I started last week with grand and ambitious plans to see ten Noise Pop shows and run myself into the ground from pure blissful musical exhaustion. Well the exhaustion part happened, as I got a horrible case of food poisoning on day one of the festival. After several days of vomiting and coma-like naps, I emerged healthy and hungry to hear whatever I could while there was still time. As it turned out, I made it just in time for the very last show of the festival: the one I had chosen as a gift to my 19-year old self but that I wasn’t actually all that excited to see now. Nonetheless, I managed to attend Ben Gibbard’s solo performance at the Great American Music Hall.
I prefaced you with all of that so that you understood my mood was already sour when I entered the building. Contributing to that, I was late, my stomach still hurt, and the woman next to me was loudly whispering all the words to his songs. But after a few moments I relaxed, and it became clear why I had been so into this nerdy folky hipster singer in the first place.
With just a guitar and microphone, Gibbard captivated the crowd with old Death Cab For Cutie favorites such as “A Movie Script Ending” (from The Photo Album), and “Title and Registration” (from the breakout Transatlanticism).
Gibbard did move down to the piano a couple times to slow things down even further, but other than that, there was no accompaniment on fiddle, bass, or anything fancy — it was just him. And really, that seemed to be all the crowd wanted to hear. Between his playful banter before songs and the new solo tracks he shared, it was evident why he has gained a reputation as such an earnest and charming musician.
At one point, Gibbard ever-so-flatteringly invited cult guitar hero and former Husker Du and Sugar frontman Bob Mould onstage to play “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” by Sugar, with Gibbard backing him on vocals. For any post-punk and early alternative fans out there, this was probably quite a treat.
For his last song, Gibbard sang the Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights.” As he started to sing, I thought: “Oh, he’s doing a cover, how nice.” It wasn’t until halfway through that I remembered that he was *actually* in the Postal Service. More than anything, his varied set list showed just how active Gibbard has been in the last ten years.
In the end it was just what I expected: a nice reminder of music and memories past. It was clear that whether his songs were witty and biting, just a little bit too sappy, or the perfect compliment to a horrible breakup, Ben Gibbard can still crank out a tune.