The Postal Service at the Santa Barbara Bowl
Paul Wellman

Every so often, an album comes around that manages to strike the collective chord, crossing genre lines and demographics as it moves from underground success story to mainstream sensation. For the thousands in attendance at the Santa Barbara Bowl last Saturday night, The Postal Service’s Give Up was one of those albums, and now, 10 years later, it’s become a nostalgia-inducing mini-masterpiece.

While hearing Give Up brought to life was enough to swell the hearts of the diehards, the lengths to which the band went to make the show feel like a special event were ultimately what made Saturday so enjoyable. Backed by a dizzying collection of strobes and with a glowing stage set at their disposal, the band members were able to capture a look that perfectly suited the expansiveness of anthems like “We Will Become Silhouettes” and “Such Great Heights.”

Sonically, they knocked it out of the park, too. Flanked by songstresses Jenny Lewis and The Mynabirds’ Laura Burhenn, frontman Ben Gibbard and knob-twiddler Jimmy Tamborello expertly balanced each other out — Gibbard’s turns at the drum kit augmenting Tamborello’s punching beats and syncopated electronica to a tee. And speaking of Tamborello, on Saturday he was the deserving recipient of some serious hometown love; the sizzling industrial noise of “This Place Is a Prison” and the chill-inducing cover of his “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan” pulled some of the biggest applause of the night. Add to that Lewis’s angelic coos and shredding guitar solos, and you can start to understand why The Postal Service works: It’s a precious thing, sure, but it’s also a sum much larger than its individual parts.

And speaking of “individual parts,” mention must be made of Big Freedia, the opening act that quite nearly stole Saturday’s show. For the 45 minutes prior to The Postal Service’s set, Freedia and her three scantily clad backup “dancers” bent, shook, and, yes, twerked through a barrage of bass-y bounce beats. The result was a show as mesmerizing as it was completely out of place, not to mention wholly appalling to a sizable cross-section of early arrivers. The verdict: the most fantastically ridiculous booking misstep to hit the Bowl in years.


1. “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”

2. “We Will Become Silhouettes”

3. “Sleeping In”

4. “Turn Around”

5. “Nothing Better”

6. “Recycled Air”

7. “Be Still My Heart”

8. “Clark Gable”

9. “Our Secret” (Beat Happening cover)

10. “This Place Is a Prison”

11. “There’s Never Enough Time”

12. “A Tattered Line of String”

13. “Such Great Heights”

14. “Natural Anthem”


15. “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan” (Dntel cover)

16. “Brand New Colony”


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