Last night’s episode of The Colbert Report will go down as a classic for host Stephen Colbert’s beautiful, gut-wrenching tribute to his mother, Lorna Colbert, who died last week at age 92. “I know that it may sound greedy to want more days with a person who lived so long,” Stephen said. “But the fact that my mother was 92 does not diminish, it only magnifies the enormity of the room whose door has now quietly shut.”
In that context the Postal Service, who’ve drawn so much attention recently with their reunion tour and 10th-anniversary reissue of lone album Give Up, instantly shrank down to their proper, modest size. They might have a platinum record and prominent festival billings, but the duo of Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and Dntel’s Jimmy Tamborello created a consummate sleeper-hit. For their scruffy, sad-sack digi-pop, the sense of low stakes and discovering something for yourself is part of the appeal.
Gibbard and Tamborello, joined by collaborator Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley, conveyed that shrugging, laconic charm in an interview with Colbert, who referred to their music as “bleep bloop”; he also embarrassed Lewis with childhood footage of her in a Toys “R” Us commercial (watch the interview above). Then, in what the host remarkably announced was the Postal Service’s first TV performance, the three and a backing vocalist performed Give Up standout “Such Great Heights” and, as a Web exclusive, new-to-the-reissue song “A Tattered Line of String.” With smiles and handclaps, the renditions were as sweetly winsome as you’d expect, a small public triumph on an episode that will be remembered for crushing personal loss.