October 2, 2012
Many fans of The Shins
began to grow wary of the indie outfit's direction as each of the original members left the band over the last few years. Though James Mercer
has always been the bandleader, it's never the same without the original lineup. Or is it?
Last night, Mercer proved to Los Angeles' Gibson Amphitheater that The Shins are still very much alive (and prosperous) in their new incarnation. First and foremost, Mercer knows what he is doing. He always has, ever since releasing his freshman album, Oh, Inverted World, way back in 2001. He did not wrangle up a posse of scrubs to take the place of former members, but rather carefully selected a few of the best musicians the Pacific Northwest has to offer, including Joe Plummer (Modest Mouse, Black Heart Procession, Mister Heavenly) on drums and famed producer/singer-songwriter Richard Swift on keys. Another integral addition to the newly refined Shins is Jessica Dobson (you may remember her as Long Beach singer-songwriter Deep Sea Diver)--a beautiful, talented guitarist/vocalist that helps create those gorgeous male/female harmonies we all love in the recorded tracks but never get to hear live.
Though the new band has only been around since this year's release, Port of Morrow
, the six-piece played selections off each of The Shins' four albums, including a surprising number of songs from Oh, Inverted World
(yes, they played "Caring Is Creepy" and "New Slang) and beginning the set with Chutes Too Narrow
's opening track, "Kissing The Lipless." As usual, Mercer looked entranced by the music he was creating, saying nothing more than "thank you," after each song. But he began to loosen up halfway through the set and asked for audience participation during "Phantom Limb," encouraging his fans to sing "oh oh oooh" with him. "That was great! That was awesome. Thank you!" he jovially said after the song's end, genuinely pleased with his crowd.
The Shins continued on during their hour-and-a-half long set, precisely executing each and every song. They ended their set with Wincing The Night Away's epic, slow-burning opener, "Sleeping Lessons," and reached deep into their discography during the encore, pulling out "Sphagnum Esplanade," a bonus track off the Japanese version of Oh, Inverted World. By the time Mercer and his newly appointed crew strummed their last note, it was clear there was nothing to worry about. As long as James Mercer is around, The Shins are here to stay.
Critical Bias: It doesn't matter what incarnation The Shins are in, they're always solid.
The Crowd: In the General Admission pit, diehard youngsters; in the seats, middle-aged radio listeners.
Overheard In The Crowd: "Yeah, Zach Braff wrote, directed and starred in it! He even won a Grammy for the soundtrack!"
Random Notebook Dump: People STILL associate The Shins with Garden State and talk about it...a lot.