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- The Shins »
After a monumentally bad day at the office, getting pummelled from all angles, I was in need of medication, therapy or both. I fled, then, to my favourite live venue in the city, donned some scrappy jeans and ran straight into the arms of The Shins. The aural equivalent of Calpol or that awesomely tasty banana-flavoured kiddie cough syrup, they were – Valium aside – just what the proverbial doctor ordered.
With a debt owed in equal measure to the Gods of Indie Cool and Bittersweet Lyrical Eloquence, The Shins have become oft-cited regulars in the favourites lists of, well, pretty much everyone. Fans inevitably range from me to you, right through to the really really ridiculously good-looking Natalie Portman and the merry tribe of sycophants she spawned who also_ love The Shins despite never having heard a Shins album, but who have watched _Garden State a_ lot_. Three albums in and with even their weaker moments still being charmingly good, The Shins now nurture a loyal and dedicated following with their particular brand of wistful pop. Their international appeal is clearly growing, seeing as they are now capable of selling out shows everywhere from the UK and US to Europe and Asia.
What sets them apart on record – especially on both Oh! Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow – is an alluring intimacy that some say is lost during their live shows. I'm not really one for riding on the back of previous press however, and arrive with a giddy schoolboy-at-the-sweetshop anticipation.
I am a very lucky boy indeed – The Shins are in their prime here. The cosy venue – 250 at a push – allows them to be as intimate as they like. You almost get the sense that a venue any larger might swallow them up.
New album opener ‘Sleeping Lessons’ also acts as the intro to the live show, seeing multi-instrumentalists busting out all manner of percussion and beats that comprise a by-numbers perfect example of how to bring a song to life on-stage. Thereafter follows what is effectively a stunning greatest hits set that doesn’t give too heavy a weight to the plugging of the new record, but instead successfully blends old and new together.
‘Gone For Good’ is a particular nostalgic highlight, ‘Australia’ and ‘Phantom Limb’ provide something fresh to bounce around to, and I could have taken ‘A Comet Appears’ to bed right there and then. The likes of ‘Kissing The Lipless’, ‘So Says I’, ‘New Slang’ and ‘Caring Is Creepy’ marry up with a gentle audience sway, a string of cheers of recognition and a wash of balloons that flood the venue. With many lesser bands, this would really be quite naff, but here it works and is just… well… kind of nice. Nice is what these guys do best and they do it very well indeed.
The sense of audience satisfaction is tangible – contented grins akin to that of ecstasy-ridden Cheshire Cats are everywhere and are evidently contagious. I eventually give in and – bad day behind me – join the grin-fest. After something approaching two hours immersed in the company of The Shins, the real world feels that little bit more approachable. Well thought-out set, perfect venue, great band and so damn_ nice_.
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