Review: Benjamin Gibbard at Showbox The Market and Washington Hall
When you pack multiple venues full of die hard fans, murmuring ridiculous bits of trivia between songs and sideways smiling or audibly gasping as the man on stage starts to strum their favorite song, you know you’re doing something right. In the case of Benjamin Gibbard’s shows this weekend around Seattle, that may be an understatement.
Everyone has their favorite Death Cab For Cutie song, their favorite Postal Service song, and their favorite Gibbard gone solo song. If you don’t, you’ve been under a rock the past 15 years. The Showbox was absolutely packed on Friday night, and this being an all ages show the fans present ran the gamut — from those who had only recently fallen in love with albums like Plans orÂ Narrow Stairs and have been learning the older catalog since, to the die hard fans who could remember seeing Ben and the boys roam around Bellingham. The mixed bag created a buzz throughout the venue that you only find present at shows where the band is an impactful one. The people who came out Friday night came because this man and his music has changed them.
Gibbard put on the kind of show everyone expected and hoped for, an assortment of new and old material from all of his different projects. Death Cab’s ‘Title and Registration’ and ‘Cath’ were two that were met with outbursts of sound from the crowd, as well as his opener and ode to Smith Tower ‘Teardrop Windows.’ What may have gotten an even bigger reaction than the song itself was Gibbard’s declaration after having spent time away from the Seattle skyline that he was”never fucking leaving again.” I think after just about everyone in the crowd turned into a puddle of reminiscing goo during ‘Such Great Heights,’ if Gibbard ever does decide to leave us again he’ll be met by one hell of an angry mob.
Following a performance like Friday night’s at the Showbox, I was as excited as possible for Ben Gibbard’s show the following night. The benefit for 826 Seattle was held at Washington Hall, a venue I’d never seen a performance in. After walking in and seeing the stage surrounded in a halo of exposed bulbs it was immediately evident that this was going to be something special and even more intimate than the previous night’s show. When Ben took the stage and reflected on seeing shows in the 90’s here (like that one time Kurt Cobain was backed by the Seattle Super Sonics — don’t you remember?), and seemed as interested in talking with the crowd as he did in playing. He even took questions from the crowd including mentioning that sooner or later we’d all have access to formerly inaccessible tracks.
Some of the songs Gibbard played were repeats from the night before, but the way they were performed felt different. More personal, if that’s even possible. As said before, everyone has their favorite song. And at Washington Hall, the hushed crowd sang along to songs like ‘405’ which Ben assured us was about OUR 405, ‘Recycled Air,’ and ‘Soul Meets Body.’ Songs from his solo record Former Lives were again a major component of his performance and show goers who has seen him the previous evening got to hear ‘Dream Song’ and ‘Something’s Rattling (Cowpoke)’ again.
This show had moments that stuck out more than the previous night’s show. I’m just not sure if anything can ever beat that time I heard ‘Farmer Chords’ followed by ‘Passenger Seat,’ and then a few moments later got to dance along with the bah-bah’s of ‘Sound of Settling.’ Does it get better than that? For me, no. Which is why this particular show, with Ben Gibbard illuminated on a historic stage, is without question a performance I’ll remember “for all time.”
Since Death Cab is now big enough to warrant arena shows, seeing their frontman in intimate settings like the Showbox or Washington Hall gives an undeniably special feel. It gives audiences a chance to fall in love all over again not only with songs like ‘You Remind me of Home’ or ‘I Will Follow You Into The Dark’ but Gibbard himself. His stage banter between songs- telling us stories behind “Duncan Where Have You Gone?” or sharing what a huge influence Elliot Smith’s Either Or had- these sorts of personal moments create an impossible bond between artist and fan. Benjamin Gibbard’s shows this weekend (and my little journey to the top of Smith Tower last month) are some of the best shows I’ve seen — as in ever. His songs and my favorite memories are one and the same at this point, and while the experiences can’t be relived the memories become more vivid every time I hear ‘Grapevine Fires’ or ‘Title Track’ hum out of his guitar.