CONCERT REVIEW: The Shins @ The Tower

BY JONATHAN VALANIA FOR THE INQUIRER If Zac Braff’s Garden State was The Graduate for the iPod generation, the Shins’ “New Slang” was its “Sound of Silence.” “You have to hear this one song, it will change your life,” Natalie Portman beseeched us all in Braff’s film. That scene sure changed the Shins’ life, for better and for worse — depending on where you stand on the two albums that followed, 2007’s winsome Wincing the Night Away and the new Port of Morrow. I like ’em fine, but they sound like the work of a different band from the one that made Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow in the early ’00s. That’s because it is. These days only singer-songwriter James Mercer remains from the “life-changing” original lineup. If you’re like me, and you think what makes the Shins the Shins are Mercer’s neurotic yip of a voice and remarkable facility with melody, this is a good thing. Or at least it’s not a bad thing. If you think otherwise, you probably didn’t bother going to the Tower on Thursday night where Mercer and his reconstituted Shins — bassist Yuuki Matthews, guitarist Jessica Dobson, drummer Joe Plummer, and keyboardist Richard Swift — leavened sleek, smartly turned pop from the new album (the barreling “The Rifle’s Spiral,” the fruity tropicalia of “Bait and Switch” and the majestic “Simple Song”) with deep cuts from the Oh, Inverted World?/?Chutes Too Narrow era (the galloping “Mine’s Not a High Horse,” the eruptive ecstasies of “So Says I,” and an especially gorgeous, altogether stately “Saint Simon,” arguably Mercer’s finest moment as a songwriter to date). MORE