Pop-rock perfectionist James Mercer brought the latest incarnation of The Shins to Bend’s Domino Room Tuesday night as part of a three-night mini-tour that’s notable for two reasons. First, the venues are all Oregon clubs that are considerably cozier than the places the band normally plays. And second, these are the first full-band Shins shows in more than two years, and the first since Mercer replaced all of his longtime band mates and recorded an album with Danger Mouse under the name Broken Bells.
A press release ahead of the show said the setlist would likely feature new material, but when all was said and done, Mercer and his band — Joe Plummer of Modest Mouse, former Crystal Skull Yuuki Matthews and singer-songwriters Richard Swift and Jessica Dobson — played only a couple new tunes and focused the bulk of the set on the best stuff from the first three Shins albums. Highlights included a scorching version of “So Says I” that seemed to loosen Mercer up after a skittish first half of the show, and a cacophonous take on “One By One All Day” to cap the night. On the other hand, Mercer has messed with “New Slang,” giving it a less fragile, keyboard-driven arrangement that sapped the song of some — not all, but some — of its charm and beauty. (Swift’s work on the keys was prominent all night.)
I’ll have more thoughts on the show in Friday’s GO! Magazine, as well as some musings on seeing this version of The Shins. (Spoiler alert: The band is certainly competent these days, but for anyone who saw them before all the personnel upheaval, it’s hard not to view the current lineup as something more like James Mercer & His Mercer-naries. Still, they sounded pretty great.)
For now, though, let’s indulge in some A/V treats. (Apologies for the sound quality on these. I need a better camera.)
First up, a new song that’s slow and sprawling in a laid back, classic rock sort of way, with lyrics that just might reflect Mercer’s feelings about the downsides of stardom and the turbulence of the past few years: “So many times caught up in my head at night with a leash and a label,” he sings at one point. “The way we used to carry on is stuck in my head like a terrible song,” at another. And here’s the second chorus:
“Taken for a fool. Yes I was, because I was a fool.
Following their rules, I guess I was a very honest tool.”
Here’s a cover of David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes.”
How ’bout some “New Slang” for your Wednesday morning?
If your ears can handle it, there are videos of “When I Goose-Step” and “Sea Legs” over at Frequency’s YouTube channel, too.
Tags: The Shins