Last night, thirty and fortysomethings nostalgic for the Shins, one of the most prominent American alternative bands of the past few decades, packed the Agora to see the band perform locally for the first time in five years.
As the crowd awaited the band's arrival, a blue light cast on the band’s drum set with the Shins’ logo written in a ghoulish font. Fans screamed and cheered until all six members of the band made their way on to the stage.
Frontman and songwriter James Mercer took center stage with five touring musicians around him. A rainbow backdrop with a large skull surrounded by flowers resembled the cover of the band’s new album, Heartworms
Mercer delivered heartfelt, peppy versions of hits like “Australia” and “Mine’s Not A High Horse” until the lights finally dimmed, and things slowed down a bit for their classic track “Gone For Good,” a tune which prompted sing-alongs from the crowd. The ballads kept flowing, and as Mercer unveiled one of the new tracks, the autobiographical “Mildenhall,” he delighted the crowd with stories of his English upbringing. The song even featured two violinists.
“Saint Simon” invited more singing from the crowd as the fans, whom Mercer orchestrated with his hands, sang along with Mercer’s “la da da da’s.” “Painting A Hole” found Mercer at his most animated. He playfully danced around the stage with a drink in his hand like a musician 20 years his junior.
One of the biggest highlights of the night was “Phantom Limb,” a song which drew huge yelps as soon as Mercer introduced the song. Fans waved their arms along to one of the band’s best-known tracks. Mercer dedicated the next song to a friend due to join the Navy, and he exploded into “Simple Song,” the first song to get the crowd jumping around. The tune concluded with Mercer raising his guitar above his head as he received a loud, standing ovation before the band departed the stage.
The first of their three-track encore was “The Fear,” which included a trio of violins, a wooden block drum and Mercer on acoustic guitar. The hot, steamy Agora crowd was immersed in a slow, hazy, communal sway, which concluded with a bit of cheeky harmonica from Mercer.
By this point, Mercer had the crowd eating out of his hand with a performance of the most famous track, “New Slang,” which made for the loudest sing-along of the night. The band concluded the set with a sheer bolt of energy for “Sleeping Lessons,” and the crowd returned the favor. The band took a bow as it departed to more adoring cheers.
Judging from the performance, the band’s brand of timeless, heartfelt, folky alternative rock still hasn’t lost its spark or appeal.
The Denver-based indie pop band Tennis opened the night with some jazzy keyboard pop accompanied by some funky guitars and angelic lead vocals. The band’s frontwoman, Alaina Moore, charmed the crowd with a story of how she fell in love with the Shins after watching the film, Garden State
, in college with her friends, whom she’s unable to visit now because her band is currently on tour with that very same band.