“21 years? Bulls**t, that’s a lot. Gimme a break,” front man James Mercer mused between songs.
On Sept. 10, the Orpheum Theatre was the setting for a stop on the band’s summer-long 21st birthday tour for their first album, titled “Oh, Inverted World.” The anniversary tour was a platform for The Shins to play the album from front to back, for old and new fans alike.
I’ve been a fan of The Shins since a road trip through the Badlands when my sister passed me a headphone and introduced me to their strange lyrics and hypnotizing melodies. It had been five years since I last saw them at the Basilica Block Party, so I was extremely excited for this show.
Through the years, The Shins have been through a handful of member changes, but the show’s cohesive sound—from the slow ballads to the dancey hits, executed flawlessly—would never have given that away. Mercer was honest with the fact that a lot of the songs they were playing from this album had never been performed live, and thus required some reworking. For example, a deep cut titled “Your Algebra” had a new drumbeat added where there wasn’t one previously, which made the song a bit faster. While some fans were taken aback by the changes (evidenced by some audible expletives near me), it wasn’t long before the audience was dancing along and smiling to the new beat.
Despite the large and ornate venue, it felt like an intimate show. I had never been to a concert at the Orpheum (only theater performances or live podcast shows), so I didn’t know what kind of energy to expect. I was worried it would be difficult to truly enjoy a concert while sitting down. But, while the Minnesota politeness in the crowd did keep us all from standing until the band asked us to later in the show, no one took their seat again afterwards.
Following the conclusion of “Oh, Inverted World” in its entirety, the band played some of their top hits from other albums. During “Australia,” some technical difficulties took out the amps, leaving the band on their own. They kept playing until the song was done, and then gave the workers space to fix whatever was happening. The band members didn’t let the difficulties stop the show, though. Guitarist Mark Watrous and drummer Jon Sortland kept the crowd entertained by playing requests that fans would shout at them, my personal favorite being “Undone–The Sweater Song” by Weezer, until the techs were able to get everything figured out. Their ability to roll with the difficulties and keep the audience engaged was inspired and greatly appreciated. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before they were back up and running.
After finishing the original set and the encores, The Shins ended the show with an inspired mashup. The combination of their early hit “Sleeping Lessons” and Tom Petty’s classic jam “American Girl” left the crowd energized. The night’s curveballs aside, it’s hard not to feel appreciation for a band that clearly hasn’t missed a beat in a more than 20-year journey.