The Shins Sydney Review @ Enmore Theatre

Published in Music News  
The Shins' James Mercer (photo from their 5 December Brisbane show). The Shins' James Mercer (photo from their 5 December Brisbane show). Image supplied
It's been a big year for Melbourne singer-songwriter Angie McMahon.

After winning the Josh Pyke Scholarship and receiving some attention on Triple J Unearthed as a featured artist, the newcomer is wrapping 2017 in front of easily her biggest audience to date in the illustrious surrounds of the Enmore Theatre (9 December) as support for The Shins.

It's a big jump for an artist with literally a single to their name and nothing more, but watching Angie in the flesh sheds a little light on what exactly the fuss is all about.

A charming, understated performer, Angie sings slowly and soulfully; think Ainslie Wills or Mia Dyson by ways of Jess Locke or Julia Jacklin.

It's gentle, sweet music that's clearly coming from somewhere innermost and personal – even if it is, like the penultimate number, literally about eating pasta. Larger rooms and further captive audiences await Ms. McMahon, so get in on the ground floor while you still can.

The Shins have not been to Australia for five-and-a-half years. In that time, frontman James Mercer put the project on hold, made a Broken Bells record, hired some new recruits for The Shins and returned in the middle of the year with the experimental and underrated 'Heartworms' LP.

In other words, we and the band have a lot of catching up to do.

Read the review of The Shins 5 December Brisbane show here.

They've downsized their Sydney venue of choice tonight from 2012's Hordern Pavilion, but the Enmore is the easy preference for any self-respecting live music fan anyway.

Furthermore, the opening chords of 'Caring Is Creepy', which opens the band's 2002 debut 'Oh Inverted World', would not sound more beautiful or resonant in any other room in the city.

It's clear even this early that this show is bound to be something special, even as James loses his place in 'Australia' getting the band to start the song again. “We can't mess up 'Australia' in Australia,” he reasons, much to the crowd's delight.

It's smooth sailing from therein, with the sextet working their way through both classics ('Mine's Not A High Horse', a re-worked 'Gone For Good') and a few highlights of 'Heartworms' ('Name For You', 'Cherry Hearts').

Although they've only been together for just over a year, this might be the best line-up of The Shins to ever grace a stage.

James is clearly enjoying himself a lot more than in previous incarnations, and the talent of those that surround him on stage is quite something. Not only are half the band keen multi-instrumentalists, it turns out that three of them know how to play the violin; and during 'The Fear', that's exactly what they do.

Whatever the band throws at the audience, we're there every step of the way. We clap in time to 'Painting A Hole'; we wave our arms and sing the wordless refrain of 'Phantom Limb'; and we let out every last “ooh-ooh-ooh” to 'New Slang' like it was 2004 and our lives were being changed by Natalie Portman all over again.

It's shows like that that really make you appreciate a body of work for what it is, and The Shins may be one of the finest songbooks you're likely to encounter among indie rock in the 21st century.

With one last wig-out saved for closer 'Sleeping Lessons', the guitars go into overdrive and the dancefloor takes off.

You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll sing every last word, and you'll surely hope it's not another five-and-a-half years before we're doing it all again.


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