Shins Leave Toronto Wanting More
The Shins have had a very dynamic last few years, going through a lot of members in a very short period of time, all the while keeping their sound consistent. Playing to an incredibly enthusiastic sold out crowd at the Phoenix Concert Theatre Thursday, the band showed that they have changed a lot while not changing much at all, putting on a show that fully represents the music they put out: very intimate and very, very fun.
The Shins of today is no longer the Shins of 2007, when they released their last album “Wincing the Night Away”, nor are they the Shins of 2004, when they gained mainstream attention via Natalie Manic Pixie Dream Girl Portman and the line ‘the Shins will change your life’ in the movie Garden State. Lead singer/only permanent member James Mercer has been backed by three new members and Modest Mouse drummer Joe Plummer through this latest tour, fueling Internet speculation about whether the band was what it used to be. Thursday’s show proved that despite being more or less a Mercer vehicle, the band still is and will continue to be one of the best indie rock acts today.
The show was opened by Faces on Film, a still relatively obscure band from Boston whose style perfectly complemented the Shins brand of indie pop. Though Faces on Film satisfied the crowd as much as a mostly unknown band could, patience was tested by the wait for the main attraction. But as soon as the Shins came on stage and jumped into fan favourite ‘Caring is Creepy’, all was forgiven.
The major news surrounding the tour was that it would introduce new material to fans, and the band fulfilled that promise. Three new songs were sprinkled through the show, and they threw off a crowd used to knowing every word to every song. During the first (the name of which may or may not have been given; Mercer seems to have a thing for mumbling his stage banter into the microphone) the audience didn’t seem to know what to do, and the second, one that sounded more like shoegaze than anything else, brought bewildered looks to many faces. By the third new song everyone had settled in and enjoyed what they heard, a song that sounded much like the upbeat pop of ‘Australia’.
The new material never threw the crowd off, though, and with each song you could tell every person knew the exact lyrics, be it mainstream hits like ‘Phantom Limb’ and ‘New Slang’ to deeper cuts like ‘Mine’s Not a High Horse’. And the band delivered in a serious way, plowing through the setlist effortlessly and clearly enjoying themselves. Noticeably absent from the show was ‘Wincing…’ high points ‘Turn on Me’ and ‘A Comet Appears’, though all three albums were well represented throughout.
The band made some interesting choices in the encore, going with ‘Wincing…’ opener “Sleeping Lessons” and two covers: David Bowie’s ‘Ashes to Ashes’ and Pink Floyd’s ‘Breathe’. With an incredible reverberating bass and mirror ball effects, the latter cover was the perfect way to end the show. It also may have served as practice for their upcoming appearance on Jimmy Fallon this Monday, where they’re set to play the song as part of a week of Pink Floyd tributes.
‘See you soon,’ said Mercer as the band left the stage, hopefully a hint at returning to T.O in the near future. Whether or not that may be, things look good for the Shins and their fans. Maybe Mercer can return the favour and make Zach Braff relevant again.