CONCERT REVIEW The Shins Bring Boston to Its Knees

Live Performance Brings Rawer Sound

The Shins

Orpheum Theatre

Thursday, Mar. 15, 2007

Fresh off their new album release, Wincing the Night Away, The Shins are in the midst of a whirlwind tour, and last Thursday they graced Boston with their presence. I was lucky enough to witness this, and what follows is a (mostly) accurate representation of what went down. Interviewing fans leaving the venue, I gathered the following: the show was "fucking awesome," "really great," and "smokin'."

It all started with the opening act, Viva Voce. I had never heard of them, but apparently they are from Portland, Oregon, and have matching haircuts. They were like an inverse White Stripes with a man playing Meg's role on the drums (only a way better drummer), and a chick rocking it out on guitar à la Jack. Some fans I talked to had some negative things to say about the band such as, "They should never play music again." I though they were pretty hilarious with over-the-top stage mannerisms, and they exceeded my expectations for an opening act.

Next there was a brief pause to change sets, and the empty seats filled. The Shins took the stage and there was much rejoicing. They played a lot of their new stuff, which rocks a lot harder live than on the recording. In fact, The Shins rock a lot more in general on stage than on their recordings. This is likely because their recordings involve a lot of ephemeral, sometimes psychedelic, sometimes electronic moments. This is hard to do live. I consider them to be on the line between a sort of indie soft rock and pop music. I've heard their style called "orchestral pop," but their live sound was much less pop-y than I remembered from listening to their CDs and certainly not "orchestral." Upon returning from the show, I gave Wincing the Night Away another listen and it was way better than I remembered. Seeing the band live completely changed my perspective on the music (deep, right?) Besides the new songs, they played all their hits off of Chutes Too Narrow, and Oh, Inverted World. They also played a couple covers (including "Someone I Care About," by The Modern Lovers) … which were okay, I guess.

The Shins play my kind of show. There are no costume changes, unnecessary sets, or stupid jokes and anecdotes between numbers. They just played the music without unnecessary embellishment or shenanigans. The result was that they played really well. They seemed to really care that the music sounded awesome. Frontman James Mercer even restarted a slow number halfway through because something wasn't right. I am now also in love with the guy who plays the keyboard, Martin Crandall. He rocks. Crandall sometimes plays the bass or the maracas, and Mercer busted out a harmonica during the encore. These guys are multi-talented! My least favorite part of the night involved an audience sing-along. You can imagine how this went, ("called to see, if you're back …"). This might just be a pet peeve of mine, but when I pay to see a show, I would like to hear the band perform — not the vomit-scented girl in a backless shirt next to me.

Looking around, I was reminded of how much people love rock music. There was awkward dancing all around and the only person who wasn't feeling it was the eight-year-old seated directly to my left, who seemed a little overwhelmed. Apparently, parents are a lot cooler than when I was his age. It was a school night, for crying out loud!

After this Boston stop, the Shins continue their tour, hitting up Canada, Europe, and California. If you missed them this time around, tickets are on sale for Brussels, Belgium. Maybe I will see you there.