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Benjamin Gibbard isn’t just a singer . He is a gifted songwriter with the ability to lyrically paint concepts of love, loss, regret, and transcendence in vibrant and evocative hues. He is a poignant storyteller who has perfected the pervasive ache narrative. He is a musician who carefully dotes each instrument he plays like it’s the only one he has. But above all else, he is at his best when he gets to combine all of these elements and steps onstage as a performer. To a sold out crowd this past Sunday at the Somerville Theatre, Gibbard shined brightly for his first official solo tour. Donning a simple red plaid button down and blue jeans ( which seems to be the standard outfit he wore the previous four times I’ve seen him), he entered the stage with a big-lunged rendition of “Shepherd’s Bush Lullaby” off of his debut album Former Lives right before dipping into his Postal Service hit “Such Great Heights.”
Lives is exactly what you’d come to expect from the man who fronted Death Cab for Cutie for well over a decade: a gently atmospheric and revealing glimpse into Gibbard’s cloudiest of emotions (bathed in pretty acoustics, of course). It was refreshing to hear brand new material from Gibbard. “Duncan, Where Have You Gone?” and “Teardrop Windows”—which he endearingly joked is his new hit single—were harrowing when subjected to only an acoustic guitar and a room full of anxious onlookers. Gibbard even commented on hearing a rumor that the Somerville Theatre was haunted, yet insisted that the ghosts from his past could give those ghosts a run for their money any day of the week.▼ Article continues below ▼
He could have been referring to being haunted by the massive success of Death Cab, which meant that it was inevitable to throw some of their better known tracks into his setlist. The scathing “Cath…,” as well as “Grapevine Fires” and “Passenger Seat” were rhythmically elegant. “Soul Meets Body” was stunning when performed on piano, and “Crooked Teeth” was a nice, upbeat surprise. Throughout the entire night, Gibbard’s demeanor remained humble and very relaxed. The audience learned that malls depress him, he is an avid runner, and he has a certain fondness for The Lemonheads (his cover of “My Drug Buddy” was the giveaway). As he inched closer to an encore, my money was on the devastating “Transatlanticism” as his final song (it was the last song performed of the evening every single time that I’ve seen him).
But in a shocking twist of events, he picked “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” as the note for us to be left on. And while I was thrown for a loop, I realized—much like Gibbard did when he decided to finally release a solo album—it is nice to shake things up a bit.