“It’s so weird to say this, but we are The Postal Service.”
After saying that statement, Ben Gibbard steadied his guitar, the band started to play and it wasn’t weird at all. Ten years have gone by since The Postal Service’s last tour, and when the indie-electronic group took the stage Friday night at the Alex Madonna Expo Center, the four musicians onstage stole the audience’s hearts as much as ever.
The night began an hour earlier, as a thick fog was settling over Cerro San Luis and the last of the ticket holders, old and young, were trickling into the venue.
The one-man electronic music opener, Baths, took the stage and played a rambling series of songs with deep bass and powerful beats, his sometimes-falsetto voice occasionally reminiscent of Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos.
The experimental sound had heads bobbing across the crowd and cheers erupting after almost every song. Baths producer/vocalist/button-masher Will Wiesenfeld’s body language showed he was also enjoying the music as he mixed onstage and encouraged his audience to “loosen up and dance” during the more upbeat moments.
Child development senior Stacy DeRoberts-Theye said she thought Baths was a great opener for The Postal Service.
“Baths was really cool and different,” she said. “I haven’t listened to a lot of his kind of music, but I got more into it as his set went on.”
But not everybody found his music to their taste.
Erica Olson, who traveled from Arizona for the concert, found Baths’ sound “very whiney.”
Olson said she was glad when The Postal Service finally took the stage.
“When I think of The Postal Service, I think of nostalgia,” she said. “Their last tour was 10 years ago, but I hope their sound is not different.”
As the colored lights lit up the stage and The Postal Service began the organ-like hum and body-shaking bass of its first song, the approximately 2,000-person audience made itself heard.
“Ben Gibbard is just one of my favorite artists,” Santa Barbara City College student Oona O’Toole said.
After more than seven years of listening to the The Postal Service’s music, O’Toole said she was excited to finally see the band perform live.
Only at a live show can you hear the hazy echo of fans singing along to each well-worn lyric of “Such Great Heights” below Gibbard himself as both of his hands grip the microphone.
Only at a live show can you watch in fascination as Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis holds her guitar up to her face and plays with no hands.
Or smile as Gibbard and Lewis turn toward each other and share the classicly heartbreaking medley of “Nothing Better.”
“’Nothing Better’ … is my favorite song by them,” DeRoberts-Theye said. “It’s a really pretty duet, and Ben Gibbard and Jenny Lewis got pretty into the song, which was awesome to watch.”
The band played a few new and less-loved songs, as well as others evidently stitched into the lining of several audience members’ hearts.
“I had no idea so many people were into their music,” DeRoberts-Theye said. “Their performance was awesome, and you could tell they were excited to be playing together again.”