Ben Gibbard Captivates Milwaukee Yet Again

Growing up in a music-loving household, I was introduced and fell in love with the voice and sound of alternative-rock at a young age, particularly Death Cab for Cutie. The soft hurt and beauty always found a way to chill my bones, (and still does to this day). Fast forward a few years, to a chilly January evening as I approach The Pabst Theater and take in the easygoing crowd of people waiting outside.

“Are you here for Ben Gibbard?” I’m asked, and I nod, smiling. The air of excitement is already starting to build, and no one is even inside the building yet.

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Ben (Benjamin) Gibbard, half of The Postal Service and frontman for indie-rock group Death Cab for Cutie, is renowned worldwide for his haunting voice and dark lyrics tinged with love and loss. His solo tour, where he made his return to Milwaukee, is mainly acoustic, and he had no trouble captivating the entire room with simply a guitar and piano.

Before Ben himself actually took to the stage,  a young Tennessee-native named Julien Baker opened the show. Though I hadn’t been aware of her music before that night, her emotionally melodic and clear voice has since turned me into a fan. The raw compassion and feeling conveyed through her performance is something I won’t soon forget.

As 9pm crept closer, the anticipation in the near sold-out crowd began to build further. Finally, it was time for Ben. He appeared with thunderous applause, and from the moment he picked up his guitar until finishing the very last encore, there was magic in the air.

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Mr. Gibbard’s performance included various songs spanning his careers in both Death Cab and The Postal Service, as well as including a cover of Me and Magdalena by The Monkees and Big Star’s Holocaust. Personally, one of my favorite moments occurred when, after the first few songs, Ben walked over to a table near his guitars and took a sip from an innocent-looking glass. “It’s olive oil.”, he promptly announced with a laugh. He humorously explained that he once knew a man who would bring a whole bottle with him onstage and drink throughout performing, though several sips were all he himself needed to do the trick.

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Another particularly beautiful moment had to be the very last song, Such Great Heights by the Postal Service. I had grown up listening to that song on car rides, and hearing it live in front of me-sounding exactly like the studio version, was breathtaking. It is rare to come across such a talented individual, let alone one with such a powerful yet dreamy voice.  I look forward to his return, whether it be with Death Cab, solo, or something else entirely. The experience of listening and finally seeing the firsthand, live glory of something I had thrived upon growing up was like no other.

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