Edit this event
- The Shins »
They’re one of those bands that seem impossible to describe in terms that are hyperbolic enough. Tonight, I finally get the chance to watch and wonder just why The Shins have become so important to me. A sell-out crowd is here to applaud them and I wonder how many of those present have found The Shins soundtracking some of their finest, worst, most comical and banal moments - in short, their lives.
James Mercer stands stage right, bearded and slim. He hammers out those impassioned paeans to lost love that dominate ‘Chutes Too Narrow’ and his voice is crystal clear. Centre stage is afforded to keyboardist Marty Crandall, who bothers with stage banter when sometimes maybe he shouldn’t. Still, we let him off; he just wanted us to know it was his birthday. Mercer knows full well that the best way to perform is to stand up straight, silently prepare yourself and then play the songs. Say thanks, maybe. Leave the crowd to talk amongst themselves between songs. Leave them be. The message is in the music and the lyrics.
From the get-go, The Shins sound incredibly powerful. The guitars are beautifully blended and have a muscularity that serves their more winsome album tracks very well indeed. Live, ‘Saint Simon’, which has just a touch too much sugar in it on record, has enough cutting edge to reinforce its undeniably graceful, chiming melody. Equally, ‘Gone For Good’, which is given a dusty, country treatment on the LP, is played straight tonight and becomes a massive set highlight, pumped full of electricity and transmitted loud and clear.
Attention to detail makes a band endearing, so it’s great to see the four Shins turn towards drummer Jesse Sandoval and clap together before whooping in ‘Kissing The Lipless’ just like they do to kick-start ‘Chutes Too Narrow’. Mercer sings those lyrics that I’ve fallen in love with. ‘One By One All Day’ gets a long improvised opening before Sandoval kicks it into life; elsewhere, the songs from ‘Chutes’ and the equally meritorious ‘Oh! Inverted World’ are treated in a fairly straight-ahead, faithful manner. No bother. The Shins make no pretence at slaking anyone’s thirst for experimentation, daring to be unfashionable enough to just play brilliant guitar pop, which has soul, meaning, insight and passion about it. I was beginning to think that it was impossible to do that, so hackneyed does each ‘great’ new beat combo appear to my tired ears. The Shins blow all that up and make sounding good seem very simple. It isn’t.
Later on, in the student haunt Big Hands, Marty tells me that there should be a new LP early next year. Drummer Jesse is on the pull. James is engaging in earnest conversation with various friends/fans and is impeccably polite when I do my fanboy bit and tell him how great I think he is. Grizzled, cynical old me, behaving like a kid again. What the fuck is going on?
I’m in love again. Thank god for that. They’ll probably let me down in the end but tonight, they’re perfect. I’ll criticise them next time, I promise, but for the moment, five stars. Six, if we had ’em.
- The Shins, Calexico & Eleanor Friedberger on their favourite Christmas songs
- Drowned in Sound's Favourite Albums of 2012: 100-51
- In Photos: Leeds Festival 2012 - Day 3 @ Bramham Park, Leeds
- This Week's Singles! 30.07.12: Dead Fader, The Antlers, The Shins, The Orb
- Half-Year: DiS' Most Read Articles, Reviews and Threads of 2012 (so far!)
- This Week's Singles 28/05/12: Luke Abbott, Jherek Bischoff, The Shins, Euros Childs, Poppy & The
- Moving Pictures: Videos of the Year - 1st Quarter 2012
- In Photos: The Shins @ The Forum, London