The Shins at the Pageant, 6/5/12: Review, Photos and Setlist

shins-pageant-review.jpg
Kholood Eid
The Shins | The Antlers | Deep Sea Diver
June 4, 2012
The Pageant

"Should I be surprised at the amount of fist-pumping happening in the audience?" I wondered to myself last night on the Pageant floor during the Shins first song of the night, "Phantom Limb," from 2007's Wincing the Night Away. It was momentarily jarring until frontman James Mercer reminded me halfway through the song that, "This is that foreign land with the sprayed-on tans/And it all feels fine," a bit of that nonsense (or non-sequitur?) lyricism that exists with many an indie band but is omnipresent for the Shins. Mercer and co. released a new album in March titled Port of Morrow, which is its first in five years. Fist-pump away, people of St. Louis: this band is back and deserves enthusiasm however you elect to express it.

The show began with two solid sets from indie rock tour support Deep Sea Diver and the Antlers. The former opened the evening at 8 p.m. with 30 minutes of pure shimmy-and-sashay song carried by frontwoman Jessica Dobson's rich vocals, though I suspect they would have sounded richer from my vantage point had the crowd been quieter and more respectful during the set. That same audience disregard prevailed through the ambient noise of the Antlers 40 minute set, during which the man standing next to me corrected his lady friend, "No, this is the Antlers. This isn't the Shins." I'm not sure how you confuse the Shins for the Antlers, a band whose spirit more closely resembles the dream pop of Beach House, but whatever. It all feels fine.

Early in the night, the floor and pit of the Pageant were saturated in a style expected of a sold-out show, and as usual, by the time the main attraction was prepped and ready to take the stage at 10 p.m., the assigned-seating in the balcony swelled to capacity, too. After easing the crowd into the set with "Phantom Limb" the band went straight into "Caring is Creepy," and my ears are still ringing from the collective squealing that rung in return -- If you were worried about her, it was at this moment that the lady next to me likely realized that this was the Shins. I get it. I saw that dollar-bin movie, too.

Now totally engaged, the room roared applause as the song curtailed and evolved into "Simple Song," the first single on Port of Morrow. The lights come up to reveal the stage backdrop is the album's cover art, a gothic scape that could be a monster atop a mountain or a haunted lighthouse protecting a dried-up sea. Musically the cuts from this record weave differently with the band's canon; they sound more contented, more polished, less bitter, less hopeless if not similarly non-sequitur -- in an interview with UK webzine Drowned in Sound Mercer says the album title has no particular meaning, and that he's never even visited the real Port of Morrow in Oregon. Those are just pretty, moody words strung together that fit a feeling.

Though the new work sets itself apart from the signature whimsy of Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow it does flow more seamlessly with Wincing the Night Away tracks, allowing the audience to chart a progression before looping back around again. To wit: "Australia" from Wincing is followed by "Bait and Switch" from Port of Morrow followed by "Know Your Onion!" from Oh, Inverted World and then "Rifle Spiral" takes us back to the latest effort. Perhaps that balance is also due to Mercer and his band's flawless on-stage sound, which, even from the back row of the Pageant, sounded crisp, clean and recording-quality throughout.

It's also likely due to the locomotive speed and efficiency of the set, which included little crowd banter and a lot of spirited sound. Much has been made of James Mercer striking out on his own (and away from Sub Pop) after Wincing the Night Away with side project Broken Bells and reformatting the Shin's line-up, which currently includes Deep Sea Diver's Dobson on guitar, Modest Mouse's Joe Plummer on drums and bassist Yuuki Matthews of Crystal Skulls. If it seems like it's the James Mercer and the Shins show, it's probably because it's always been that.


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The Pageant

6161 Delmar Blvd., St Louis, MO

Category: Music

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6 comments
Buddy
Buddy

The Shins played a nice set, if somewhat cookie-cutter, but it was enjoyable. But I have to say the Antlers were just boring, one song blurring into another with no real personality to speak of between songs, and their sound tech just couldn't get the vocals into the intelligible realm.  One has to consider whose fault it is when the audience is disengaged, in an ideal world the entire crowd would have researched and listened to all the bands on the bill prior to attending, but if a band is having trouble engaging their attention during the show, the audience cannot be held accountable, the artist needs to work on their performance skills.

Blazing wound
Blazing wound

i think you meant "maraca" (shaken percussion instrument)), not "morocco" (country in north africa).

Spduncan51
Spduncan51

It was a great show, and I agree with the commenters regarding rude audience members, but that seems to be expected now, including the ubiquitous holding up of smart phones, blocking the view of the stage.  I have to disagree about The Antlers - what a horrible buzzkill of a band they were - Grizzly Bear by way of The Cowboy Junkies.  Each song was more dirge-like than the last and, by the end, I was praying for their set to end.  Perhaps the best part of The Shins show was Mercer's increasing confidence as a performer which allowed him to punch up or alter song arrangements that put a new gloss on already stellar material.

Anonymous
Anonymous

"Cannon" should be changed to "canon."

Bryce Gilbert
Bryce Gilbert

Actually "Pam Berry" was the first song, which leads directly into "Phantom Limb" on the album. More of an opinion than a fact though....

Jhuug
Jhuug

Great show...but I can relate to the reviewer - my wife and I had a rather heavy girl (not that that is relevant) with a stupid fedora and horrible tattoo in front of us talking loudly to her equally lame friends ALL night long.  I'm pretty good at tuning people out but my wife was ready to slap her!

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