Words by Jon Chattman
Photos by Scott Harris
reCAP :: The Shins w/ Baio :: 2017.11.05
Nov 07 / Tuesday
It’s way too easy to start out a review of The Shins by recalling their breakthrough track featured in Zach Braff’s 2004 film Garden State, but here we are. You know where I’m going with this… There’s a now classic scene in which Natalie Portman’s character has “New Slang” pumping through her headphones, and tells Braff’s character to listen to it because it’ll “change your life.” The scene got legs for many reasons. First, it showcased the importance music has in film. Second, it showcased just how awesome an actress Portman is. Third, and certainly not least, it put this indie rock band on the map. Oh, and there’s also that whole music can change your life thing.
On Sunday, Nov. 5, I needed a change of thought. News flooded the airwaves of another massive shooting during the day, and knowing I’d be checking out The Shins at The Cap later that night, the Portman/Braff scene danced in my head a bit. Music has this power to heal. We know that. So, fittingly once the Portland band came on stage, it changed the narrative to my day. Mercer, boisterously moving back and forth on stage, and the band fittingly opened with their other Garden State track “Caring is Creepy,” and from there delivered a fun, oft-mellow, free-flowing set that was heavy on the new stuff (recent album Heartworms). Thankfully, the new stuff fits right in with the old stuff.
That said, one can't help but to think how weird it is to call The Shins “The Shins” nowadays. This is really Mercer’s show. Following 2007’s Wincing the Night Away, the frontman parted ways with his bandmates and rebooted the franchise - so to speak. No drastic detours have occurred thankfully. The only changes, in reality, has been new bodies and likely a new level of creative freedom as a writer that Mercer perhaps didn't have in the past. That’s saying a lot when you consider he was already one of indie rock’s best songwriters already. Anyway, back to the show.
The majority of songs, as mentioned, came off Heartworms and key tracks that the audience seemed to gravitate toward were single “Name for You,” which would fit in with any of The Shins’ earlier albums, and “Painting a Hole,” a much louder number that shifted the crowd from swaying to rocking a bit. Other standouts of the night were “Kissing the Lipless” and “Saint Simon” off 2003’s Chutes too Narrow and mega alt-rock hit “Phantom Limb” off Wincing the Night Away, which never sounded better. That song came in toward the end, and the band seemed to be reaching a fever pitch by the time they played (and completely played) “Simple Song” off 2012’s Port of Morrow. But, then, bummer of all bummers, they left. While it would’ve been awesome to have Mercer and company on stage longer, they ended up doing 16 songs total including three killer encores. Let’s focus on the last two, because, perhaps for some, they changed their lives.
A poignant “New Slang” had the crowd in stitches. That song gave way to Wincing the Night Away’s “Sleeping Lessons,” which is arguably one of their best songs. The rendition of this song transcended any expectations and served as an ender to end all enders. Is that an expression? I don’t care. Let’s make it one. “Lessons” was the best performed song of the night by Mercer and the band, and had the most crowd enthusiasm. What elevated it to even greater heights was Mercer incorporating a verse of Tom Petty’s “American Girl” within it with the entire crowd shrieking it. Moments like this made you want the show to last all night.
The Capitol Theatre Photo Gallery
Photos by Scott Harris
[gallery link="file" columns="4" ids="|"]