The Shins played to a full house Tuesday, March 13 at the Electric Factory, but for front man James Mercer and company, they must have felt left out.
The crowd was unresponsive for most of the show. The sold out show consisted of teenagers who love emo music, fraternity members, thirty-something men and women and a couple of age 50-plus patrons, all of whom liked The Shins, but not for the same reasons.
Once opener Viva Voce left the stage, crowd anticipation was mild at best. After roughly a half-hour wait, the band from Albuquerque took the stage to a less than wild ovation. It opened its set with the first four songs from the new album, “Wincing the Night Away,” a slow start to a lackluster evening.
The band performed without the focus and intensity expected at a rock show. It wasn’t until the fifth song of the night, “Kissing the Lipless” from the band’s second LP “Chutes Too Narrow,” that the audience finally showed interest and sang along. It didn’t take long before the band had lost the crowd again.
Once The Shins performed a few of its bread-and-butter hits, dynamics between the group and the crowd improved. “New Slang,” the group’s most famous song after its feature on the “Garden State” soundtrack, was able to grab the crowd’s attention. After a quick sweep of the hits, the remainder of the set was up and down.
The crowd was an odd mix. Before The Shins took the stage, one teenager entering the venue remarked, “There’s a lot of old people here.” There were the fans who knew every song, dating back to the band’s 2001 debut “Oh, Inverted World” and then, like the girls who stood next to me, there were the fans who knew when to leave.
About an hour into the set and after guitarist Dave Hernandez told the crowd, “We’re gonna start to rock,” a girl beside me turned to her friends and told them she wanted to go home. Her friend agreed, saying that she had heard everything she wanted except for “Caring is Creepy.” A couple minutes later, they left.
The Shins’ performance was inconsistent with a few high points scattered throughout, like the new song “A Comet Appears” and old song “Know Your Onion,” that an audience of paying customers should be interested.
After two releases that fell below the radar, The Shins have finally broken through to the mainstream. While the band maintains its original fan base, it struggles to please the new and those who fell in love with it for its “Garden State” fame.
At Tuesday night’s show, The Shins proved that as a band, it has yet to find this balance.
Andrew Franklin can be reached at email@example.com.