The Shins Light Up Stage AE
James Mercer may be ageless.
Usually, when a singer/songwriter is young and just beginning their vocal prime, they will write songs and create melodies which stretch their vocal abilities to the absolute limit. Also, usually, these singer/songwriters live to regret having made their vocals so challenging by the time they hit their late 30's, and by the time they're in their in their 40's they begin to make adjustments so that they don't blow out their voices halfway through their set.
At 46 years of age, the unassuming-looking Shins frontman isn't just continuing to hit the notes...he is effortlessly crushing them. Last night at Stage AE, The Shins made their illustrious return to Pittsburgh and proceeded to show off their incredible musical depth, playing some of their classics from former albums, with just enough from their newest release Heartworms to keep audience members interested.
The Shins have experienced plenty of trials and tribulations since their emergence in 2001 with the release of Oh, Inverted World. Though success has been a virtual guarantee for the past 16 years, keeping band member has been a different story altogether. The exception has been, however, the presence of Mercer, who has aged like a fine wine.
That is not to take anything away from the rest of the band last night. This version of The Shins may very well be the best assemblage thus far, combining an obvious stage chemistry with a bottomless well of musical talent. Heartworms hearkens back to the bands earlier days, combining influences like The Smiths and The Beach Boys into a sound which is purely original. The difference today, however, is that their musical swords have been sharpened over the years, becoming increasingly clean and complex.
As for the show itself, longtime and new fans of the band could not possibly have been disappointed. The setlist hit basically every song which audience members would hope for (although I would have enjoyed the inclusion of "So Says I" and "40 Mark Strasse" ) and their stage presence was undeniably magnetic. If you are reading this and you don't know The Shins, do yourself a favor and pick up any of their albums. One play through, and you will almost certainly be hooked. I have been listening to the band since 2007, and last night was my first concert experience with them. Rest assured, it will not be my last.
Side note: Opening band Tennis has an absolutely great sound. The lead singer's vocals reminded me of a combination of Cyndi Lauper and Stevie Nicks. They are a young band bursting with potential.