I Am A Vistor Here: The Give Up/Transatlanticism Tour
The Postal Service and Death Cab for Cutie @ Climate Pledge Arena
Supergroup The Postal Service and indie-rock outfit Death Cab for Cutie made a triumphant return home to Seattle’s own Climate Pledge Arena for the first of two shows on October 6th. The tour, named for the bands' respective 2003 albums, Give Up and Transatlanticism, has been highly anticipated since its announcement last year. Frontman for both bands, Ben Gibbard took on the herculean feat of performing the albums in their entirety, allowing all of us to sit back, relax, and contemplate the horrors that come with the passage of time.
The walk down memory lane/existential crisis was kindly interrupted by New Zealand natives The Beths, who kicked off the night with their bright sound and punchy vocals. Their salmon head décor and slightly blinding disco ball energized the crowd and gave them one last hit of serotonin before the inevitable heartbreak of Transatlanticism.
When Death Cab for Cutie took the stage, you could almost hear thousands of hearts simultaneously skipping before the first note of “The New Year” even played. The band, dressed entirely in black with red cables to connect any gear, visually mimicked the titular album cover that catapulted them to stardom. Despite the somber mood and dim red lighting, there was a collective feeling of relief and appreciation radiating from the stage. This record, which Gibbard later mentioned, was written in an attic apartment in the very city where they now stood, and is now playing to a sold out arena. For them, this was a full circle moment they were glad to be sharing with us.
The crowd, mostly made up of millennials who had listened throughout middle and high school, sang loud and cried often. By the time we got to the titular anthem, everyone around me was clinging to their friends, partners or spouses for dear life. Transatlanticism evokes a feeling of nostalgia, and hearing it in person is a way of letting go of the hurt that, for many, is associated with this record. I don’t think there are enough words in the English language to encapsulate the sheer catharsis of screaming “I need you so much closer” in an arena of strangers. Looking at the stage, you could tell that the band were feeling those emotions too; except for pianist Zach Rae, who stared stoically while playing the notes that would leave us in an emotional wreck. By the time “We Looked Like Giants'' ended, we had all recovered enough to be devastated all over again by “A Lack of Color”. The soft guitar and lyrics about wishing you’d done something different was the perfect way to end this heavy 45 minute set. After the band left, the crowd took a moment to be floored by what they had experienced, before wiping their faces and wandering off to get another overpriced drink from the bar.
The turnover was quick, and before we knew it, Gibbard was back with Jenny Lewis and Jimmy Tamborello in tow. Dressed in white and ready to pull us out of our respective depressive spirals, The Postal Service looked angelic under the pale blue lights. The band, which had not toured since 2013, wasted no time launching into “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” as an eager crowd lurched to their feet. Almost instantly, we were reanimated and ready to dance, clapping along to the familiar rhythms. The chemistry between Lewis and Gibbard was palpable, creating a hilariously stark contrast between Tamborello’s awkwardness as they played at each other. As the night went on, we were transported to a world of synths and samples, the complete sonic opposite of the previous set.
Funnily enough, one of my favourite moments happened during the saddest song on the album, “This Place is a Prison”. It features a line about Puget Sound (which is visible from Seattle) and the crowd went absolutely wild, causing the band to collectively grin. Attending their home show definitely had its perks including Jen Wood reprising her part on "Nothing Better." as it originally appeared on the album. I was pleasantly surprised when Gibbard took to the drums, adding another layer to a few songs and reminding us all that he’s more than just a guitarist. The setlist ultimately ended with the noise-filled “Natural Anthem” - the sheer volume of which left the audience dumbfounded.
Needless to say, after the band left, everyone stayed rooted to where they were standing, cheering wildly, and refusing for the night to end. Just when I started to entertain going home, Lewis and Gibbard reentered to perform an acoustic version of the smash hit “Such Great Heights”. Immediately the waterworks started and the flashlights and lighters came out as we all sang along to the familiar tune, suddenly hit with the realization that the night couldn’t last forever. However, Death Cab for Cutie and the remaining member of the Postal Service soon joined them to leave us on a collective high note. With a cheeky smile, Ben Gibbard sent out one last song “for all the old people”: a cover of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence”. Eventually, they exited after one final bow, leaving us with broken hearts and arms full of merch.
Travelling 10+ hours to see this tour was more than worth it. Although my wallet is incredibly unhappy with me, I would do it again in a heartbeat. Even though I don’t wear skinny jeans and didn’t grow up on MySpace, I do feel like I found a temporary family that night. this concert hasn’t left my mind since, and I think there is something to be said about the fact that both these albums had enough of an impact that people would still pay to see them live 20 years later. It goes to show that while everything in our world can and will change, music's undeniable effect on people will not.