From Postal Service at Mann Center, a victory lap but nothing more

The Postal Service, Ben Gibbard (left) and Jimmy Tamborello.
The Postal Service, Ben Gibbard (left) and Jimmy Tamborello. (AUTUMN DE WILDE)
Posted: June 20, 2013

If the adage that absence makes the heart grow fonder needed validation, the Postal Service's show at the Mann Center on Monday night made a powerful argument in its favor. As a performing entity, their existence was barely a blip: a brief tour surrounding the release of their sole album, Give Up, in 2003, and then nothing.

But in the intervening decade, what began as a side-project lark became a commercial behemoth, the second-biggest seller in the history of the Seattle label Sub Pop, surpassed only by Nirvana's Bleach. Singer Ben Gibbard and laptop wizard Jimmy Tamborello kept busy with their musical day jobs in Death Cab for Cutie and Dntel, respectively, but questions about a follow-up album never died down. The less enthusiastic Gibbard and Tamborello seemed, the more demand grew. They'd become that elusive boy or girl whose sidelong glance could send their admirers into paroxysms of joy.

As with most long-held crushes, though, the reality and the fantasy were two separate things. Give Up's 10th-anniversary reissue may include two new songs, but that doesn't dispel the fact that the accompanying tour is a victory lap, the millennial equivalent of an oldies showcase. With original member Jenny Lewis and new hire Laura Burhenn, they played the Postal Service's entire 14-song repertoire as well as a pair of covers: Beat Happening's "Our Secret" and Dntel's "(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan," the song that first brought Gibbard and Tamborello together.

The modest novelty of combining indie-rock vocals and dance beats has since become commonplace, although that didn't help their crew to find an intelligible outdoor sound mix. Gibbard put down his guitar several times to add live drums to Tamborello's dual-laptop rhythms, and Lewis worked the crowd like a lead singer rather than a second banana, but the show still felt superfluous, with no compelling reason to exist beyond the economics of supply and demand.

It was as if Gibbard, Tamborello, and the rest were singing along with everyone else, as enthusiastically as any fan but without any spark of the new.

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