The Shins Mesh Old And New At The Gibson Amphitheatre - 10/2
The song came from the album "Chutes Too Narrow," which was marked at #47 on Pitchfork's Top 100 Albums of 2000–2004 and sparked much excitement among indie enthusiasts.
The Gibson, filled with young hipsters and older 30-somethings, cheered and screamed for The Shins as if welcoming back a best friend’s band.
Digging even deeper into their repertoire, lead singer James Mercer began singing “Caring is Creepy” from their debut album, "Oh, Inverted World," which solidified and confirmed Mercer’s hand at songwriting in the indie sphere.
This song and “New Slang” got much publicity on the movie "Garden State," which was released in 2004 and directed by Zach Braff, which exposed them to much of the older radio-listening crowd in attendance at the Universal City Gibson Amphitheatre.
Bringing the crowd back to the latest release, “Simple Song” off the album Port of Morrow, Mercer sang, “Well, this is just a simple song to say what you’ve done” and the fans knew all the words to sing along and began bobbing and dancing around to the upbeat melody.
Adding to the new sound, highly famed Richard Swift sang a verse while jamming out with his mini afro bobbing to the beat and playing keys.
Yet again, Mercer revisited their first album with the song “Know Your Onion!” and longtime fans sang while others did the generic bubbly pop dancing of bouncing back and forth.
Following the 50/50 pattern of old and new, the band played “Bait And Switch” with the attractive and talented Jessica Dobson backing up Mercer with vocals and guitar. Also, Joe Plummer, the drummer from Modest Mouse, and Swift provided backup instrumentation consisting of tambourines and maracas.
This song segued nicely into “The Rifle’s Spiral” with a more experimental and heavy downbeat. Focusing on more instrumentation, The Shins transformed the song into an almost spacey and synthesizer/guitar sound while keeping their bubble pop bouncy beat for the fans to jump around to.
Opening with heavy slide guitar and plucking of strings, "Pam Berry" featured Mercer’s singing floating in a lullaby melody as a short interjection before transitioning back to the happy-go-lucky beat.
Harkening back to their well-known sound, “Phantom Limb” got people swaying to and fro to Mercer’s barely-decipherable lyrics, but everyone including Mercer himself opened up for the chorus singing of “Oh, oh, oohhh,” in which those who weren’t as familiar with every lyric could sing along in unison.
Mixing it up with songs from their "Chutes Too Narrow" album, a personal favorite and well-composed album, “Saint Simon” resonated with older fans and had a slow but cymbal-heavy beat. Again, people sang along to the melody with “la da dah dum” and moved their arms from side to side in the air in conjunction with Mercer.
Back to the sing-song lyric-based music, “It’s Only Life” opened with xylophone chimes and Mercer comforted the crowd with the lyrics “I’ve been the down the very road you’re walking now. It doesn’t have to be so dark and lonesome.” Many of Mercer’s lyrics can be encrypted but beautifully written, and this song captures the dark side turned around to positive, as like the theme of many of The Shins’ repertoire.
One of the surprising twists was Jessica adding female vocals to the live show that were only heard on the studio recordings. She has a great voice but at times was overpowered by the other guitars and drums.
Shockingly, James Mercer sang high-pitched in “Port of Morrow” in which it seemed Jessica was covering that end of the vocals. Mercer proved yet again his versatility as a musician and his confidence to break out to the higher range.
On the other hand, at times Mercer’s lyrics were difficult to understand due to a problem either with the acoustics of the large venue or the sound mixing. Regardless, everyone got to singing “ooo” to the melody of the opening of “New Slang” and there was much happy-go-lucky dancing to “Australia.” Many of the fans were very much so into this new makeup of band members, for they loved dancing like they were pre-teens without a care in the world.
After closing out with “No Way Down” and a five-minute roar of applause and whistling from the fans, The Shins came back to play “Sphagnum Esplanade,” and while most weren’t singing along to it, this was a personally influential song to me with the lyrics “You're not expected to know why in such a short time.”
It seems Mercer has some transcendental beliefs and that is certainly reflected in his music about the overall good in humans and the positive outlook on life.
Despite changes over the years of band members, James Mercer recruited a very talented group of musicians to collaborate on the "Port of Morrow" album released of March this year, and they bring a bright outlook for long-time Shins fans of experimental instrumentation mixed with indie rock. Look for these guys to create more toe-tapping and lyric-driven music.
The Shins continue their tour by hitting up the original band’s hometown, Albuquerque, and then touring the South followed by several shows in Mexico. For a full list of their tour dates visit their website.