THE SHINS ROCK WOW HALL
As concerts go, indie pop isn’t necessarily known for its face-melting, rock-your-mother’s-grave shows. But last night, Monday, Aug. 8, WOW Hall could very well have experienced a Shins-induced maple tree cave-in from the newly (re)united indie brainchild.
The show, which sold out in less than 48 hours (complete with what appeared to be a media blackout) marked the first time in nearly three years that band leader James Mercer put out a call to artists to play his melodic, bubbly and tightly structured rock.
The Shins, with a completely new line-up on stage, save Mercer, featured a selection of extraordinary talent from the current pool of Northwest musicians. How they would all come together as a coherent whole was the question on everyone’s minds. Full of cool dads, plaid-donning yuppies, gauged hipsters, and the occasional (out-of-place?) hippy, the WOW Hall crowd watched Mercer and co. wave briefly, then dive headlong into the evocative opening words of “Caring is Creepy,” and there was no doubt the band made a congealed whole.
Often an afterthought along the I-5 corridor, WOW Hall and the McDonald Theatre can sometimes draw bigger artists on their North American tours, though lately these venues have found it more difficult to eke out such artists’ best performances. In their Eugene debut, The Shins defied any apprehension fans may have had (it also didn’t hurt that this show kicked off the band’s summer tour). Although the set list was rather tame — mostly keeping to very familiar territory with the likes of “New Slang,” “Kissing the Lipless,” “Saint Simon,” etc — Mercer did divulge a few new licks. The fresher tracks had a similar feel to Wincing the Night Away and seemed more geared towards the low-tone, ambient sounds of songs like “Black Wave” and “Spilt Needles,” with (of course) a heavy dose of Mercer vocals.
It would have been enticing to see singer-songwriter (also sound engineer and producer) Richard Swift , relegated behind a synth, more involved in the performance. Presumably his presence will be felt more in the studio. Portland-based guitarist Jessica Dobson added an improvisational element that loosened the overall tone of Mercer’s conventional songwriting, while her female vocal dynamic paired aptly with the Shins’ poppy sensibilities.
The Shins played a very technically sound show, with few signs of their short two weeks’ worth of rehearsal time. — Andy Hitz
— FAN PHOTO BY ETHAN OUIMET