Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Dodo's Conundrum

Review: The Shins, live

A lesser band would not have merited this quick a turnaround from concert to review. That expediency generally stays in the purview of Journalists and Radio People; that is, they who get paid to write this sort of thing. I am not one of those lucky few. So the fact that I'm writing with journalist-speed should serve as a testament to how good the show was. And it better have been damn good, for the $40 the ticket cost after wondrous enhancements like "handling."

Actually, let's talk about prices for a moment. This was not the most expensive public performance I've ever been to; that honor goes to seeing The Producers on Broadway. Nor, do I think, is it the most expensive concert I've been to; tickets for the family-traditional Christmas with the ASO are surely at least $40. If that much money was a bit of a sticker shock for me, only my prior concert-going experience is to blame. Take the Decemberists, for instance. That show was every bit as good musically as the Shins concert (and even better from an audience-involvement perspective) but a lot cheaper. Throwdown and Zao weighed in at a measly $12. (Big surprise there.)

And yet, grossly overrated bands like Dave Matthews can pull in ticket prices that have three digits to them. Exactly how they're able to pull that off is far beyond me. But it gives a nice perspective that at least my favorite bands aren't such tall orders compared to some.

You know a show is good when you can positively remark on the lighting, of all things. From the moment LEDs blinked on and off in time to the beginning of "Sleeping Lessons," you could sense portents of amazement. When the veil dropped at exactly the right time later in the song to show the palm tree/amoeba creatures from the cover of Wincing the Night Away, things picked up and never backed down.

Comments on the set list: starting out with "Sleeping Lessons" was the right move. Ending with "Phantom Limb" was also a good choice, and really ending with "So Says I" ensured the the energy stayed through the entire show. Hershel's commentary on "Phantom Limb" still holds true: "I don't understand 'Pam Berry.' Why can't I just get to 'Phantom Limb' 57 seconds sooner?" Interestingly, it's as if Mercer is aware of this criticism; I doubt tonight's version of "Pam Berry" took more than 40 seconds of my "Phantom Limb" anticipatory time. From the new album, it would have been impossible to get away with not playing "Australia" and "Turn on Me" and "Sea Legs," and thankfully they did, as those plus "Phantom Limb" are probably the best to come out of Wincing the Night Away. Add "Girl Sailor" and the ever-depressing "A Comet Appears" and you've covered most of the recent album. I could have done with "Split Needles" too but I won't complain.

Aside from "So Says I," a lot of old stuff was covered too. "Gone for Good" and "Kissing the Lipless" and "Saint Simon" were excellent. We also got various other tracks from both Chutes too Narrow and Oh, Inverted World, none of which I have an issue with. Through this, I've realized that there really isn't a Shins song that I don't like.

That said, something needs to be done about "New Slang."

It's not a bad song; like I said, I don't think there's such a thing as a bad Shins song. Compared to most of the rest, though, and certainly to the better half of Wincing the Night Away, I really don't see what the big deal about it is. But, of course, Natalie Portman's character in Garden State thinks it'll "change your life" so of course it must be the best thing in the Shins' collective portfolio. I'm just not indie enough to have come to the Shins through Garden State. In fact, I haven't even seen the movie. A saving grace: the Shins don't seem to have that problem of Garden State groupies leaving the fandom en masse because too many other people started liking the band.

And let's hope that means the Shins will continue to give concerts of this magnitude for a long time.

Currently listening: Chase this Light, Jimmy Eat World (review coming soon?)

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