Benjamin Gibbard at The Assembly at the Woman's Club, 11/1/12

Photo by Youa Vang
Benjamin Gibbard with Advance Base
The Assembly at the Woman's Club, Minneapolis
Thursday, November 1, 2012

An evening with Ben (Benjamin) Gibbard is not merely an evening with music from his solo project, it's also an evening with the Postal Service, All-Time Quarterback, the Replacements, and Death Cab For Cutie. So much so, that it seemed as if his solo pieces played a backdrop to the other music. Not that anyone in the audience was complaining with this structure for his show.

Despite not having sold out the room, perhaps due to it being right after Halloween night where everyone had been out partying the night before -- or it not being a Death Cab show -- Ben did not let that deter him from entertaining through music and conversation. Opening with the a capella opening track off his latest album Former Lives, "Shepherd's Bush Lullaby," the crowd sat hushed in reverence, but let out cheers to the opening riffs of "Such Great Heights" from the Postal Service -- maybe their most famous song, another one of Ben's many side projects. Played acoustic on his guitar, the song was missing the opening synths, but was not lacking in personality. Slowed down, "Such Great Heights" can be compared to a fine red wine, allowing the lyrics to sit on Gibbard's tongue and pondered for their poignancy -- most especially the line, "I hope this song will guide you home." That seemed to be the theme for the evening, too, with Ben conceding that his music was aptly called "gentle music."

Some musicians are very careful in what they say onstage, often not saying much at all, and it almost seemed the case with Gibbard until he started to loosen up; there was no stopping the banter then. The singer said, "It's nice playing to a seated crowd. My friend asked me to go to his show recently, and I asked him if it was going to be a seated show. You know, 35 (respectively) is too old to be standing for three hours. You get too tired to rock." 

A few years ago, Gibbard did another side project with Jay Farrar of Son Volt. This particular assignment had both artists collaborating on writing an album around the prose of Jack Kerouac's novel Big Sur. The task was daunting, but Ben was able to put the feel of the Kerouac's book into song with "These Roads Don't Move," a piece about longing and wanderlust. 

By this time in the show, Ben was warmed up and ready to share some stories from the road; the most captivating was his retelling of his recent experience at the airport. The singer says his paradigm has shifted in his least favorite person at the airport; until yesterday, it used to be the TSA agent going through his luggage, but had changed to the uncaring baggage claim guy. When he landed, Gibbard was missing his guitars, to which he is emotionally attached and needed for his job, and when he approached the claim person, he was met with apathy. Ben proceeds by saying to him, "Listen man, I just need a little bit of empathy. I just need to you act like you care. You don't have to, but for fifteen seconds, pretend like you care. I won't tell you the exact name of where he worked, but let's just call it 'Blunited.'"

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