Monday, December 24, 2012

The Shins at Belly Up in Aspen

Poster outside Belly Up in Aspen for the Shins show on December 14, 2012
Nan and I were up in Aspen last weekend to see the Shins play at the Belly Up nightclub. I have been a fan of their distinctive music since I first heard "New Slang" on the soundtrack of the 2004 movie, "Garden State", starring Zach Braff and Natalie Portman. Over the next several months, I listened to the band's first two albums, "Oh, Inverted World" and "Chutes Too Narrow" almost non-stop.

Two years later, in 2006, my sister Jane and I traveled to Chicago from an August family reunion in Milwaukee to see the Shins play at Lollapalooza in Grant Park. It was heartwarming to see tens of thousands of other fans as crazy about the band as I was, and we were all treated to new songs off their then-upcoming album, "Wincing the Night Away".

The Shins didn't put out another album for several years after that. Band leader James Mercer, partnering with Danger Mouse as Broken Bells, released an excellent self-titled album in 2010, and I assumed that the Shins were no more. But then earlier this year, I saw that the Shins would be the musical guests on the March 11 broadcast of Saturday Night Live. I tuned in and was surprised to see James Mercer surrounded by an all-new band. The distinctive sound was still there, though, and I was impressed enough by the songs they performed to get their new album, "Port of Morrow".

The Shins in concert at Belly Up in Aspen on December 14, 2012
The band line-up in the poster outside Belly Up looked the same as the one from SNL, but when the band took the stage, guitarist/vocalist Jessica Dobson was not with the band. There was very little patter between songs, and no explanations were offered. My impression was that James Mercer is the Shins regardless of who is playing with him, and this was made evident by the line-up that night playing a wide variety of Shins songs from the entire repertoire rather than simply focusing on songs off the new album. It was a show to promote the Shins, not just "Port of Morrow".

The music that night is a blur for me now, just a continuous stream of songs I know by heart, punctuated by favorites "New Slang", "Sleeping Lessons", and the final encore song, "One by One All Day", which I found myself singing for days afterward.

Go see the Shins if you ever get a chance. As Zach Braff's character Andrew says to Natalie Portman's Sam as he slips the headphones over her head, "You gotta hear this one song. It'll change your life, I swear."

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