The Palace of fine arts is somewhat of an intimidating space. For Damien Jurado, there was dead silence as he told us stories and sung with nothing but an acoustic electric guitar. It was indeed going to be an intimate night.
Once Ben Gibbard took the stage the audience gave him the same respect they showed to the previous performer. We all just held on to the silence and let the master work, trying not to make a sound in our seats. Ben was on stage with nothing but a guitar, a mic, some amps and a piano. All the fancy light work you usually see at a concert these days was gone. There was a main spot light and some colored lights pointing down on the center stage–but that’s it. I imagined this is what he looked like when he practiced solo in his home.
Ben sung many of his greatest hits to date. He mentioned, ‘”This tour is like the greatest hits played slower.” And ‘slower’ it was. All of the songs were taken and stripped of anything and everything that wasn’t Ben himself. This was his night. It was his night to show us the songs that he had written in a way that re-exposed us all to them in a new light. We were all taken back, to the early days of our high school or college careers, where love was still new. I remembered a lot of the first times I heard those songs, and what made me connect to them in the first place. Those memories crept up on me as the night went on. And I think that I speak with most of the audience when I say that it was truly a magical experience. The woman next to me was in tears on her lover’s shoulder silently mouthing the words to every song. And the whole crowd cheered and smiled when another of their favorite songs had begun. Even when he played songs off of his most recent solo album, Former Lives, we were all extremely captivated.
I think this is the show that Ben has always dreamed of having. Playing in one of his favorite cities, and having the utmost respect given to him. Several times he mentioned how he never imagined playing in a ‘palace.’ And to thank us as a city, he played Scott Mckenzie’s “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair).” We really appreciated that one. Thanks Ben.