What’s Death Cab without his Death Cab or his Cutie? Estranged from his former wife, Zooey Deschanel, and away from the singer’s band, Benjamin Gibbard entertained vulnerably stripped down on Nov.2, 2012, defending the musician’s act as not just singer-songwriter, but the best of the best, a staple of one of the best in alternative music his generation will ever know.
Gibbard fans, assumedly also Death Cab for Cutie fans and The Postal Service fans, didn’t have to worry about hearing songs solely from the singer-songwriter’s new record at the Anthenaeum show in support of solo album Former Lives. The singer’s new album resounded as a collective of unproduced songs from the past decade, and that’s the reason why Former Lives received mild reviews from fans and critics as a mish-mash of characters in the singer’s many phases over the years. He endured alcoholism and torrential relationships but arose as a fitter, wiser musician and public figure. But amidst celebrated hits “Soul Meets Body,” “Crooked Teeth” and “Codes and Keys” from Transatlanticism, Plans and Codes and Keys, Gibbard’s set felt well-rounded and expansive.
Not every song brought along the often-analyzed drudgy sappiness along the new record by the likes of “Duncan, Where Have You Gone?” about a friend who experienced a harsh patch of life, or the woe-of-marriage sleeper “Hard One to Know.” The artist’s library definitely mellows in a lower, heavier register, but the essence wasn’t drowning between light conversation and an array of lighter anthems. A humorous chatter from the performer veiled itself as a relief from such emotional lyric-writing. Plus, Gibbard finished with “Such Great Heights,” a Postal Service classic.
“I feel like tea is the only acceptable drink for this sort of event,” the singer explained as he took a sip from his mug. Still exposed and unsupported by bandmates with backing sounds, “regular guy” Gibbard flowed between guitar and piano, even going for a cover of Harry Nillson’s “Don’t Forget Me,” which Gibbard explained had been done well by “my friend Neko.” That “friend” happened to have been the New Pornographers’ Neko Case. The singer was disparaging his indie cred- how cute.
The singer was disparaging his indie cred—how cute.
With an intimate setting such as the scene set at the Anthenaeum, Gibbard may have expected his crowd to behave more accordingly, but given the mid-sized, full Lakeview 20-something crowd, some of the sheath was punctured between bouts of buzz-induced banter between shouters and the performer. The singer played a good sport about his interruptions (including what he described to be a distracting offstage “bottle-breaking contest”), but people who came for a wholly hushed experience may have left dissatisfied. The stage set up a bravely simple aesthetic. The only missing element was a Persian rug under his feet.
Benjamin Gibbard at The Athenaeum Theatre on Nov. 2, 2012 setlist:
- “Shepherd’s bush lullaby”
- “St. Peter’s Cathedral”
- “Oh, Woe”
- “Title And Registration
- “When The Sun Goes Down”
- “Grapevine Fires”
- “Something’s Rattling (Cowpoke)”
- “One Fast Move or I’m Gone”
- “Blacking Out The Friction”
- “Codes and Keys”
- “Duncan, Where Have You Gone?”
- “Don’t Forget Me”
- “Soul Meets Body”
- “Lady Adelaide”
- “Don’t Forget Me”
- “Teardrop Windows”
- “Steadier Footing”
- “Broken Yolk in Western Sky”
- “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”
- “A Hard One To Know”
- “Title Track”
- “Such Great Heights”