The Shins at Red Rocks, 5/29/12

Categories: Last Night

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Eric Gruneisen
The Shins last night at Red Rocks.


THE SHINS @ RED ROCKS AMPHITHEATRE | 5/29/12

Fewer than thirty seconds into their set and the Shins already needed a do-over. Playing Red Rocks could make any band nervous, but its grip is especially tight on one for whom U2 were gods growing up and for whom "this Red Rocks thing is really big..." So, when the drums entered awkwardly and a bit too eagerly, frontman James Mercer threw in the first towel: "Okay, let's start over. Let's do it." And, while the moment marked a mistake, it might also have been the only one for which the Portland-based quintet actually loosened its own grip.

All buttoned up and tucked in, the indie mavens offered up a polite and gentle batch of songs. Through the entire first third of the set, the Shins played soft, if consistently lovely melodies to a legion of mild swayers and head nodders -- a crowd that was considerably more active than the act entrancing them. Early in the night, the group fit awkwardly into its surroundings, seeming to wither under the spotlight rather than embrace it or even acknowledge it.

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Eric Gruneisen
The Shins last night at Red Rocks. Slide show: The Shins at Red Rocks.

While Red Rocks raises high the rock gods, it does not take kindly to church mice. On radio ruler "Simple Song," Mercer's characteristically charming falsetto began to break, forcing him to lower the occasional note as synth and fog distracted his audience and his Elvis Costello leg shuffle propelled him through it. But, luckily, as the sky darkened and the reefer stench thickened, so did the band's blood.

The Shins have no greater strength than their sing-a-long melodies, and, live, they can be so stunning, so fey, that the resulting power surge is as quietly impressive. No band can rope someone into caring quite as easily as the Shins -- or worm into their subconscious so easily or thoroughly (see the rapid succession of "Saint Simon," "No Way Down," "It's Only Life" and "Know Your Onion!"). As the crowd's individual vocals swelled into a collective echo, Mercer's coos of "la la la la la" were overtaken by soaring moans, brassy guitar solos and eerie organ synth.

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Eric Gruneisen
The Shins last night at Red Rocks. Slide show: The Shins at Red Rocks.

Finally, a little past the halfway mark, the moment came that the woman in the Garden State shirt we saw before the show had paid good money to experience, when the Shins abandoned its inner Peter Parker and summoned the superhero sound it takes to channel Red Rocks undaunted. Gone was the overtly subtle crooner and his merry band of melody-makers, replaced just a little too late with smooth operators, genuine angst, bold echoes and a hand reached firmly out to the audience.

While the foreboding ambiance of "The Rifle's Spiral" evoked a Cure phase onstage, "No Way Down" grew into a funky, broke-down stomper -- a button-loosener, if the Shins ever had one -- before transitioning into the spooky spaceship synth of "Sphagnum Esplanade." While borrowing heavily from Port of Morrow, the Shins ignored none of their witty, whimsical back catalog in pursuit of solid pacing. They never found it, but they did find release, from new baby-maker "40 Mark Strasse" through a stripped-down "Caring Is Creepy," out one end of an ambitious Pink Floyd cover through the end of the band's twenty-song set.

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Eric Gruneisen
The Shins last night at Red Rocks.Slide show: The Shins at Red Rocks.

As the surging chorus of "New Slang" slimmed to a silent sing-a-long, the band cracked its first (and only) joke. "Incredible," Mercer complimented the crowd. "You're all hired!" Well, kind of. "Actually, we should probably talk about the rate. There are a lot of you, and that's expensive."

Location Info

Map

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

18300 W. Alameda Parkway, Morrison, CO

Category: General


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8 comments
Josilyn
Josilyn

This was my first Shin's concert and I was disappointed by the sound. It came together here and there but much of their more complicated melodies seemed lost with James Mercer's vocals drowning them out. All in all okay but not everything I hoped for.

Ethan
Ethan

Our seats were in the upper 30's and I felt the overall sound mix for The Shins was muddy and sorely lacked both overall volume and any kind of low end punch. This was curious as The Head & The Heart did not suffer from these problems (I missed Blind Pilot because I was still eating my Shins sandwich). End result - too much of The Shins intricate layering was lost. Lots of people around us decided eventually to simply sit down during the second half of the set, who had been dancing earlier, seemingly not much into it. Not the band's fault perhaps but the engineers weren't on their game at all and it took some of the shine off an evening I had been looking forward to for a long time.

Joey B
Joey B

The correct track name is 'The Rifle's Spiral'.  Port of Morrow isn't quite what the first two albums were perhaps, but it's worth at least taking a passing look at the tracklist.  ;)

Worth mentioning too that they brought 2 of the original Shins members out for the first encore track, which was pretty cool.

I thought it was a great show; and what a perfect night at Red Rocks.

Jsm
Jsm

Rows 30 and higher always have poor sound

Nehls Jeff
Nehls Jeff

 I can't believe more people arn't talking about this. 

Kelsey Whipple
Kelsey Whipple

 Thanks, Joey B! I don't know how I typed that incorrectly. We'll fix it ASAP.

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