Last Night: The Shins at House of Blues

The Shins House of Blues October 10, 2012

People give the Shins a hard time. Hard to say if it's because they're so closely associated with Garden State - which, all these years later, was a pretty smug, annoying little movie - of if their gentle brand of psychedelic popcraft makes some people uncomfortable. Or they just could be lame, but that's not it.

They did sell out House of Blues Wednesday night, though, so someone must like them. Lots of people.

James Mercer and his merry group of troubadors went onstage Wednesday precisely when they were supposed to, 9:15 p.m., which made me a little worried they were in a hurry to get to Austin City Limits this weekend, or at least Dallas tonight. But they were just punctual.

The Shins motored through 15 songs and an encore in barely an hour and a half, bashing through rockers like Smithsy "Australia" and "So Says I" more incense-tinged, organ-heavy psych numbers such as "Phantom Limb" and "Phagnum Esplanade." Mercer has a knack for knowing just how long to hold a chord before changing to the next one, which he demonstrated over and over, notably on "Simple Song," a recent single from their new album Port of Morrow.

They have a newer one, "It's Only Life," which is a hyper-inspirational Big Ballad crying out to be used in another soundtrack. Not knowing the material all that well (but well enough), I found it to preserve the essence of some of the best '60s and '80s pop -- the heavy synths of the spooky "The Rifles Spiral" brought Ultravox to mind, while "Bait and Switch" and "Know Your Onion!" yoked a driving rhythm to music-box melodies straight outta Motown. The music almost dares you not to like it ("St. Simon" was just pure Beatles, and happily so) and occasionally surprises you.

If there's one criticism I might (might) level at the Shins, it's that some of their songs feel a little two-dimensional, but others like Port of Morrow's title track were luxuriant and elastic, like swimming in a lagoon. Both the crowd and the drummer helped coax main-set closer "Sleeping Lessons" into one long rapturous chant that lasted several minutes.

Resale Concert Tickets

Powered By
powered by Seats For Everyone SEE MORE

  • Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 / 6:30pm @ NRG Arena 1 Reliant Park Houston TX 77054
    1 Reliant Park, Houston TX 77054

  • Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 / 7:00pm @ House Of Blues - Houston 1204 Caroline St Houston TX 77002
    1204 Caroline St, Houston TX 77002

  • Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 / 7:00pm @ Bronze Peacock At The House Of Blues - Houston 1204 Caroline Street Houston TX 77002
    1204 Caroline Street, Houston TX 77002

And I'm sorry, but if you can write a perfect slice of folk-pop like "New Slang" -- Eddy Arnold would be proud of those yodel-like "woo"s -- you deserve to change someone's life.

Personal Bias: Not a band I live and die with, but one I have no problem with either. I actually quite enjoyed myself.

The Crowd: Full, and oh so very white.

Overheard In the Crowd: "The Shins and Andrew Bird are it for me" - a young woman behind me

Random Notebook Dump: Caught myself swaying, more than once.

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >