capacity amphitheater. If anything, it’s music to devour through headphones, while alone and feeling sentimental. Having these tracks pulled from a comfortable place and put on an enormous stage lit by a breathtaking, organ-shaped lighting rig, felt like Michael Bay directing “Garden State.”

So, Postal Service did its best to perform “Give Up” in a venue about 20 times the size it played in Colorado the last time it was here. A four-piece band including Gibbard, Tamborello, backing vocalist Jenny Lewis and another multi-instrumentalist filled in the space of what Red Rocks demands. At the end of “We Will Become Silhouettes,” Gibbard sprinted back to a drum set in the corner for an extended ending. Lewis played acoustic guitar on “Sleeping In,” which added a little twang to the simple synth, vocal, drum sample formula. Occasionally, the group would pad songs with brief jams that usually included Gibbard on drums or Tamborello with a vocoder. But for the most part Postal Service stayed true to the songs that at this point have been passed on to the crowd like some oral tradition.

What didn’t help the show was Gibbard’s voice, which was still weak after canceling the previous night’s gig in Salt Lake City. His normally steady, vibrato-less voice was strained and cracking at times. He still powered through and gave a powerful performance, but Lewis was forced to step in to handle some of the more demanding notes.

Throughout the little more than an hour-long set, the crowd strained to capture every moment, as if they’d have to wait another decade to see this again. So, after ending the two-song encore with “Brand New Colony,” Gibbard left the crowd to wonder what he meant when he said, “We’ll see you next time.”

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  • CHJ

    Pretty spot on review. Fourth touring member is Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds.