Sound on Sound Review: Shins

Amidst a sea of versatility, everyone wanted the hits

Totally packed by the time the Shins took the stage Sunday night, the Emo’s crowd skewed older and whiter, with a lot of enthusiastically thrown devil’s horns hand gestures. This was likely the demographic that became enduring fans of the Shins’ 2001 debut Oh, Inverted World in their teenage years.

Photo by David Brendan Hall

That same audience seemed borderline comatose during both Baio’s tongue-in-cheek 40 minutes of Eighties synth-pop and Los Angeles indie rockers Girlpool. Once Shins vocalist/guitarist James Mercer opened the headlining set with his choirboy yelp on “Caring Is Creepy,” the vibe abruptly changed into full-on freak-out.

Mercer’s the sole original member of the Albuquerque-originated outfit these 16 years later, but the backing fivepiece he’s culled played out dynamic, injecting the Shins’ entire and diverse catalog with a furious live energy during the 90-minute set. Wincing the Night Away’s “Australia” and “Phantom Limb” both offered elated sing-alongs. The slinking “Saint Simon” from Chutes Too Narrow and triumphant, buoyant “Simple Song” from Port of Morrow incited screaming, too.

The band wove in a number of cuts from this year’s Heartworms, the fifth album under the Shins moniker, including the weird, vaguely psychedelic “Painting a Hole” and mellow “Mildenhall.” The more straight-up radio pop didn’t jibe as well and threw a bizarre kink into any cohesion for the set list. Amidst a sea of versatility in sound, everyone wanted the hits.

The three-song encore opened with a sunny, meditative “The Fear” from Heartworms, warmed by a makeshift string section of three violins. The obvious “New Slang” followed, Mercer drawing out its jangly, iconic “ooh” opener – and then he fumbled, which prompted an abrupt re-start. A high-energy rendition of “Sleeping Lessons,” with a quick cover of Tom Petty’s “American Girl” bubbling in the middle, helped close out Sound on Sound 2017.

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Shins, Sound on Sound Fest 2017, James Mercer, Baio, Girlpool, Tom Petty

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