Photo By: Stacey Alonzo
April 25, 2012 – Grand Sierra Resort
“You have to hear this one song, it will change your life.”
Most of us remember a fresh-faced Natalie Portman as she delivered this line, imploring us to listen to The Shins’ “New Slang” in Zac Braff’s 2004 film Garden State. It didn’t necessarily change my life like the young starlet promised, but that scene definitely contributed to the changes that carried the band into their next two albums.
If the latest album Port of Morrow sounds like it was created by a different band, that’s because it was. The band’s current line-up is an impressive collaboration of seasoned musicians. Joining the last original band-member James Mercer is Modest Mouse drummer Joe Plummer, bassist Yuuki Matthews, guitarist Jessica Dobson, and Richard Swift on the keys. My skeptical ears were anticipating any unwelcome guitar riff, drum solo, or vocal anomaly that could support past conversations about how “this is not The Shins”. Interestingly enough, that moment never really came. Surrounded by his new bandmates, James Mercer’s presence and voice kept us in the realm of belief that this was still that “life changing” band that so effectively reflected the angst and longing of their time. Opening with “Kissing the Lipless” and “Mine is not a High Horse” immediately pulled me back to a place of familiarity that heightened my expectations and curiosity. I watched and listened as this “new” band played some “old” songs with no revision or deviation from original versions.
Being at a show where the band plays songs exactly as they are heard on the album can either be quite satisfying, or yawn inducing. In this case, the initial effect was reminiscent of a wedding band playing covers of your old, beloved songs, songs that touched you enough to make you proclaim that, “you have to hear this song”. The music was played perfectly, but was mildly lackluster. As they filled their set with a healthy variation of songs from all 4 albums, whispers filled with anticipation expressed the crowds wonderment of whether or not we were going to hear “Caring is Creepy” and “New Slang”. When Mercer sang “It’s a luscious mix of words and tricks”, my soul was immediately comforted at the sound of one of my favorite lyrics of all time, sang by a voice that embodied all that is The Shins.
I don’t criticize Mercer for wanting to change his environment and inspiration. The new line up performs The Shins precursory music to a satisfactory level, which is simply all we can ask of them. My last fragment of skepticism was completely melted away by encore. “Port of Morrow”, the title track from the new album emoted itself as a spooky reverie, nostalgic for a daydream I have yet to experience, making this my favorite performance of the evening.
Yes, this show left us quite nostalgic and maybe even a bit melancholy as we missed what could have been. As long as James Mercer is at the forefront of this project, The Shins will continue to produce music that will thrill us, appealing to both our hearts and minds.
Photo By: Austin Danforth
Photo By: Austin Danforth
Here’s the title track “Point of Morrow”. You’re welcome for the ear candy.