Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Shins - Live at DAR Constitution Hall

James Mercer has a rep for being at best studious and at worst a hermit. As a someone told me, when the Shins are playing live, it sorta looks like he wants to curl into a ball and go to sleep the whole time.

Thankfully, Monday night's show at the DAR Constitution Hall (aka "The House that Molly Pitcher Built") found the band lively and comfortable in front of a sold out crowd. Their banter was game and quirky, referring to the audience as "delegates" and joking about the IMax 3D Constitution movie they went to see earlier in the day.

Anyway, the set was solid, if predictable. They did all the favorites -- "Caring is Creepy", "New Slang", "Kissing the Lipless" -- and opened with the first four tracks from their latest, Wincing the Night Away. Of the new material, "Turn On Me" was the best; of the entire show, "Saint Simon" stood head and shoulders above the rest, the perfect combination of nuance and enthusiasm, Mercer's voice delightfully strained over that bit, "Mercy's eyes are blue/ As she places them in front of you". The big venue hurt the crowd atmosphere a little bit -- only the orchestra section stood up -- but on the whole, it was a polished, uniformly strong performance.

One more thing -- opener Viva Voce were absolutely worth catching. Playing their first ever show in front of an entirely seated audience, as they commented a couple times, the husband-wife duo banged out some excellent Velvets-inspired drone-and-squeal rock, the best of which were the title track from their recent album, Get Yr Blood Sucked Out, and the oddly rousing "We Do Not Fuck Around".

The Shins - "Turn On Me" (live on Letterman, w/ Anita Robinson of Viva Voce)

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