Ben Gibbard, Union Chapel, London
Towards the end of this show - Ben Gibbard’s first in the UK a solo artist - one fan yells "this is the greatest night of my life". Gibbard’s reaction is coolly non-plussed, he later wonders aloud:"what could I do to make the the *worst* night of your life?"
This isn’t an epochal concert by any stretch, but the chap in row R’s comment reflects a real bind between Gibbard’s work and a chunk of Generation Y’ers. Said work includes seven albums with Death Cab For Cutie; one with the much-loved The Postal Service and now a long-in-the-works country-tinged solo album which covers “three relationships”. We can presume that includes his recent divorce from actress Zooey Deschanel.
He opens with “Shepherd’s Bush Lullaby” the short intro to his new record, Former Lives. It’s “Her Majesty”-length at 50 seconds but, taking in as it does the glum British weather, it’s an appropriate offering to the bescarved hordes inside London’s most musical church (“thanks for coming to this dump,” he jokes, admiring the Union Chapel’s lanky beauty).
The set-up, as the hushed venue dictates, is simple. It’s just Gibbard, his acoustic guitar and his curvaceous singing voice, which bends and aches over vowel sounds like an artificial limb. Without the trouble of co-ordinating an entire band, the Washingtonian is able to rip through 26 songs in just over 90-minutes.
Very early on comes his finest moment as a lyricist – The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” which is done in the ambling style of Iron and Wine’s cover. Making it a cover of a cover of a side project as played by the original artist.
There’s enough Death Cab for fans of the not-quite-arena-rockers to be satisfied too. This includes minor hits such as “Cath…”, “Sound of Settling” and “Title and Registration”, all of which are received with decidedly non-congregational whoops. It’s all – if you’re a fan of his work – very endearing hearing them in this stripped context and Gibbard’s voice, an odd, coldly-emotional creation is frequently captivating. Without accompaniment though, there’s often little else to focus on. A situation which at times grapples with some listeners’ concentration.
Of course, that super-stripped setting is part of the point of nights likes these. And the guitar-and-vocals repetition is eventually broken by five numbers at the piano followed by a cover of Blur’s endearing lullaby “Sweet Song” and Former Lives’ “Teardrop Windows” which is frankly the saddest song you’ll ever hear about a skyscraper’s height envy.
Like his music, Gibbard is chatty, endearing and funny – making for a warm evening. Though not *quite* the best of my life, sadly.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
- 2 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 3 US? China? India? The 10 biggest economies in 2030 will be...
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Doctor Who film will definitely happen, leaked Sony emails reveal
Glastonbury 2015 tickets: How to make sure you’re successful in Sunday's re-sale
The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer has leaked – watch
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling