EVA SAYS: So, you’d think after all these years of waiting to see The Shins, my first show would have been some meaningful notch on my concert bedpost or something. What a silly expectation that was. At best, maybe I got excited for the first ten seconds of each song. But then the initial thrill of recognition would fade and I would be back to underwhelmed. Mostly I blame myself. After all, my friends did try to warn me off: “The Shins suck, you loser Zach Braff fan!” (For the record: I do not like Zach Braff nor was I turned onto The Shins via Natalie Portman). The Shins, it seems, like Air or Godspeed You Black Emperor, are best heard on your own couch, preferably with a pint of Cherry Garcia and a sack of The Sticky-Icky. Lost in the crush of the crowd, I had another weird bout of insecurity: I’m not a kid anymore but I don’t really feel like an adult. So of course I head to the bar downed $10.50 worth of “security” and headed back into the crowd to take my chances in the kiddie pool, i.e. the sardine pack of young ones pressed against the lip of the stage. (Uncomfortable yes, but unlike the grown-ups in the bar, at least they weren’t talking louder than the band.) But once I got up there, it was like ‘Great, now I’m back in junior high and I forgot to bring my boyfriend and our matching his and her Death Cab for a Cutie shirts. But really, that’s all beside the point, if the Shins hadn’t looked so tired or sounded so mechanical, none of this would mattered. C
The Shins fill empty spaces at Factory
By Jonathan Valania
For The Inquirer
The Shins are the consolation prize for people like you and me.
We may not get to be Ken or Barbie, the quarterback or the homecoming queen, or for that matter CEO or Anna Nicole, but we do get some pretty music to help us lick our wounds and accept our status as the runner-up in our own lives.
Judging by the way-sold-out Electric Factory on Tuesday night, many, many locals are ready to collect from the Shins, the Portland-by-way-of-Albuquerque indie-pop outfit.
“A movie so crass and awkwardly cast, even I could be a star,” sang Shins front man James Mercer on “Pink Bullets” and, no, he wasn’t talking about Garden State, wherein Natalie Portman famously insists the band will change your life. Mostly, that movie changed the Shins’ life, lifting them up from obscurity to hip ubiquity.
“Man, this is so weird going from seeing them play all these small, crappy places in town and now this…,” said the guy behind me, gesturing to the filled-to-capacity, hangar-sized interior of the Electric Factory.
“Yeah, they’re like soccer-mom-big now,” said the girl next to him.
On the band’s three extant records, they employ jangling, Byrdsy guitars and bittersweet ’60s AM radio melodies to create the kind of harmonic melancholia that serves as comforting balm for many in a raw and nervous world.
Unfortunately, the Technicolor bloom of the recordings tends to fade in a live setting, the cleanly drawn lines blur, and the vast open spaces, so dramatic on record, become invitations for crowd chatter — as was the case Tuesday night.
Perhaps sensing they were losing the crowd a bit, the Shins kicked into “New Slang,” also known as “The Garden State Song.” And from then on, it was the Shins’ world, and we were just listening to it: the honky-tonk charm of “Gone for Good,” the waltzing lilt of “Saint Simon,” and the metaphorical amputation blues of “Phantom Limb.”
Returning for an encore, the Shins trotted out a surprisingly tepid version of “Girlfriend” by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers but acquitted themselves nicely with a rip-snorting run through “So Says I.”
Like I said, there’s always a consolation prize with these guys. Everybody wins with the Shins.