Enduring appeal
The Shins - Live At The HMV Forum, London

It’s been a long time since The Shins last graced our shores. There were doubts that a new album would even enter the early stages of fruition. But here it is, a two-night headline stint at the HMV Forum, with rumor being that the night in question sold out in thirty minutes; the excitement surrounding these shows is clear to see.

And so it is to a hero’s welcome that the band takes to the stage tonight, opening with the first song on their debut album: ‘Caring is Creepy’. Mercer and co. are on glorious form, despite a drastic jumbling of their line-up over the past few years. Singer-songwriter Richard Swift has joined on keyboards, and has the most notable impact on the band’s sound. After a triumphant performance of ‘Mine’s Not A Horse’ is ‘Bait and Switch’, the first song played which is taken from their new album ‘Port of Morrow’. With bristling electronics bubbling under the surface and a clear emphasis on a steady, kinetic beat; here Swift’s skill is shown.

The first song played from 2007 album ‘Wincing the Night Away’ is ‘Pam Berry’, a slightly odd choice, but the fanatic crowd greet is warm nonetheless. The Shins’ back catalogue is pretty much exceptional in its brilliance, and you’ll have a hard time finding many bands who attract such love and support for all of their albums. This is because, in the immortal words of Natalie Portman, The Shins will change your life. The cultish adoration of this band is reflected in the host of tonight’s event, ATP, who only host the most respected and cherished of groups. ‘Phantom Limb’ and ‘Australia’ follow shortly, whetting the appetites of those more acquainted with their last studio effort.

Again, dipping back into their new album, The Shins play a soaring rendition of ‘The Rifle’s Spiral’. Packed with changing dynamics, a compromise between jangling percussion and spacey guitars and keyboards, this is a band at their challenging, yet crowd-pleasing best. ‘September’ is a throwback to their debut album, with a touch of their new pop-sheen – boasting beautifully eerie acoustic guitars and the subtle, sun-drenched aesthetic of Oregon’s north-western afternoons.

A strong trio is chosen for the encore, the first of said trio being ‘Young Pilgrims’, a wistful, slightly melancholic ditty from second album ‘Chutes Too Narrow’, which the crowd belts back towards the stage. The closing due of ‘Port of Morrow’ and ‘One By One All Day’ is suitably awe inspiring, the choice of two of their more complex tracks being an inspired one, with the latter stretching on tantalisingly to tease a crescendo which never comes.

The remarkable thing about The Shins is their enduring appeal. Despite many believing that they do little more than write cute songs on an acoustic guitar, they are far more than that. Through experimentation and perseverance Mercer has produced an outfit who, regardless of personnel changes, are still respected and loved by all their fans.

Words by George Boorman
Photo by Rachel Lipsitz

Click here for a photo gallery of the gig.

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