Shins return to sound if not form

Indie rockers' Heartworms better than the band on this night

While technically proficient, the new Shins lacked chemistry.
  • While technically proficient, the new Shins lacked chemistry.

The Shins’ return to San Diego after a five-year hiatus — for two nights at the Observatory — was special for more reasons than just the long absence and mini residency. To start, for many it was the first time seeing band leader James Mercer’s existing lineup (half of which joined last year). Second, the indie-rockers were about to drop their fifth studio album, Heartworms, a return to their classic sound.

"Name for You"

...off of the Shins' <em>Heartworms</em>

...off of the Shins' Heartworms

Playing before a cartoonish backdrop featuring a giant skull and flowers resembling O’Keeffe paintings (imagery from Heartworms’ cover), the Shins played a 105-minute set on this first night, combining a mix of hits (“Australia,” “Phantom Limb”), fan favorites (show-opener “The Rifle’s Spiral,” “Caring is Creepy”), and four new songs, including the catchy first single “Name for You.”

While technically proficient, the band was lacking in visible chemistry. At times, they seemed intent on just playing the songs without much interplay. They also fiddled with a few arrangements, offering slower or faster versions; however, rather than sounding like re-imagined songs, they felt a bit off — as if a cover band couldn’t get the timing quite right.

The high point of the night came during “New Slang” — the song featured in the 2004 film Garden State that yielded a pivotal turning point for the band — when the crowd sang along and volleyed hoots and hollers. But the special moment catching all by surprise came during the encore’s slow-building “Sleeping Lessons,” when Mercer & Co. worked in an interlude of Tom Petty’s “American Girl.”

  • Concert: The Shins
  • Date: March 6
  • Venue: Observatory North Park
  • Seats: GA

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