Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Concert Review: The Shins

Photo courtesy of www.theblurb.com.au

Artist: The Shins

Date: Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Venue: First Avenue Mainroom

Location: Minneapolis, MN USA

Review: I was slightly worried Tuesday afternoon that the experience of Planetdan would be relived at the all-ages show that I was attending. Apparently, there was a severe audio problem the previous night, but overall I figured that these First Avenue old salts were professionals, and whatever ruined Monday's concert wouldn't be repeated. And I was right not to worry. What I experienced was a fantastic, always-reliable, Shins-in-Minneapolis concert.

The evening started off slow because I had one ticket that I hoped to sell. Gratefully, I convinced my wife who is 38 weeks pregnant that she really didn't want to go. I tried convincing her of this the day we bought the tickets, but there's only so far you'll push your opinions on an 8 month pregnant woman. We should admire her spririt to get out. But as I said, I had better success last night. My friends were disappointed I hadn't invited them earlier, because they already made plans. So, I was left with the shameful tactic of peddling the ticket out on the corner of First Ave. and 7th St. As I walked up to the venue, there was the usual crowd of all-ages smokers catching their breath after the opening band. This crowd was larger than in the past because of our city-wide indoor smoking ban. Fooled into thinking there may be some desperate fans who were turned away from the sold-out show, I cleared my throat and began my pitch. After one round of, "Shins ticket! Who needs a Shins ticket?! Sold-out show! I can make change!" my shame got to me and I stuffed it back in my pocket and ducked inside. I learned later that in Australia in February, scalped Shins tickets were going for $100! But Minneapolis is far too experienced and savvy a music town to fall for that kind of inflation.

Arriving in time to miss The Brunettes (who I'll check out via the comfort of my computer some other time) I found an unheralded spot on the floor by the right-hand stack of speakers. Otherwise, the sold-out crowd was packed up against every square foot of floor that had good sight lines, with the First Avenue staff patiently kicking people off the stairs. Yet there was this nice hole in front of the speakers. Maybe people thought that the volume would be excessive, but I wasn't expecting Aphex Twin and was sure it would be fine. The picture above (from a different venue) captures my vantage point and distance from James almost perfectly. Eventually a few teeny-boppers piled in around me. I put my hands in my pockets and patiently waited.

When the lights dimmed, the only ear-pain that I would experience that night happened, and it wasn't from the band but from the screeching girls. I had no idea the Shins had become sex symbols. Keyboardist/guitarist/crowd-pleaser Marty played to this phenomenon expertly, repeatedly teasing the crowd that pants would be removed as the show progressed.

Musically, they were spot on, playing their brilliantly written selections from both albums. They were well-rehearsed and energetic and I have nothing negative to say. I know that they played one new song, and it's possible there was a second but I'm not trusting my memory too well on that. They also covered Magnetic Fields' Strange Powers, which I read that they've been doing live for a while. For me, a highlight was when Marty announced at the end of a fine encore that they would be back, hopefully soon, playing songs off of a new album. In interviews, they've promised to have that out by the end of 2005. But I hope they don't rush it for our sake. I see the Shins as our best hope of putting out a truly great classic album sometime within the next five years, on par with Loveless or Joshua Tree. I want from them an album that they obsessed over in the studio and that could make or break the band - "make" in its brilliance, or "break" in it's psychological toll it took on the band. Wish them luck.


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