No Wincing: The Shins at the Pageant
By
J. Gordon
3/9/2007 5:42:41 PM

If there was ever any doubt about whether the Shins can pull off their sweet whimsies, energetic mood-lifts, and teasing sadnesses live, the answer to that is a resounding yes. Opening with “Sleeping Lessons,” the first track to their new album, Wincing the Night Away, [Sub Pop] the Pageant theater in St. Louis was swallowed into a magical, pulsing darkness as vocalist James Mercer sang out his weirdly inspiring words of disconnect. Then, in a perfect, gorgeous moment of emptiness, the band boomed in with an energetic crash and we were all made whole again, with a full happiness that carried on through the night.

With not a single disappointing note, the Shins performed the favorites from their first two albums, as well as the two tracks that launched them from the great Garden State soundtrack, and a generous sampling of the new album, which very well may be their best (and that’s saying something).

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s not forget the opener:

You know it’s a good band when the biggest complaint is that you didn’t initially catch the name, and that was the general feeling about fellow Portlanders, Viva Vocé. This is the dream opening act: an unknown that stuns, surprises, captivates and seduces you into buying their CD (or at least checking them out on MySpace); all the while prepping the audience for what’s to come from the headliner. Viva Vocé is a girl-guy duo with the sound of seven; pulling off hypnotic, psychedelic pounding rhythms full of fun and sex and even throwing in a few big guitar solos swirling against their lo-fi backdrop. Taking turns on the vocals, Viva Vocé had another few thousand fans quickly won over with a humorous ditty repeating the lines, “We don’t fuck around.” But lest you think this band is all gimmick, singer Anita Robinson’s lilting sweet voice takes this band into territory and grace in the majesty of Leslie Feist.

As great as Viva Vocé were, however, they were all but forgotten after the Shins arrived. Few light effects or stage fanciness encumbered the pure, unadulterated performance; with clear, flawless sound that was just right to convey Mercer’s innocent, longing tones.

Viva Vocé’s Anita Robinson returned to the stage near the end of the Shins’ set, to help out with the wonderful tune, “Caring Is Creepy,” before the Shins thanked the crowd, saying humbly that they had never seen so many fans in one place before. No over-the-top special effects. No dull moments. No wincing of any kind. A simply perfect concert-- no doubt about it.

 

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