The Shins - live in Chicago (Cover Artwork)

The Shins

live in Chicago (2007)

live show

When will bands learn to tour the south in the winter and everywhere else in the spring? Four lines of barricades forced hundreds to wait in sub-zero temperatures last Friday night, hours after the Congress Theater's doors were supposed to be open.

I felt bad for Viva Voce, the lone opening band, as by the time I made it inside the line outside had only grown longer and the band's set was nearly over. Only half of the venue's sizeable floor was full and it was mostly the club's fault for understaffing or dragging ass or whatever caused the outdoor delay. There were only two people in the band, a man playing drums and a woman playing guitar (both singing), but a mystery bass was coming through the speakers. Prerecorded instruments at a live show, especially one of this size, irk me. I later found out they were married so it was like non gut-wrenching Mates of State. They sounded like a poor man's Pixies.

A short set change later, the Shins started. All five of them exuded confidence and, from the first keyboard strokes of opener "Sleeping Lessons," looked like they were having fun. Full distortion on, they blasted through their songs with an energy that they've never captured in a studio. Martin Crandell and Dave Hernandez switched effortlessly between keyboards, guitar and bass while new recruit Eric Johnson rotated a lap steel, a keyboard and an acoustic guitar. Even with all of the switching and the occasional appearance by the female half of Viva Voce the set was fluid and they played every song tight and loud. Slower songs from Oh, Inverted World were sped up and rearranged to match the live energy of the new material. Comments from the band were sparse and reserved for a few "thanks for coming out"s, but once each song began the shyness faded and they went from lurching and swaying to leaping and slamming. James Mercer's yelp sounded strong and added more weight to the dense and expertly executed arrangements. Guitarist/bassist Dave Hernandez was by far the most animated, his days in Scared of Chaka shining through as he stomped and head-banged throughout. A common complaint about this band is that they're boring on record, but I challenge anyone to say the same of their live performance. When they wrapped up their encore with a bouncy "So Says I," it felt like the hour-plus set had just begun. If anyone has the means to see them on this tour, I would highly recommend it.

Set list included, but was not limited to:

  • Sleeping Lessons
  • Australia
  • Pam Berry
  • Phantom Limb
  • Turn on Me
  • A Come Appears
  • New Slang (a faster, acoustic-free version)
  • One by One All Day
  • Kissing the Lipless
  • Caring Is Creepy
  • Gone for Good
  • Turn a Square
  • Saint Simon
  • So Says I