The Shins at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Monday 05th, June 2017 / 10:49

May 27, 2017 – Queen Elizabeth Theatre

By Andy Largeman

The Shins – Photo by Justin Uitto

VANCOUVER – The Shins play the kind of music that English teachers use to convince their high school classes that poetry is cool. They’re smart, lyrical, and definitely not a party band. Don’t tell that to the fans that packed the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, however. The Saturday-night crowd brought plenty of energy, turning this show into much more than just another night of pleasantly bookish indie rock.

The Shins – Photo by Justin Uitto

To start the evening, Tennis opened with a set of ‘70s-indebted pop tunes that drew equally on strutting disco, sighing soft rock and cheesy disco. Adding to the retro vibes, singer/keyboardist Alaina Moore wore sternum-high striped pants while her husband/guitarist Patrick Riley donned a reflective silver shirt that resembled a mirrorball in garment form.

The Shins – Photo by Justin Uttio

The opening set was tuneful but not captivating, and the fans saved their gusto for the Shins, who charged out of the gate with the early-career standout “Caring Is Creepy.” This set the tone for a performance that delivered a hearty dose of the classics while still making plenty of room for cuts from this year’s Heartworms. Ever-bearded singer James Mercer was flanked by five backing musicians, who helped to inject the tunes with muscle. Guitarist Casey Foubert displayed some particularly nimble fretwork, while keyboardist Patti King brought the charisma with her wide smile and flower-child dance moves.

The set was full of crowd-pleasing anthems, including the mass-singalong that was “Saint Simon,” the power pop pathos of “Simple Song,” and an encore interpolation of Tom Petty’s “American Girl.”

As excitable as the crowd was, the best moments were actually the quietest tunes: “Mildenhall” was a touching autobiographical folk ditty, “Gone for Good” got a shuffling Americana twist, and “New Slang” was every bit as revelatory as it was when Natalie Portman strapped those big headphones on that wet blanket from Scrubs all those years ago. The Shins—you know ‘em? They’ll change your life, I swear.